This week in Jerusalem

Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs.

Spices in Mahane Yehuda 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Spices in Mahane Yehuda 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Cash problem No. 1
Coming to the end of this city council’s term, it seems that some cash flow problems are overshadowing its achievements. In April, right after Passover, work on some substantial infrastructures in the Mahaneh Yehuda market was scheduled to begin. Everything was ready – the Mahaneh Yehuda Merchants Association prepared a list of the stalls that would be included in the works, as well as the various parts of the market to be renovated. The idea was that to avoid disrupting the market’s operations as much as possible, the work would be done in different areas according to a schedule the merchants prepared.
But about two weeks ago, the merchants’ representatives were invited to a meeting with municipality CEO Yossi Heyman and were told that the project was canceled, at least for the moment.
According to the representatives, the cancellation was due to the high cost, which the municipality’s budget could not accommodate. Officially, the work has been postponed to 2014, but after this last-minute decision, members of the Merchants’ Association are doubtful whether it will be done next year, either.
Cash problem No. 2
A program of recreation days for children with disabilities and special needs financed by the welfare department of the municipality has apparently been stopped due to lack of funds.
According to the parents who applied to register their children in the program, they were told that this year’s budget is closed and that they would have to wait until next year. For years, the welfare department has funded this program, which allows parents who keep their special-needs children at home (instead of sending them to an institution) an opportunity to rest for a few days without the children.
“The burden of taking care of disabled children, especially when they are grown up, is heavy,” explains a social worker at the municipality. “These few days of rest enable the parents to have some relaxation and time on their own, which are so necessary considering the rest of the year’s duties, and we at the department highly recommend that parents use it.”
The funding for the program comes partly from the Welfare Ministry and from the municipality’s budget, so it is not clear what has caused it to be saturated before the end of the year, but it seems that at least 10 families have been refused the service.Hi-tech loses to business
For the second time, Erel Margalit has lost to Avi Mordoch, the businessman who invested in the First Station enterprise.
Three years earlier, Margalit submitted his offer to the tender on the site – the old railway station at Remez Square – which was almost crumbling from neglect. Mordoch, a former Jerusalemite and today a successful businessman living in the center of the country, won the tender and invested $15 million, turning the site into a successful culture and leisure venue.
Another plan for the site was set up a hot-air balloon that would provide a panoramic view of the city from above. The balloon and its landing field are the second part of the project that includes a shopping mall, reconstruction of part of the tracks with seven old train cars serving as fair and market stalls, as well as additional restaurants.
That part of the project is the closest to the Jerusalem Venture Partners compound, which belongs to Margalit. Although it was clear that the Jerusalem Development Authority and the municipality were interested in the enlargement of the First Station project, Margalit decided to submit his objection to the planning and construction committee. Margalit found unexpected allies among the haredi representatives on the city council, who didn’t like the idea that the balloon and the surrounding shops would operate on Shabbat like the enterprises that are already in the existing part of the station.
Last Thursday morning, the committee rejected all the objections, and the balloon is already getting ready for take-off.
Running for Afikim
The nonprofit organization Afikim, which works in collaboration with the Education Ministry to help develop the learning skills of young children at risk, invites supporters to take part in a run to raise awareness and funds for its projects.
The run is scheduled for Hanukka, but registration has already started. The first runners have already shown up, while 18 have confirmed their participation in the 340-kilometer circuit that will take them from Jerusalem to Eilat.
At a small ceremony held last week at the Afikim offices on Jabotinsky Street, the first three runners came to meet each other.
Israeli-born Yossi Blunder, 47, is the father of four and a colonel in the IDF.
Justin Rockman, 38, was born in Melbourne, Australia. He is a lawyer but has been working in software for more than a decade. He made aliya at 23 and lives in Jerusalem. Rockman says that he runs for the serenity of it.
Jason Gardner, 37, married and father of four, was born and raised in New York. He made aliya at 18 and is living in Jerusalem, where he is a hotel events coordinator. Gardner started running three years ago, training for the Jerusalem Marathon.
These three and many others will run a relay from Jerusalem to Eilat in pairs, aiming to prove that “teamwork and determination will help make a difference with Afikim in supporting Israel’s at-risk youth,” explains Moshe Lefkowitz, founder and director of Afikim. The organization works with children in after-school centers from third grade through eighth grade, while their parents learn invaluable parenting and vocational skills, thus fostering long-term benefits for the children and their families.With a little help from their friends
Is Yesh Atid stepping into municipal elections? Judging by an official press release issued by the local Hitorerut Party on Wednesday morning, this is exactly what is happening. Yair Lapid’s party announced that same morning that his party would support the young, pluralist Hitorerut movement’s candidacy for the city council.
However, in addition to welcoming the support, Hitorerut chairman, city council member Ofer Berkowitz, clarified that “this support doesn’t mean that Hitorerut is becoming part of Yesh Atid, but will continue its independent journey to bringing [to public attention] the needs and the issues at stake for the young population of the city.”
Hitorerut has one seat on the city council and is part of Mayor Nir Barkat’s coalition. It discontinued its unofficial alliance with the Yerushalmim Party headed by Rachel Azaria after less than two years. For the moment, it is not clear what the support announced by Lapid will include in terms of financing or logistic help towards the elections.