This week in Jerusalem

Peggy Cidor's round-up of city affairs.

trash collection 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
trash collection 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Old is beautiful
An ancient part of the walls surrounding the City of David was revealed to the public this week. Following extensive excavation and research done in the area known as the Ofel (close to Dung Gate) by archaeologist Eilat Mazar, the spot has become yet another area that is open to the public within the framework of the archeological work being done in the Old City An ancient document dated from the First Temple period – in fact, the most ancient document ever found in this area – is only one of the exciting finds in this excavation.
A festive end
Some 70,000 spectators attended the four-week Israel Festival, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. Some 40,000 people attended events offered at reasonable prices, while the rest enjoyed a large number of high-quality free events. Once the major cultural event of the country, the Israel Festival is still a leading popular attraction. The festival receives strong support from the state, as well as a wide range of countries such as the US, Britain, Germany and The Czech Republic, to which the organizers paid tribute on Saturday night at the closing event of the festival.
Many of the programs created especially for the festival by Israeli artists will continue to be performed around the country, thus sustaining local cultural efforts.
A stinky situation
The battle launched by Mayor Nir Barkat against the Environment Ministry and its minister, Gilad Erdan, is on hold this week. Erdan, who is espousing a tough policy of preserving nature as much as possible, had recently ordered the closure of the garbage dump in Abu Dis, thus imposing, according to Barkat, an untenable situation on the municipality – namely, spending more taxpayer money to send the city’s garbage to a site that’s farther away.
Barkat, who had already waged campaigns against what he considered to be a lack of concern for the capital’s needs, ordered that the city’s garbage not be collected or removed until Erdan reconsidered his decision.
While the garbage bins in our streets threatened to make Jerusalem look like a Third World city, a compromise was reached and some relief was given, at least for a while. With the involvement of the Prime Minister’s Office (exactly what Barkat apparently wanted to obtain, say sources at Kikar Safra) and the Treasury, an interim solution for 2011 was found, while a permanent solution will be agreed upon in coming weeks.
Erdan’s ministry even gave the municipality NIS 2 million to help send the waste to the new site in the South without incurring additional expense for the city. Once that was received, Barkat agreed to declare that the closure of the Abu Dis site was indeed in everyone’s best interest.

Ready for your close-up?
More than NIS 20 million has been invested in films and TV projects of the Jerusalem Development Authority aimed at encouraging filmmakers and TV producers to shoot films and television series in the city. Since its establishment in 2008, the JDA has had 19 films and six TV series created here and expects the sky to be the limit. Indeed, Jerusalem is appearing more and more on movie and TV screens, revealing a more balanced image of the city by showing it as more than just a site of terrorist attacks and religious tension. So far this year, of the 74 projects submitted to the movie committee at the JDA, 13 have been approved.
Meanwhile, with an initial investment of $400,000, the JDA has established an international foundation to support the making of foreign films and TV productions here to enhance the presence of Jerusalem in the industry.
Tension on the Temple Mount
Are Jews who want to visit the Temple Mount discriminated against? Judging by MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), that is indeed the situation.
In a heated session of the Interior Affairs Committee at the Knesset, Elkin declared that the police are aware of the discrimination against religious Jews who visit the site but are not preventing the situation and even hide it from the officials.
According to Elkin, Jewish soldiers are either not allowed to visit the Temple Mount are or are followed and even harassed by the Wakf (Muslim religious trust) guards, who watch that they don’t pray or perform any other religious act while visiting the Mount.
According to police representative Avi Bitton, there is no discrimination against religious Jews; however, people who have been involved in what he called “provocative acts” are not allowed on the Temple Mount. Bitton did not directly address the issue of preventing access to soldiers in uniform and merely commented that “any Israeli is allowed to visit the Temple Mount according to the time schedule.”
Archeologists and guides who take visitors to the Temple Mount have often said that while the visits are not prevented, there is a sense of tension when Wakf guards follow the visitors, trying to see if those who look religious are attempting to pray at the site, an act that is forbidden according to the agreement made after the Six Day War.
A lesson in Russian history
The Genesis Foundation, created by Russian oligarchs to promote Jewish identity among youth who made aliya from the former Soviet Union, has launched a large educational project in cooperation with Yad Vashem, aimed at teaching them about the German invasion of Russia and its dramatic outcome for the Jews living there. From now until the end of 2012, seminars and classes about this event will be given to young Israelis born in the FSU or to parents who made aliya from there. The idea behind the project is that the history of the Jews during World War II would be better understood if given in their mother tongue, Russian.
The first three-day seminar will begin this week, focusing on the ideological aspect of the German invasion, long before its outcome of the extermination of Jews in Russia, which started with what is known as the Barbarossa Operation. Scores of youth from Jerusalem and across the country who have little or no knowledge of this period that involved their own parents will attend the seminar.
Three more seminars are scheduled for this year and next.