This week in J'lem: Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affair

The Jerusalem Municipality cares for trees; old leprosy hospital in Talbiyeh turned into a culture, arts and entertainment compound; competition present different approach to studying math.

Free parking (photo credit: Sasson Tiram)
Free parking
(photo credit: Sasson Tiram)
Brave new world Forget everything you know about trees and their status in this city. We are on the threshold of a new era: The Jerusalem Municipality will, as of now, locate, register, preserve and pamper our trees! And whoever dares to harm even one will be fined a substantial sum.
The new plan includes comprehensive care for ancient trees, cure in case of disease, and steady maintenance by botanists – all to make our green friends part of our landscape and daily life.
According to initial findings on the topic, there are hundreds of thousands of trees in the city – along the streets, but mainly inside the neighborhoods, in the playgrounds, in a few small local groves, and beside public buildings and private gardens.
As a result of the new policy, planting of trees and preservation of existing ones will be part of the procedure to approve new construction permits issued by the municipality, and special tracing and enforcement measures will be applied.
The first step will be a grand survey of the present situation, followed by a detailed plan regarding urgent needs – such as special treatment and preservation – and then the compilation of a special card index of the capital’s trees. Enforcement will be tough, warns the municipality: Uprooting without a permit will be fined, and the lawbreaker will be required to plant new trees at his own expense.
Leprosy out, culture in The Jerusalem Municipality, the Jerusalem Development Authority and the Jewish National Fund have teamed up to breathe new life into the old leprosy hospital located in Talbiyeh (Hansen Hospital) and turn it into a culture, arts and entertainment compound.
Groups of artists living in the city will be invited to reside in the old building (after it gets a thorough renovation) on a generous stipend for a period of up to one year, and to create and exhibit their works – plastic arts, movies and new artistic technologies.
Restaurants and coffee shops will welcome visitors. The whole complex will be transformed into one of the highlights of the city’s cultural. The Hansen Hospital for lepers was built in 1887 by architect Conrad Schick but has been closed for the past 20 years. Considered an architectural treasure, it appears on the list of buildings intended for preservation under the auspices of the Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites.
A drop of hope A new water pipe into the city at a cost of NIS 40 million is in the works. The new pipe, which has the largest diameter ever used in this country, is part of a larger project to expand and improve the water supply to the city. At the project’s end, the Hagihon company should be able to assure the city’s residents of a steady and improved quality of water to their taps. In the near future the pipe will also supply water to the Ma’aleh Adumim area. Thirsty, anyone?
Adding up to success A new way to increase interest in mathematics among students, through a competition between two groups, was tested – with success – at the David Yellin Academic College of Education. The competition included teamwork and individual tests between two groups of highly gifted students who study mathematics and physics at the college. The idea behind the competition – beyond fun – was to present a different approach to studying sciences, especially mathematics. The lesson to be learned is that, despite all the problems facing the educational system in the city, learning – and what is more, learning with pleasure and obtaining impressive results – is eminently achievable, as soon as the system provides an encouraging environment.
Dissonant sounds
It was supposed to be a magnificent series of musical events for the winter: three weekends – from mid-February to March – of concerts in churches and synagogues, featuring Western classical music and Jewish liturgical songs, co-sponsored by the Jerusalem Development Authority and the Ariel municipal company. Danny Orstav, of the Voice of Music, was asked to create and implement the musical program. Everything was ready, but Orstav was asked to postpone the launch by two weeks, because the advertising and marketing was not ready yet. And then the JDA announced that the whole project was canceled.
“The reasons were not clear,” says Orstav, “because the budget already existed and was approved. Now we have to cancel everything, and I think it’s a shame.”
Officially, the JDA says that the project was canceled for financial reasons, an explanation that Orstav rejects, explaining that his program did not exceed the budget. In Jerusalem inquired into the matter, and the bottom line is that somebody at the JDA decided to check, though a little late, whether the haredi representatives on the city council would have objections to a series of concerts at churches and synagogues.
Deputy Mayor Yitzhak Pindrus explained that the project sounded good, except for its location: “Synagogues are made for prayers, and I don’t think our task is to encourage people to visit churches. I suggested they find other locations, and that will take time.”
But the JDA denies that the project was canceled due to pressure from haredim.
In a statement, a spokesman claims that several cultural projects were evaluated on the basis of their impact and cost-effectiveness. A culinary festival in the Old City was chosen instead.
Getting there
Two hundred parking spaces at the Ammunition Hill parking lot are now ready for the future passengers of the light rail. This is only the first stage. The next one, planned to be implemented soon, will add 400 spaces. In the framework of the mass transportation plan, four large parking lots across the city will hold the cars of residents and visitors while they use the light rail.
Another large parking lot, near Mount Herzl, with 530 spaces was completed recently. Still to be built are the parking lots in Pisgat Ze’ev (with 310 spaces) and an additional parking lot, with 650 planned places, to serve all the residents and passengers living in the north of the city or coming from the surrounding settlements.
At the Moriah company, which is in charge of the roadworks and the construction of the parking lots, there are high hopes that the residents of Jerusalem will accept the new reality and change their habits – and, especially, get used to the idea that pretty soon they won’t be able to travel inside the city with their own private cars.
In the first stages of the mass transportation plan, officials at the municipality and Moriah expressed their concern that “changing the habits of the residents will probably be the toughest part of the project.” It seems that the tough part has arrived. •