This Week in Jerusalem

Peggy Cidor's round-up of city affairs.

Opera Festival 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Opera Festival 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Dissonant sounds
Once again, haredi opposition to a cultural event is threatening to dismantle the coalition. This time, haredim on the city council are threatening to leave the coalition if the municipality does not cancel its sponsorship of next month’s Opera Festival, which includes events in churches.
As of press time, it was reported that at the request of Western Wall rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, Mayor Nir Barkat had agreed to remove the municipal logo from the event’s publicity materials. It was unclear whether the Jerusalem Development Authority would provide funding for the festival or whether the removal of the logo would be enough to satisfy the haredi city councillors.
Choosing sides
According to a recent poll organized by Prof. David Pollock of George Washington University, 35% of Jerusalem’s Arab residents would prefer to remain under Israeli rule if a Palestinian state were established, and about the same number say they would move from the eastern neighborhoods to the western ones if Jerusalem were divided into two capitals.
City council member Meir Margalit (Meretz), for years a champion of a divided capital in two states, says the results have accentuated his ambivalence. “I have always been caught between the humanistic attitude, which supports the individual’s needs, and my political views. I understand the Palestinians who, like me, want to have an easy life and put food on the table and give their children an education.
And I agree that this is more likely to happen under Israeli rule. But I am convinced that without sharing the city between two states, we will have no peace, and that’s more important in my eyes than one particular person’s welfare, even personal friends.”
According to Pollock, employment, easy access and the freedom of movement that Israel provides have made most of the 278,000 Arab residents of the city less eager to be part of the Palestine dream. Some 37% more Arabs say they would consider moving into Israel, leaving behind their houses and villages in order to have these advantages.
Love and luxury
Allegra was the daughter of a rabbi who lived in Ein Kerem at the beginning of the last century. Jabara was the neighboring son of a wealthy Christian merchant. The two fell in love, eloped and had three children. Today, the house in which Allegra lived has become an exquisite boutique hotel of the same name with seven guest rooms and a chef’s restaurant overlooking the beautiful landscape of the village. Each room bears the name of a famous couple (Romeo and Juliet, Lancelot and Guinevere) and awaits contemporary loving couples looking for a romantic accommodation between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Yishai Malka, a marketing expert and developer from Herzliya, and Gadi Delman from Jerusalem, owner of an architectural firm in Tel Aviv, invested NIS 6 million and are ready to host their first guests.
Besides the hotel and the restaurant run by chef Yaron Winkler, the two Bezalel graduates will open the hotel to the arts and offer the lobby, the roof and the guest rooms for painting and photo exhibitions as well. From now until the fall, the price of a room, based on double occupancy, is NIS 1,950 a night.
Raising the roof
For quite some time, back to the days of mayor Ehud Olmert, there was a proposal to use the roofs of some of Kikar Safra’s 13 buildings for commercial purposes, such as event venues, to earn additional income for the city. Recently, the idea has been reactivated.
The plan is to use Building No. 7 as a banquet area for private entrepreneurs. The problem is that this is the Welfare Services building, and none of the employees – mostly social workers – are very happy about the initiative. In fact, the social workers have persuaded Tzion Dahan, head of the powerful municipality employees’ association, to support their opposition. At this point, the whole initiative is on hold.
City council member and recently appointed deputy mayor Yossi Deitsch (United Torah Judaism) is very supportive of the project which, according to municipality sources, could bring in as much as NIS 6 million a year. He says, in fact, that it’s time to seek additional roofs at Kikar Safra that could be used that way. We’re waiting to see who will win out in the end, the social workers or the businessman.
Remembrance evening events
At the end of last week it seemed as if, for the first time, the municipality had decided to sell tickets for the special programs in memory of the fallen soldiers, a step that many considered in poor taste. It turned out that there was some misunderstanding. There were three separate events for that evening (Sunday).
One was at Kikar Safra, organized by the municipality; another was at the Gerard Behar Center (which belongs to the municipality) with the participation of some of the country’s top performers; and the third was moved from Binyenei Ha’uma to the Sultan’s Pool, perhaps because it also belongs to the municipality or perhaps because the municipality wanted to charge the public for the event.
The Zokhrim organization (We Remember), which runs this event, a different style of remembering through songs and texts from the Jewish sources, sells tickets to cover the expenses, but bereaved families are exempt from paying. This year, some of the performers threatened to pull out if tickets were sold. In the end, the entrance fee was canceled, and all those scheduled to perform, except Berry Sakharof, took the stage.
The Yehuda Amihai Prize
For the 10th anniversary of the project to encourage contemporary Hebrew poetry, named after poet and Jerusalem resident Yehuda Amihai, this year’s prize will go to poets Hamutal Bar-Yosef and Tzvi Atzmon.
The ceremony will take place on May 16 at Mishkenot Sha’ananim, preceded by a program of Amihai’s songs composed and sung by Alon Eder. The two laureates live in Jerusalem, although they were not born here.