This week in Jerusalem

Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs.

Muhammad Abu Khdeir (photo credit: REUTERS)
Muhammad Abu Khdeir
(photo credit: REUTERS)
We call it solidarity
As the rockets from the Gaza Strip continued last week, more initiatives to alleviate the burden on residents of the South were proposed. First, the Jerusalem Municipality organized a package for residents who came here to take a few days off – free entrance to city museums, guided tours and a lot of attractions for children and adults.
The municipality also established a coordinating center for activities at various city cultural institutions. Residents just have to show their identity cards to obtain free entrance to these activities.
Solidarity 2
Beit Avi Chai is also contributing its share for the benefit of children from the shelled South, as well as of the capital – which has coped with three sirens by press time – and is offering three plays for children and youth, totally free of charge, during the coming week. In addition, all Beit Avi Chai productions next week, including films and music events for adults, will also be free of charge for both residents of the capital and guests from the South.
Last minute
At the last moment before Mayor Nir Barkat was determined to appeal to the High Court of Justice against the Council for Higher Education, to stop its decision to shut down the Lander Institute, the Jerusalem District Court issued a ruling canceling the closure. As such the students of the institute, which has been dealing with financial difficulties, will not be scattered among various institutions – mostly out of the city – but instead, Ono Academic College will enable students to continue there. In addition, a new course of law studies for all students (and not just the religious, as until now) will open as of the next academic year. In this way, the closure of in important educational institution that attracted hundreds of local students was prevented.
Bereaved family
Will the family of murdered Palestinian teen Muhammad Abu Khdeir be recognized as an official bereaved family by the State of Israel? The question was dealt with this week at the Public Security Ministry, and according to sources there, the answer may be affirmative. If it does receive the designation, the family will be put under the care of the National Insurance Institute – joining the ranks of thousands of families across the country who have been attacked or lost a member due to terror. The ministry’s decision depends on the final outcome of the police investigation, but if it is affirmative, it will be the second time a Palestinian family in the Jerusalem region is officially recognized as bereaved due to a Jewish terror act. The first time was in 2007, when taxi driver Tayssar Kariki was murdered by a Jewish Israeli, a new immigrant from France.
Home sweet home
In a move unrelated to the tragic murder of young Abu Khdeir, the municipality’s Local Planning and Construction Committee has approved a project to build 400 housing units in the Beit Hanina neighborhood. The project – the biggest-ever in this neighborhood – will also include business areas and some public institutions, such as a community center and a well-baby clinic. The housing units will consist of 10 11-story buildings – a very different style of construction in this part of the city – with a large parking lot and a mall. It is interesting to note that the project is part of a larger project to improve the living conditions of the city’s Christian community; the land for the project belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church, which agreed to use it as a housing project for community members. The hope is that this modern project will encourage the community’s younger generation to remain in the capital, now that they will have better conditions.
Good timing
The ZAKA event was planned long before the situation deteriorated due to the rockets and missiles attacks, but it seemed like good timing.
ZAKA, a nonprofit organization run by haredi men that responds to emergency situations, inaugurated a new ambulance for the Beit Shemesh region last Thursday in the presence of Mayor Moshe Abutbul and ZAKA founder and president Yehuda Meshi-Zahav. The ambulance, with the latest medical equipment, was presented to the city’s Magen David Adom branch.
ZAKA was established in 1989 following the terrorist attack on bus No. 405. The ambulance for Beit Shemesh was made possible through a donation, and ZAKA members in Beit Shemesh help the medical crew.
ICCI dinner postponed
The annual seminar on Ramadan organized by the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel was canceled this week due to the tense situation. At the seminar, scholars of Islam present lectures on the many aspects of the Ramadan traditions, followed by a ceremonial meal shared by Muslims, Christians and Jews, in cooperation with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung at Mishkenot Sha’ananin. The ICCI announced that an event on a similar topic will be held next fall.
Intruders out
A Ramot resident who built on a public space was forced to clear the place at his own expense. The resident opened a passage from his yard to a public area spanning 500 sq.m., on which he built a swimming pool without a permit. The plot is classified as state land, and the inspectors of the Israel Lands Authority, who were informed by neighbors, ordered the resident to clear the plot immediately. The resident was requested to choose between destroying the swimming pool and the attached structure himself, or being taken to court and forced to pay for the expense of restoring the area to its former situation. The resident chose to do it himself, and earlier this week the ILA announced that the process of destroying the swimming pool had begun.
Reel life
Despite the sirens, the Jerusalem Film Festival is proceeding almost as planned. The opening evening, which was planned to be a screening of the Israeli film Dancing Arabs at Sultan’s Pool last Thursday was canceled due to the security situation, but apart from that, most of the festival events are taking place. On Tuesday, the ninth Pitchpoint event ended with director Ram Nehari’s project, Nils. The Pitchpoint event is an opportunity to present films to producers that have a serious chance of becoming successful is they are given the necessary “push” for completion. Pitchpoint is a joint project of the film festival and the Israeli Film Foundation, which enables young directors present films that need financial support to reach completion. Nehari’s project received the support of the French Film Foundation, which allocated it €7,000.
Fire at the First Station
A fire broke out last Friday afternoon at the First Station. Due to the tense security situation and the sirens that had sounded in the capital during the previous few days, the fire, which completely destroyed three cars parked outside the main entrance to the compound, set off a lot of emotions. One online news site even initially announced that the fire was caused by at least two Molotov cocktails. The fire reached the hill facing the First Station, very close to the warehouse of the Khan Theater on the opposite side of David Remez Street. After a short investigation, the police issued an official announcement that the fire was caused by a short circuit in a fuse box at the First Station.
Due to the dry heat and strong winds the fire quickly spread, reaching the cars and the opposite side of the street, burning the vegetation there. Firefighters managed to extinguish the fire – but the anxiety among many visitors at the First Station remained high for a couple of days. The three burned cars were removed from the site on Sunday afternoon, but the signs of the fire on the hill are still visible.
East Jerusalem festival canceled
The Yabous Cultural Center on az-Zahra Street in east Jerusalem has canceled its Jerusalem Festival 2014 because of tensions arising from Operation Protective Edge. The popular annual event including music, theater, cinema, literature and exhibitions, was to have focused on the theme “Women, Windows of the Soul.”
“The Jerusalem Festival, as a popular festival, contributes in developing artistic taste, and in reuniting the people of Palestine and of Jerusalem. We are keen on holding such an event in a more appropriate situation where all aspects are in line with each other; artistic technical and financial from one side along with social, political and safety measures on the other side,” organizers said in a press release.
Cultural life in east Jerusalem is heavily influenced by political developments in the region. For example, the June 22 performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony slated to take place at St. Anne’s Church in the Old City was canceled when members of the Ramallah Youth Orchestra were denied entry to Israel.