Jerusalem's Jaffa Road closed to traffic

Jan 15 is the date that marks a dramatic change for Jerusalemites: The city's main artery for over 150 years is now blocked to all vehicles, including buses and taxis.

Jaffa Road construction Jerusalem 521 (photo credit: marc israel sellem)
Jaffa Road construction Jerusalem 521
(photo credit: marc israel sellem)
Traffic ends; nightmare begins
As of January 15, Jaffa Road, which has been the city’s main artery for the past 150 years, will be dramatically changing its purpose and appearance: no buses – or any other vehicles – will be allowed to travel on it, to make room for light rail tests. This will go on for a few months, until the “real thing” – meaning the real light rail traffic – will start, now scheduled for August.
From then on, Jaffa Road, from Kikar Safra up to the old Shaare Zedek building (today the IBA offices), will become one long mall, with stores, coffee shops and terraces, and will serve as a venue for outdoor cultural events. According to Shmuel Elgrabli, spokesman for the Jerusalem Mass Transportation Plan, the coming months will be a traffic nightmare in the city center (what else is new?), but will – so hope all the parties involved – complete the psychological switch in locals’ and visitors’ minds: no more access for private cars to the city center.
For the time being, buses will be using Rehov Hanevi’im, Rehov Agrippas and Rehov Yeshayahu. Agrippas will become two-way for public transport between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. One positive outcome nevertheless: residents along Jaffa Road will enjoy some quiet – for the first time in 150 years.
Capital attraction
Jerusalem was the first choice for new immigrants in 2010: 2,554 olim arrived (compared to 2,443 in 2009), most of them from the United States (894), followed by the former Soviet Union (418) and France (385), but only two from Ethiopia. These figures were revealed earlier this week during a session of the Knesset’s Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, whose chairman, MK Danny Danon, praised the city’s efforts on behalf of the newcomers in the fields of education and social activities.
Regarding the low number of olim from Ethiopia, Danon explained that serious efforts are being made to facilitate their absorption and incorporation into public service. However, the high prices of housing in the city are considered by all parties involved a serious obstacle for these olim. Danon’s committee is currently looking into ways to raise the loans for mortgages.
Hello and good-bye
Farewell was said to Yair Ma’ayan, the current director-general of the municipality, and welcome to the new one, Yossi Heiman, during an official changing of the guard at Kikar Safra, in the presence of the real boss, Mayor Nir Barkat, on Sunday. Ma’ayan, considered close to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, replaced the former director-general, Eitan Meir, who under mayor Uri Lupolianski implemented the rehabilitation plan for the municipality – including the firing of 1,000 employees.
Rumors at Kikar Safra say that in two years under the new administration, there are about 1,000 new employees, and since 2010 has apparently ended with a municipal deficit, Heiman might well be required sooner or later to conduct another rehabilitation plan. For the moment, he is enjoying the mayor’s smile and the best wishes of the staff, and he said he is proud to undertake a “genuine Zionist endeavor.” Stay tuned.
Unfamiliar frame
Does the future hold a division among the city’s different populations? According to Secular Quarter #3 the winning film of the “Jerusalem in 2111” competition, the outlook is bleak for Jerusalem’s more enlightened residents.
Judged by a panel of top international film industry executives in science fiction and animation, the competition sought to reveal the best science fiction film depicting the city in 100 years. The winning film was the preferred pick of Avatar and Titanic producer, Jon Landau, and renowned director Wim Wenders. that was announced over the weekend.
Secular Quarter #3, directed by David Gidali along with cameraman Itay Gross, two Israeli students studying at the prestigious AFI Film school in Los Angeles, was chosen among dozens of video entries from all over the world. Gidali and Gross were jointly awarded a $10,000 grand prize.
Secular Quarter #3 presents a bleak vision of Jerusalem in 2111, as a city where different populations are separated on the ground by steel walls, and above by steel domes protecting the citizens from missile attacks. At night, spacecraft hover over the city and break down the walls, an event that leads to what appears to be a historic meeting between secular and haredi youth. The film ultimately sends the message that the more people continue to build walls, the less they will understand the other side.
Contributions by Lidar Gravé-Lazi
Don’t rush to boycott
If you planned to boycott Adidas in reaction to its threat to cancel its sponsorship of the International Jerusalem Marathon, please wait. A spokesman for the municipality has issued a clarification on the matter, saying that there is no such a request from the company and, as a result, there is no change in the marathon’s circuit. According to news recently published in the Hebrew press, Adidas, the major sponsor of the event, had requested a change in the path, to avoid including the eastern part of the city in the marathon, following serious threats made by Arab states to boycott the company. The international marathon, an initiative of the mayor following his participation last year in the New York Marathon, is scheduled for March 25, and is considered a promising tourism boost.
Jewish Agency enters commerce
For those who are considering opening a business in the Holy City but fear that the economic situation might not be favorable, here is a terrific proposal: The Jewish Agency, once an organization aimed at promoting aliya, is now into promoting businesses.
If you are opening a new business or enlarging an existing one, the agency is offering a loan with with excellent conditions of up to NIS 350,000.
The special offer is valid for the North and the capital, through the Jewish Federation of New York, and it includes warranties for up to 70 percent of the loan, a very low interest rate and the guidance of experts.