First person: Keep Jerusalem clean

The municipality needs to ensure that materials and debris from construction work is not left behind for months.

Construction site in Jerusalem 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem /The Jerusalem Post)
Construction site in Jerusalem 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem /The Jerusalem Post)
The late Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek liked to take a daily walk in and around Jerusalem, during which he often greeted the street cleaners, whom he considered the real guardians of the city’s sanitation. This was an inseparable part of his daily routine, something that we are sorely missing today.
We all want to live in a clean environment, but there must be something wrong when I see a municipal cleaner using an old cardboard box to gather the dirt and dust or when the brushes of a cleaning machine miss half their target.
Not sweeping Jerusalem’s streets properly is only one of the capital’s sanitation problems.
What makes matters worse is a lack of supervision after municipal road construction or repairs are completed. I am not an expert on whether all the sidewalk changes are for the better, but some seem to have been done in a very shoddy manner. But the fact remains that after the main job is completed, there are always some holes left open; parts of the heavy and costly equipment are abandoned and often interfere with the passersby; and empty barrels and containers clutter or block the sidewalks. No one takes care of the remnants of the costly stone blocks, broken tiles and other building materials left at the site.
What Jerusalem Municipal Works supervisors need most is to insist that work be done properly right to the very end, without leaving any leftovers.
I watched some repairs carried out by the Jerusalem Municipality opposite my home, at the corner of Keren Kayemet and Ibn Gvirol streets, and I invite Mayor Nir Barkat to visit the spot. He will discover that the job on the sidewalk was done in a great hurry but with long intervals. One day workers were there, and the next day they apparently worked elsewhere, adding to the confusion. He will also find that the new sidewalk is still not finished. There are still large holes on Ibn Gvirol, with broken pipes sticking out from the ground, and some newly laid bricks that are loose at the corners. There are empty barrels and all kinds of rags and other implements still strewn around.
The residents were not notified that a job would be carried out, how long it would take and what its purpose was. Are the huge stacks of blocks and bricks left on the sidewalk lying there for further expansion or will they be left there for months because no one calculated properly how much material was really required? The municipality seems to forget that we pay high taxes and have every right to demand what is going on and why and how much time the repairs will take. I am also not sure whether the bricks used for the sidewalk will last longer than the previous asphalt, but they seem to be more attractive.
Only a few were left loose.
Time will tell.
I would also ask the mayor of Jerusalem to visit the rapidly expanding new buildings in Romema before they become old, dilapidated housing nightmares.
New apartments are nice, the artificial stone looks tidy, but what goes behind them and in the yards seems to be no one’s concern.
Why aren’t our contractors compelled to finish their job properly and clear all the accumulated debris? Is there no way to persuade the tenants to keep their newly purchased apartments, staircases and yards in proper order? The apartments were advertised as luxurious before they were sold, and I am sure that inside they are clean and tidy.
But outside? The staircases, the courtyards that were supposed to serve for recreation are still full of remains of building materials, as if abandoned by a contractor in a hurry.
Romema might once have been considered an industrial area, but that was a long time ago. Today, it is a fast-growing residential area. The development is fast, but it is not likely that the quarter will look like Ramat Eshkol, for example.
There is no greenery whatsoever, except for one small park set up by the late Ted Lurie, the second editor of The Jerusalem Post, for the workers’ recreation, and even that is neglected.
I have seen this myself – and there are other witnesses – that Romema is plagued by rats.
They feed on the uncovered bins and other garbage. I don’t know what goes on in other neighborhoods, but in this one there are corners and alleys off the main streets that apparently belong to nobody, as they have not been cleared for ages.
Do we have to wait for some sort of plague to break out? It would be a pity if Romema turned into a neglected slum within the next few years. And that will certainly happen unless proper steps are taken now.
It is also high time that the street and building inspectors started doing their jobs properly.
Nothing will ever get done without strong supervision and heavy fines. The time is past for just warnings. It is time to demand from the street cleaners that the garbage bins they handle always be tightly closed and washed from time to time.
Contractors and house committees must allocate budgets for keeping their surroundings tidy. And it is time to penalize Jerusalemites with hefty fines for littering as is done in Singapore, where an offender had to pay a $1,000 fine for throwing a cigarette butt on the ground.
But the orders, the discipline and the proper execution of such plans must be insisted upon from the top. If that is not possible, then the mayor should resign and hand over the responsibility of sanitation to a special authority as was done with water. We must keep Jerusalem clean and tidy like all civilized cities in the world. We deserve this for the good name of our city and our own selfrespect.•