Costly shopping A city council decision from the end of last year might have a negative effect on the city’s economic and business life. In November, city council members voted in favor of charging municipal property taxes (arnona) on public parking lots near large malls and supermarkets. The decision was to tax owners NIS 30 per square meter and, according to the expectations of the arnona department, that new tax would add an income of NIS 5 million a year to the municipality’s income.“Considering that the city’s budget stands at NIS 5 billion for 2012, it is total nonsense,” said city council member and opposition leader Meir Turgeman, who is against the decision.Turgeman’s main concern is that the malls and supermarkets would rapidly find a way to roll the tax on to consumers. Parking is now free of charge at any parking area belonging to large malls (like Malha or Hadar) for an unlimited time. It is interesting to note that the new tax has not yet been implemented, according to the municipality’s spokesman, but the management of the Malha mall has announced that underground parking will stop being free as of next month and sources at Safra Square admit that additional malls will follow soon. The price for parking has not yet been determined.Tunisian mythology The Yitro Torah portion has a special place in the Tunisian Jewish community. On the day when this portion is read, which is considered especially festive for boys in the family, dinner is served in small, special dishes, and children hear stories and legends about the community’s mythological characters. This Shabbat, a conference on the custom will be held at the Rimonim Hotel, which will include lectures, storytelling and typical Tunisian food.Dr. Miryam Guez-Avigal, the force behind the gathering, announced that a series of portraits of outstanding women from this community, of the past and the present, will be displayed. Also at the center of the Shabbat is the story of the famous El Ghriba Synagogue on the island of Djerba, built, according to tradition, with stones brought from the First Temple after its destruction in 570 BCE. One interesting aspect of the conference will be the Tunisian tradition – quite unique in the Middle Ages – to honor the memories of women through the synagogues in the communities. “This is the best answer one could think of facing the exclusion of women we are experiencing these days,” concludes Guez-Avigal.For more information: 050-774-2181.Education in the east Parents of children preparing for elementary school in East Talpiot were surprised to find out that the municipality’s education administration organized an evening in favor of the Keshet school. The residents complained in a letter addressed to Etti Binyamin, the president of the parents’ association, against this initiative. They claimed that at a community center gathering two weeks ago, they found out that most of the parents interested in the school were not residents of the neighborhood. The parents fear that a new branch of Keshet will end up as an institution for children from high socioeconomic levels only. Binyamin agreed with the parents that improvement in neighborhood education levels is the best solution for the residents and that there is no need to bring in a school that will be attended by children who do not live in East Talpiot. The parents concluded that the municipality should know by now that residents will have their say and nothing should be done without consulting them.Chinese in Jerusalem Fifth-grade students in Kiryat Hayovel are learning how to say “Yingchun Jiefu,” which means “greet the new year and encounter happiness” in Chinese. The children at the Janusz Korczak School will recite the traditional Chinese blessing next week to celebrate 20 years of friendship between China and Israel. The celebration will take place at the Foreign Ministry, in a conference room prepared specially for this occasion, and transmitted live to a school in China. The Jerusalem students learn Chinese as part of a project which includes study of the Chinese culture, its population and its history, as well as the importance of the ties between the two countries.Out of Russia Following a visit held last week in the police lock-up at the Russian Compound, MK Amnon Cohen (Shas), the chairman of the Knesset Interior and Environmental Affairs Committee, decided to promote its transfer out of the city center. The visit, which came as a result of the state comptroller report that depicted the poor conditions in the lock-up, convinced Cohen that the situation had to be dramatically improved. “Suspects are deprived of their right to privacy, while brought, their hands and feet cuffed, from the lock-up to the nearby court – not to speak of the harsh conditions inside. This is unacceptable,” said Cohen at the end of the visit. Criticism of the harsh conditions of the Jerusalem Police lock-up have been expressed by various bodies throughout the years – social workers, social activists and now MKs – but so far, nothing has improved. Cohen added that the treatment of suspects is a measure of our humanity and that he would not rest until a real change is implemented.Moving the past The “pillbox” on Hebron Road will soon be removed from its historic place to make room for a new road. The pillbox, which was used to shelter British soldiers who controlled the movement of the locals (both Arabs and Jews), is one of the last remnants of the British Mandate period on the roads. It will be relocated nearby, while the present location will be used for a road to give access to the development of the Arnona neighborhood. A tender to carry out the delicate mission – the pillboxes of Jerusalem are classified as historic buildings – was published this week. The pillbox will be displayed on the opposite side of the road, in a planned small public park with statues and special lighting.Unbelievable but true After some 10 years of struggle, the Jerusalem Open House finally obtained what was granted two years ago by the High Court of Justice – steady municipal financial support for its social and educational activities. The decision was brought to a vote during last week’s city council meeting and approved after the municipality admitted that the Open House could and should be considered a community center. Until now, the issue wasn’t brought to the agenda of the city council due to political and coalition reasons. Although the proposal was initially reduced by the finance committee, the original proposal was presented to the plenum, receiving nine votes in favor and seven against.