Grapevine: Keep off the tracks!

Irony amidst a disrupted commute when put-out riders see 'no more free rides' for the light rail; Yung Yidish to resume meetings in Jerusalem; The National Lottery celebrated its 60th anniversary.

light rail depot 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
light rail depot 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
■ There was more than a little irony in the fact that in the midst of disruptions to the light rail service that caused major inconvenience to thousands of passengers who had to walk long distances in the rain to find connections in overcrowded buses, weekend newspapers and local Hebrew supplements last Friday carried full-page advertisements announcing that as of December 1, riding the light rail would no longer be free.
Light rail drivers are demanding salary increases and better working conditions, while CityPass, which operates the light rail, applied for and was refused a deduction on property tax for its main depot where trains are parked when not in service.
City council member Elisha Peleg considered it an outrage on the part of CityPass to even make the request, considering the years-long delay in getting the show on the road and the damage caused to city merchants and to the general public in the digging up of roads and diverting of traffic to install the infrastructure.
A propos the light rail, it has provoked a new kind of Russian roulette. Despite numerous advertisements warning the public to beware of oncoming trains, many bicyclists and joggers ride or run along the tracks, and American students who are in Israel for various study programs have now got a new craze of lying down on the tracks to be photographed. Any of these activities could lead to tragedy, but there doesn’t seem to be any responsible adult around to convey that message.
■ People keen on mama loshen may have wondered why there have been no Yung Yidish activities in Jerusalem in recent months. The reason is simple. The premises were being renovated. That took quite a lot of money out of the kitty, but Yung Yidish founder and director Mendy Cahan is optimistic that the Friends of Yung Yidish will come to the rescue with small donations that will add up to a reasonable amount. Anyway, the premises in Yirmiyahu Street are much improved, and Cahan says that programs will resume soon.
Born in Antwerp and brought up in a religiously observant environment, Cahan, who is a little more liberal these days, still cherishes the songs and stories of a religious nature that he learned in childhood and introduces them into his cabaret act. Aside from that, he has degrees in philosophy and in Yiddish, and he lectures on Yiddish literature in Israel and abroad. Cahan loves Yiddish literature and Yiddish culture so much that in 1993 he founded Yung Yidish, where he performs and teaches. But above all, he preserves Yiddish books collected from custodians of estates, elderly people moving into retirement homes and even works that were simply left outside for someone to pick up.
When he discovered that Yiddish had a special pull for immigrants from the former Soviet Union and that some were making special efforts to come from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, he established a Tel Aviv branch of Yung Yidish in the Central Bus Station in 2006. The Tel Aviv facility is more spacious and better equipped and has become a magnet for people who were long removed from Judaism.
■ Husband and wife team Guy Zuaretz and Yael Bar- Zohar emceed the 60th anniversary celebration of Mifal Hapayis, the National Lottery, which was held at the Jerusalem International Convention Center last week. The highlight of the event was the presentation of NIS 60 million worth of scholarships to 2,000 newly discharged soldiers who had served in IDF combat units. The scholarships will enable them to get a bachelor’s degree.
Everyone who serves in the IDF should get a scholarship, said Mifal Hapayis chairman Uzi Dayan, but combat soldiers should get them first. A general in the IDF reserves, Dayan served for 15 years as a member of the general staff. His positions in the army included head of Central Command and deputy chief of staff. After leaving the army, he was head of Israel’s National Security Council, so it’s no surprise that he has a soft spot for combat soldiers.