This week in Jerusalem: Back to the stadium

Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs.

Barkat and childrenw_58 (photo credit: Jacky Levy)
Barkat and childrenw_58
(photo credit: Jacky Levy)
Back to the stadium
Mayor Nir Barkat has obtained NIS 60 million from the national lottery to finance the renovation and enlargement of Teddy Stadium in Malha. The stadium will be upgraded to 31,000 seats (compared to the present 15,000), which will enable it to host international games, starting with the Maccabiah in July 2013. The work, slated to begin in September, is estimated to take at least 18 months – just in time (if all goes well!) to host the festive opening of the Maccabiah.
With the planned arena – the new large and modern complex of sports halls and venues already in progress – Jerusalem is turning into a very sports-friendly city. Perhaps the influence of a marathon runner for a mayor?
New boss
After more than a year without a deputy director-general, the municipality is getting one (out of the two permitted by law). Last week Ziv Ayalon, until now head of logistics at Kikar Safra, was appointed deputy director-general for construction projects at the municipality. Ayalon, 54, with a master’s degree in business administration, will be in charge of all the projects in the city. He will supervise them and report on their progress to the mayor and the director-general. The tasks include all construction and development projects in the city, including those that will be implemented by the municipality’s auxiliary companies.
Children of the books
Second-grade pupil Noa Poriss of Ramot is the winner of this year’s national competition of young readers. She read 600 books over the year, all of which she borrowed from the library in her neighborhood. On Sunday, Poriss received the award for her achievement from Mayor Nir Barkat and promised she would even do better next year. Most of the books she read were on Greek mythology, adventure and science-fiction stories.
In second place was another Jerusalem resident, fifth-grader Aluma Etzion, who read 450 books since last year. The interschool competition aims at encouraging youth to read more.
A perfect light
About a quarter of a million visitors – Israelis from across the country and tourists from abroad – enjoyed this year’s International Festival of Lights in the Old City. In addition to celebrities and officials, the beautiful spectacles and displays of light that illuminated the streets and alleyways of the Old City attracted hordes of people, including organized tours from around the country.
This is the third year the festival has taken place, and Mayor Nir Barkat pointed out that while during the first year it took place only in the Jewish Quarter, with the refusal of the Arab residents to participate, this year all four quarters of the Old City participated, including many Arab residents who opened their shops until late at night and marveled at the artistic displays together with Orthodox and secular visitors.
The festival was carried out with the support of the Prime Minister’s Office, the Tourism Ministry and the municipality through the Jerusalem Development Authority. It also received the full blessing of the haredi representatives on the city council.
The organizers have already set the date for next year’s festival: June 6 to 13.
Rolling up their sleeves
Here’s one of those things you won’t find anywhere else – young tourists who not only enjoy sightseeing but even contribute to the well-being of the Holy City and spend time cleaning it up. These 100 tourists arrived in the framework of a Taglit- Birthright trip and participated in cleaning up the streets of the city, with the mayor as team leader. Together with IDF soldiers, representatives of the municipality and residents of the Katamonim and Rehov Bar-Yohai, the participants reached the aim of 900,000 hours of community work set up by the organizers at Taglit and Kikar Safra.
Young, gifted and philharmonic
Israel has two philharmonic orchestras – the “big” one we all know (and appreciate), and a young one that brings quite a lot of honor to the country and to the city, since its center is at the Mishkenot Sha’ananim music center. Eighty talented musicians between 14 and 18, selected from among the best music students in the country, are invited to perform in Jerusalem.
This year, the young musicians will gather for a special summer camp in the region under the baton of maestro Hans-Peter Oxenhoffer, a well-known musicologist and teacher who is coming from Vienna especially for the occasion. Two concerts – the result of the annual program of studies at Mishkenot and the three-week summer camp (beginning this week) – will be given in Tel Aviv and in Jerusalem (July 21 at the Jerusalem Theater at 8 p.m.), featuring works by Hindemith, Dvorak and Weber. This is not an easy repertoire even for professionals, but Oxenhoffer believes his students are capable of giving it their best.
The retired Black Panthers
Jerusalem was shaken 40 years ago in a social earthquake. Residents from the underprivileged neighborhood of Musrara unleashed their anger and marched through the streets to express their frustration about their unbearable conditions of life and poverty. Most of the leaders of the time are not in the protest business anymore, except perhaps for Reuven Abergel, who is still involved in almost any protest and social action in the country.
After meeting with their delegation, prime minister Golda Meir said, “They are not nice.” But many things have changed since then, and the local Black Panthers movement is something even representatives of the establishment are proud to recall was born here.
On July 5, a special event will mark the date of the first big demonstration that took place 40 years ago. It will include naming an alley in Musrara Derech Hapanterim Hashorim (The Black Panthers Alley) and renaming another alley “Simtat Hem Lo Nehmadim” (“They Are Not Nice” Lane).
Costly rehabilitation
The Lev Ha’ir community center and local neighborhood council is undergoing a strict rehabilitation program, following a serious financial crisis that almost shut down its activities. As a result, the council has been requested to look for self-generating income, such as renting some of its premises. This is a profound change to the existing policy there, led by center director Uri Amedi, who for the past 20 years promoted a community approach that was free of economic considerations.
The first victim of this change is the religious youth movement Ariel, which has been asked to vacate the room it has been using for its activities so that it may be rented to a private organization.
Amedi still hopes he will find an alternative place for the girls of Ariel, but as he told members of the council, things are really changing at Lev Ha’ir.