This week in Jerusalem

Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs; J'lem mayoral candidate Moshe Lion recently met with several neighborhood representatives.

Mayoral candidate Moshe Lion 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Mayoral candidate Moshe Lion 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
It’s not what you know...
Mayoral candidate Moshe Lion recently met with several neighborhood representatives to discuss his plans for the city, although as one of the women present put it, he “didn’t really give us answers.”
In a not-so-short opening statement, Lion went through a list of the issues he feels require urgent attention, such as street maintenance, education, affordable housing and employment opportunities for younger residents.
To one participant’s remark that Jerusalemites heard the same kind of talk five years ago from then candidate Mayor Nir Barkat, Lion answered simply that he, Lion, “has the connections necessary to bring in the government funds required to address these issues.”
Lion emphasized this theme several times throughout the meeting, hinting more than once that his personal connections were exactly what the current mayor lacked.
Grrrl Power?
Following her discovery that she cannot expect a realistic place on Mayor Nir Barkat’s new list, deputy mayor Naomi Tsur is seriously considering running on her own in the October elections.
Tsur, who has built an impressive network of connections for the city among green and environmental organizations worldwide, feels she has a lot to give the city, and that she is strong enough not to need Barkat’s invitation – which apparently isn’t on its way.
In response to questions about the rumor that she would run at the head of an all-women list, Tsur explained that while things were still not definite, her list, a joint venture with city councillor Edna Friedman (Bayit Yehudi), would indeed include mostly women, but wouldn’t be a classic “women’s list.”
“We will certainly also have men on the list,” she said.
Tsur admits the planned list will also focus on women’s rights issues – Friedman is currently head of the women’s rights committee at the municipality, but adds that “we will of course focus a lot on green and environmental issues.”
Who are they backing?
While the electoral campaign gets into high gear, it seems the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) benches at city council are the most relaxed. Deputy mayors for United Torah Judaism Itzhak Pindrus and Yossi Deitsch know that their party might be, once again, the one that decides who the next mayor is.
According to internal surveys published a few months ago, the electoral power of the two haredi parties – UTJ and Shas – will grow (from respectively eight and four seats) to nine or even 10 seats for the UTJ list and five for Shas.
In such a scenario, considering the ongoing fragmentation of the non-haredi and secular parties, the next tenant of the office at Safra Square will be crowned first in Mea She’arim.
The two candidates, Nir Barkat and Moshe Lion, know it well, and though they both deny it there is no doubt that the need to bring an acceptable “dowry” to the haredim lies at the heart of their efforts to win them over.
Based on former talks with Pindrus, it seems the planning and construction committee, as well as full control (including the disposition of existing education buildings) of the haredi education administration would be the least Pindrus and his colleagues will demand in return for their support.
Musical chairs at Meretz
Now that the alliance between the Jerusalem branches of Meretz and Labor has been achieved, with Labor representatives Itai Gutler and Orna Oronova added, Meretz members have had to move down to free up realistic spots.
The two Labor representatives were offered the third and fifth places, but that would have meant Laura Wharton (Meretz), now in third place, would drop to fourth, which, according to the less optimistic in the party, might not mean a seat on city council.
As a result, Meir Margalit, who has a rotation agreement with the leader of the list, deputy mayor Pepe Alalu, agreed to give up his No. 2 spot to keep Wharton in.
So after Alalu and Wharton will come Gutler, then Margalit, followed by Oronova.
Other Meretz candidates who were listed fourth and fifth, such as Fouad Suleiman and Tzaphira Stern, are now totally out of the game.
Tolerance at last
After almost 10 years, the Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem has received final approval. The museum, a joint initiative of former mayor Ehud Olmert and the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, has suffered from repeated attempts to cancel the project.
The first opposition came from a Muslim association against construction on the ancient Mamilla Cemetery situated there. Then, the prestigious architect hired for the project, Frank Gehry, quit; while he never admitted it was because of the Muslim objection, most local observers believe this was the primary reason. The architects who replaced him resigned less than two years later, officially due to disagreements with the Wiesenthal Center.
Nevertheless, groundwork continued, and last week, the final permit from the municipality was issued. Will this project, which never received the full support of the city council, finally be completed?
Employment begins at home
One of the first decisions taken by the city council in 2009 was to grant preference to official local entrepreneurs in the capital’s tenders and works. The decision was approved following a large campaign run by the Hitorerut and Yerushalmim parties, which would not accept that non-Jerusalemite businesses won most of the city’s public tenders, thus taking the money out of the city.
But it seems that decisions are one thing and their implementation another. Lately, according to Hitorerut representative Ofer Berkovitch, there have been at least three new cases in which locals were beaten by competitors from outside the city. By law, the party that submits the lowest offer must win a public tender, with the location of the business not being a consideration.
However, granting precedence to locals could extend to other areas. Most high-ranking municipal employees do not live in Jerusalem, something the local parties should put on their agendas. Yet so far, despite the fact that this problem dates back to Olmert’s mayoral term, no solution has been found.
Updating addresses
Haredi public activists are putting a lot of pressure on ultra-Orthodox residents to make sure their address on their identity cards are listed as being in Jerusalem, to bolster the number of people eligible to vote. Secular organizations are doing the same among non-haredi residents.
“It is like a race between the two sides, to see who will register more new names in the population administration before October,” explained one haredi public activist.