This week in Jerusalem

Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs.

Jerusalem (photo credit: Courtesy )
(photo credit: Courtesy )
Hello, goodbye The Jerusalem city council might soon be bidding adieu to its youngest member, Merav Cohen (Hitorerut B’Yerushalayim), who has joined the ranks of the new party founded by Tzipi Livni. Cohen, who together with Ofer Berkowitz ran a refreshing and high-energy campaign for the 2008 elections, has been considering her next step for a while. Despite a few impressive achievements made by her party, which waved the banner of the importance of keeping the young and productive generation in the city, Cohen felt that the local scene was becoming a little too narrow for her plans to change things.
In a somewhat dramatic press release she issued on Sunday, Cohen listed her party’s achievements, such as the mayor’s decision to keep the Karta parking lot open on Shabbat.
Another of the many areas in which Cohen was very active was the introduction of new requirements for the affordable housing offered by the Construction and Housing Ministry – namely, that those who apply for the apartments prove that they are working or at least are trying to get a job (unlike young haredim who don’t have to prove they earn a salary to be entitled). All her efforts are aimed at helping young people remain in the city.
In a phone conversation earlier this week, Cohen said that what finally convinced her to make the decision was the personal contact she had with Livni. “She is a woman of truth. What she says she’ll do, she does – and that’s important to me.”
For the moment, Cohen doesn’t have to give up her seat on the city council – the law doesn’t require her to quit, even if she is elected to the Knesset. But Cohen stresses that in such a case, she would immediately free her seat for the person who is next on the list – Kobi Frig. Only 45 days left to find out.
Improving the education situation For those who care about social issues and have not lost faith in leadership and the education system, December 9 is an important date to save. The annual conference of Kol Israel Haverim (KIAH) will take place on Sunday at the conference center of Kibbutz Ramat Rahel. At the gathering, entitled “Leadership As a Means to Promote Social Change,” some of the organization’s most popular projects will be presented. Among them are the Piyut project (the renaissance of Sephardi liturgical songs); the Tafnit project, aimed at preventing youth from dropping out of school; the Kedma School; and the Jerusalem Secular Yeshiva. All of these projects have one thing in common – to offer new ways to empower young students to strengthen their connection with their cultural and traditional Jewish roots and receive the best education available for their future.
“In light of the growing gaps in education levels and the need for more social justice and solidarity,” explains Yehuda Maimaran, the director of KIAH, “it is crucial that educators work toward improving the situation.”
Hundreds of educators will meet at the annual conference to hear how their leadership can make a difference. The conference will conclude with a performance by popular singer Etti Ankri, who has added a large selection of traditional Jewish songs and music to her repertoire.
Rumblings in Ramot At last week’s city council meeting, certain items on the agenda raised a lot of conflict. One of the issues was the struggle over the character of a new residential neighborhood in Ramot, to be built, according to the municipality’s recent plans, on what had been slated to be a country club. The Construction and Housing Ministry (under the control of Shas) established the conditions for the purchase of the apartments so that young haredi families, in which men don’t work but study at yeshiva, would have priority.
Hitorerut B’Yerushalayim, Yerushalmim and the mayor himself are trying to prevent this clause in the tender and to give priority to families in which at least one of the couple works.
The project, which will have 734 housing units, is the last opportunity for Ramot to take in more secular (or nationalreligious) residents or, in other words, another chapter in the ongoing struggle to decide if it is a totally haredi neighborhood or a diverse one. The struggle continues, despite the establishment of two separate local councils – one haredi and the other (larger one) for the rest of the residents.
Ze’ev Landner, the president of the secular local council, together with city councillor Merav Cohen, were almost certain they had won the battle.
But then, on election day in the US, when everybody’s attention was focused on Washington, Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Atias issued a new tender (within the large one mentioned above), stating that, based on the same conditions for young families, 303 apartments would be offered without requiring that the buyers had served in the army or proving that they earn enough to repay the mortgage loan (meaning that they work and are not yeshiva students).
The issue was also raised on the city council, and despite all the efforts of the mayor and his coalition, the powerful ministry is winning. Many on the city council say that the best solution would be to take such an important ministry out of Shas’s hands. January 22 is the date when this solution might be implemented.
Flamenco with an Arabic air Alcazar, a program of flamenco dance and music intertwined with Arabic music, performed by musicians and singers from both sides of the city, will take place on December 12 at the Leo Model Hall in the Gerard Behar Center. This will be the premiere of a very special program that brings together ancient traditions in a new and modern form, while remaining faithful to the classical origins of this Andalusian music. The original music, which was written for the performance in Jerusalem, brings together music, dance, classical Arabic singing and modern rhythms. The word “Alcazar” has its roots in the Arabic al-khazar, which means a castle, a seat of power and government, but also a place that encourages and supports arts, and music in particular.
Since this ancient and noble tradition was born in a land where Jews and Arabs lived together in harmony for a relatively long period, it is not surprising to see musicians and dancers from both sides of the city getting together to renew some of these Golden Age traditions and to bring them to today’s audience in a natural, multicultural environment, where they hope they will find the required support for their work.
The program features flamenco dancer Michaela Harari, singer and violinist Fuad Abu-Ranam; piyut and flamenco singer and oud player Shuki Shweiki; and percussionist Lev Elman.
For tickets and more information, call 625-1139.