This week in Jerusalem

Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs.

A damaged light-rail station in Shuafat. (photo credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)
A damaged light-rail station in Shuafat.
(photo credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)
A financial face-lift
The Bank of Israel building opposite the Prime Minister’s Offices on Givat Ram, will be renovated at a cost of NIS 336 million, including a temporary move to another building.
The works, which will begin in 2015, will take three years – during which the 600 employees will be relocated to a rented financial center in the northern part of the city. The cost for the interim period is budgeted at NIS 85m. Among the scheduled renovation works is the construction of a sheltered structure in the middle of the actual building, to be used in cases of emergency, like missile and rocket attacks, at a cost of NIS 74m.
According to the bank’s officials, the building, which has a unique architectural shape and was built in the early Sixties, needs a serious upgrade to all its infrastructure – pipes, sewerage, air conditioning and energy, as well as earthquake-proofing. It is interesting to note that upon her entry into function, Bank of Israel Governor Karnit Flug halted the renovation plan which was approved almost two years ago and looked into lower-cost alternatives, but eventually admitted that there was no way to avoid the need for substantial renovations. The company that will conduct the works will be chosen by a tender soon to be published. The city’s planning and construction committee has approved the plan.
Transportation plan
Extensive damage was a caused to the light-rail infrastructure by the riots that broke out after last week’s murder of Arab teen Muhammad Abu Khdeir. But a special adhoc task force comprising officials from CityPass and the municipality, headed by Mayor Nir Barkat, has determined that the original prediction of tens of millions of shekels’ worth of damage was an overestimation, though there is still no definitive figure. Most of the damage is to three stations on Beit Hanina Road, which were set on fire, and to the electrical equipment in that part of the line. The main concern, that there was also considerable damage to the rail lines, was unfounded. Until the repair works are completed, CityPass is operating a special bus shuttle service five times an hour from Pisgat Ze’ev through Beit Hanina, Shuafat and French Hill to Ammunition Hill, from where trains are running normally. According to figures provided by the Jerusalem Master Plan for mass transportation, about 25 percent of the passengers using the light rail are residents of the Arab neighborhoods.
Lend an ear
The municipality has agreed to add its financial support to the rescue of archives from the Third Ear, the iconic video store that is shutting down for lack of subscribers and income. The Third Ear’s large and important film archives will be transferred to their new home inside the Jerusalem Film Archives at the Cinematheque, where they will be open to the public. The cost of the transfer and the installation has been estimated at NIS 120,000 at least – and that was the sum the city council allocated last week following a request from Deputy Mayor Ofer Berkovitch (Hitorerut B’Yerushalayim), who holds the culture portfolio.
Think of the children
Residents of the Homat Shmuel (Har Homa) neighborhood are protesting a decision by the municipal education administration to open one of the neighborhood’s kindergartens right in the middle of a construction zone. One of the parents, who did not wish to be identified, said that the kindergarten site was not only hazardous to the children due to the construction activity and machinery around it, but also far away from most of the families’ homes in the neighborhood.
“They are adding a new part to Har Homa, which is much closer to the Arab villages, and they probably want to [solidify the neighborhood’s presence there] by opening a kindergarten there, but we think that our children’s safety is more important than these considerations,” the parent said.
There are indeed major construction plans to develop the neighborhood to the east and south, but these areas are still far from inhabited. The parents’ committee has asked the municipality to find the kindergarten another location closer to the center of the neighborhood.
Independence coffee
The municipality will soon earn the tidy sum of NIS 5.76 million from a project to build a coffee shop on the lowest slope of downtown’s Independence Park. Two entrepreneurs – Adi Talmon and Ran Fleisher – have won the tender for the project, and it will soon begin operating. City Councilman Ofer Berkovitch and his Hitorerut B’Yerushalayim party initiated the idea during Mayor Nir Barkat’s previous term, in the framework of general planning for the park. The two associates will pay NIS 3.2m. for the plot and an additional NIS 2.56m.
for the development of the shop, which will offer light meals, beverages and musical entertainment. In addition, there will be a special area for dogs and a small stage for cultural events, mostly music.
Preceding the tender, there was a tense struggle over whether to allow the establishment to open on Shabbat. In the end, it will indeed be open all week – one of the conditions the city placed on the tender.
Bring your swimsuits
A new urban pool will soon be available for Jerusalem’s swimmers. The city council voted at its last meeting (June 26) to invest in such a project. The Israel Lands Authority will determine a nominal price for the plot where the pool will be built, to enable the capital’s residents to have more leisure opportunities at their disposal. For the moment, it is not clear where that plot will be – the city council and the ILA will make that decision. But the pool is expected to be a welcome facility, especially considering that the municipality’s agreement with the owners of the German Colony’s Jerusalem Pool to keep that one open might not hold for long.
Another planned swimming pool, at the soon-to-becompleted Jerusalem Arena, will be an Olympic one and will be used mostly for competitions.
Shifting scientific shapes
Looking for a sandbox for the kids this summer? The Bloomfield Science Museum has one ready for you – and this one is an educational construction site. The museum has created a “sand park” that turns children into junior engineers, with drafting tools, building equipment and a brickmaking factory, among other things. The site, located in the museum’s early childhood wing, was made possible through a contribution from Jizchak and Denise Schächter of Switzerland via the Jerusalem Foundation.
The sand park is divided according to the different building stages and includes a drafting table for designing the structure to scale, as well as a machine to fill sandbags of different dimensions. The children wear specially sized hard hats and have access to tools, scaffolding, window and door frames, and flooring to build multiple-story houses.
A royal evening
This week saw the inauguration of the recently built Waldorf Astoria Hotel – Jerusalem. Following three months of running at special reduced prices, the prestigious hotel opened officially on Sunday with a gala evening attended by 1,000 people. At the peak of the evening, 350 hotel employees of all ranks released 350 golden balloons into the air through the roof of the main hall, which has a large window. The Jerusalem Waldorf Astoria sits on the corner of Mamilla and Agron streets, partly in the location of the old Palace Hotel. As such, its builders had to adhere to severe restrictions for the restoration and preservation of the historic building.