This week in Jerusalem

Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs: A plan to construct a four-story building on Beit Hakerem Street is raising a lot of anger, apprehension.

Cinema City under construction370  (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Cinema City under construction370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Stormy Beit Hakerem A plan to construct a four-story building on Beit Hakerem Street is raising a lot of anger and apprehension among the residents of the neighborhood. Tamir Nir, a member of the community council and No. 2 on Rachel Azaria’s city council list, says all the evidence points to intentions of using the building as a dormitory for the students of a nearby yeshiva.
According to Nir, the plan was presented to the local planning and construction committee a few years ago, but was rejected because a yeshiva dormitory didn’t fit in with the character of the neighborhood. Now, he says, the plan is being presented as affordable housing (small units) without any mention of the yeshiva, giving the committee no grounds to reject it.
Nir emphasizes that the residents do not object to haredim moving into the neighborhood as residents, but when it comes to a haredi institution in a neighborhood that is so highly secular, “that clearly raises questions and sounds problematic.”
On Thursday (after press time) at the monthly city council meeting, Azaria was set to ask Mayor Nir Barkat if all the necessary measures had been taken to prevent a change in the plot’s status from dwelling to dormitory, and what steps would be taken if the developers chose to make it a dormitory anyway.A reel dilemma
The issue of whether Cinema City will be open on Shabbat has become a yardstick of sorts for Mayor Nir Barkat’s intentions regarding secular recreation time. The chairman of the Hitorerut party, Ofer Berkovitch, who has a seat on the city council in Barkat’s coalition, is eager to have the movie house operational on Shabbat.
However, Barkat, who is trying as hard as he can not to arouse the anger of his future allies – the haredi and other religious factions – before the elections, has been avoiding the issue.
Last week, in response to Berkovitch’s petition to the High Court on the matter, Judge Salim Joubran ruled that the mayor should submit his decision by next week, and not after the elections as Barkat had wanted. Sources at Safra Square say Barkat is in favor of Cinema City operating on Shabbat, but that Berkovitch’s timing – just before the elections – was the worst possible.
The problem is that what could be a real threat to Barkat’s efforts to sustain some support from the religious benches is exactly what Hitorerut needs to convince its constituents that the party is doing its job – ensuring that some recreational venues are open on Shabbat.
Old buddies
With the elections coming up, United Torah Judaism city council representatives last week immediately denied rumors about the eventual comeback of former mayor Uri Lupolianski.
It appears that Lupolianski is interested in returning to political life, but the party has a rule that no candidate who has a criminal case over his head will be accepted. And for the moment, Lupolianski is still suspected of involvement in the Holyland affair.
Having Lupolianski run “could have been a very good move for us, the haredim,” admitted a source in the party. “But we have a rule: A person under suspicion cannot represent us, no matter how high his chances are of winning the election.”
Meanwhile this week, another “veteran” from Safra Square seems to have renewed his interest in the city’s affairs. Former deputy mayor and chairman of the planning and construction committee Yehoshua Pollack has sounded the bell of his comeback. It is not clear what that means on the ground, as the party now has another leader, Yossi Daitch, who is popular, and another deputy mayor, Yitzhak Pindrus, who represents the Lithuanian haredi sector – neither of whom seems ready to give up his position.
Inclusive exclusion
Is the Meretz campaign in Jerusalem neglecting the party’s message of equality for women? That is the question some were asking this week, following the party’s decision to post campaign ads on Egged buses without any photos of the candidates.
Cana’an, the company responsible for advertising on Egged buses, continues to refuse to allow any pictures of people in their ads, arguing that vandalism (originally against photos of women) has caused them too much damage. As a result, most of the non-haredi parties and movements have decided to avoid advertising on the buses, so as not to collaborate in what they see as the company’s exclusion of women.
However, earlier this week, the Meretz signboards appeared on buses under the slogan that only Meretz could stop any mayor from surrendering to haredi dictates after the elections.
Since the campaign’s launch, the party’s local leader, Deputy Mayor Pepe Alalu, has explained that he has nothing against haredim, but simply struggles against haredi hegemony.
As for the decision to advertise with Cana’an, he said that there were two sides to every boycott and that one should scrutinize them carefully before joining it.
“Anyway, the decision of the court is respected – Cana’an cannot refuse to put up women’s photos, so there are no photos of human beings at all.
Why shouldn’t we use it as a means of publicity for our own needs?” he said.
Birds, not on wires
The Jerusalem Bird Observatory, part of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, is offering a wide range of activities for adults and children during September. Among them is a night hike on September 15 and 22, starting at 6 p.m. with a search for wild animals such as owls, porcupines and bats in the center of the city. The hike is suitable for ages five and up.
There is also a “Kingfisher Festival,” in which participants can follow raptors, storks, small song birds and a variety of migratory birds, which are attracted to the purified water of the Tzora Valley across the road from Beit Shemesh. This tour will involve close encounters with the birds via walking tours, watching from a distance and bird-ringing – a technique that entails attaching metal or plastic bands to birds’ legs or wings so birdwatchers can better study them – followed by a night walk in the Tzora Valley. If you’re tired after walking around following the birds, the observatory is also showing a nature film, Urban Nature in Jerusalem. Pre-registration is at
More than skin-deep
According to Proverbs, a woman’s beauty is only vanity, and only wisdom and love of the Lord count. However, it seems that tastes have changed for the women of Jerusalem, with the opening of the kind of beauty treatment facility the capital has not seen since the Queen of Sheba’s time.
Ciel, the new beauty enterprise of the Holy City, opened its doors last week on Emek Refaim Street, offering a wide range of treatments and care that could turn any woman into a beauty queen. The owners, believing beauty should be available to all, are offering an introductory discount for the first month.