This Week in Jerusalem

A round-up of city affairs.

Much ado about nothing
After all the drama surrounding the municipal budget and the highly publicized conflict between the mayor and the Treasury, one could say all’s well that ends well. Mayor Nir Barkat, flanked by the new director-general and the municipal treasurer, presented the new budget for 2011 on Monday.
Following a late agreement between the city and the government, the municipality announced an increase of NIS 89 million in the education budget, NIS 32m. in the development of new cultural sites, an increase of NIS 47m. in sports programs, NIS 57m. in cleaning and gardening, and NIS 24m. to increase tourism. The issue of cleaning warrants some explanation, as it also caused a little drama behind the scenes before an understanding was reached between the parties.
It is no secret that no one is happy about the sanitation situation in the city, especially in the Old City, the most important tourist site.
“It was clear to all that the only way we could achieve our objective was by privatizing the cleaning services,” explained municipal treasurer Eli Zituk. “The good news is that we have managed, after many years, to obtain the workers’ committee’s agreement to do. The bad news is that it will cost us quite a lot, but at least Jerusalem’s streets will be clean.”
The drama was caused by the fear that the state treasurer would not agree to pay for it, and even today it is still not clear who is paying for this move – but according to Zituk, it is close.
Here it comes!
Almost 10 years after the High Court of Justice ordered the municipality to provide enough classrooms for Arab pupils in east Jerusalem, it is apparently happening. About NIS 300m. – an unprecedented sum – will be invested in 2011 for the planning and constructing of classrooms, Mayor Nir Barkat said. About NIS 75m. is in the process, and the forecast is that within two to three years, there will be no Arab children without a place in a classroom. Next on the list is the lack of classrooms for haredi pupils.
Where does the money come from?
All this money comes from our property taxes first but also from a long list of sources – government, local incomes, etc. Altogether, the city’s budget for this year is NIS 3.826 billion, which is NIS 191 million more than last year. This year the development budget, which comes completely from the government, will be NIS 800m. (an increase of NIS 40m. compared to last year). True, all these promising figures depend first on the approval of the municipal finance committee, and then the city council vote. But no surprises are expected on this front.
Happy birthday, sweet 60s
The ninth annual sponsored trek Miles for Smiles of Akim – Jerusalem will take place on March 8-10 (which is also International Women’s Day), to mark Akim’s 60th anniversary. The purpose of the event is to raise funds to support people who are mentally challenged. Those who want to support Akim- Jerusalem and to enjoy the experience of walking from Arad through the mountains of Sdom near the Dead Sea can sign up on the website ( and join the fun for a good cause.
Accessibility is the name of the game
Bus stops are becoming accessible for people with disabilities.
Thanks to a special project by the Moriah municipal company, more than 400 bus stops in the city have already been made accessible, and the goal is to add 600 during this year. This is in line with a 10-year-old Knesset decision which states that any public venue must be handicap-accessible (with special budgets available for it). The cost so far is NIS 30 million.
Backing out
Coincidentally or not, the day after the US vetoed a UN Security Council resolution declaring settlements illegal, the local planning and construction committee withdrew its plans to build in Har Homa, a neighborhood located over the Green Line. Sources on the committee claim the reason was purely technical – the plans to build 32 units were not properly presented – but observers in Jerusalem are convinced that messages from the Prime Minister’s Office were behind the decision.
The construction was planned inside the existing neighborhood and was presented by the Construction and Housing Ministry. It included synagogues, kindergartens and a public swimming pool. The Likud representative on the city council, Elisha Peleg, was furious about the decision, which he regards as caving in to the Americans, and requested that the issue be discussed at the next meeting.
A practice run
Ahead of the Jerusalem Marathon next month, a shorter event will take place next Friday, with 6.5, 8 and 16 kilometer tracks. It will run through major sites connected with the life of the late prime minister Menachem Begin, from the King David Hotel, through the Museum of Underground Prisoners, Beit Froumine and the old railway station. The mini-marathon is called the Begin Marathon and many MKs and public officials have already signed on, led by Mayor Nir Barkat. The Begin Marathon is free and begins at 9 a.m. on March 3 from the King David Hotel.