This week in Jerusalem 360654

Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs.

Health Ministry director-general Prof. Arnon Afek, Deputy State Comptroller Yair Tal, Health Minister Yael German,Hadassah national president Marcie Natan, interim director-general Prof. Tamar Peretz, Mayor Nir Barkat, HMO Board interim chair Avi Balashnikov (photo credit: COURTESY HWZOA)
Health Ministry director-general Prof. Arnon Afek, Deputy State Comptroller Yair Tal, Health Minister Yael German,Hadassah national president Marcie Natan, interim director-general Prof. Tamar Peretz, Mayor Nir Barkat, HMO Board interim chair Avi Balashnikov
(photo credit: COURTESY HWZOA)
Ground control
Goodwill is not always sufficient to solve problems, but it sometimes helps.
This is what happened in Beit Hakerem, following the decision of one of its most prestigious institutions – the David Yellin Academic College – to put 26 cellular antennas on its roof.
Considering that the college is situated very close to one of the area elementary schools, and that the neighborhood is highly populated, it is not surprising that the decision has raised tough opposition among residents. But what has caused the most confusion among residents and community activists was the discovery that there is no regulation regarding the size and number of antennas on a private roof, except for a check by the Environmental Protection Ministry, which approved the display in question.
In the absence of any other possibility, the residents met last week to decide on a policy to have the plan canceled, or at least to obtain a reduction in the number of antennas. One of the proposals was to turn to the college students and try to persuade them that this would damage their positive public image, as well as that of their institution.
Though the display has not broken any laws, David Yellin opted to hear more and perhaps reconsider the decision.
Increase or decrease?
Should arnona (property tax) be raised or reduced next year? This was the question brought to city council administration last week by Mayor Nir Barkat. The tax rate is decided by the Interior Ministry, which brings it to the Knesset for annual approval.
Usually, there is an increase each year, but municipalities that show balanced budgets (no deficit) have the right to ask for a reduction – for residents, specific projects or businesses.
Since he has been in office, Barkat has been busy trying to support local businesses, as well as bring new ones to the city, a step that adds more jobs each year – Jerusalem being a city with one of the lowest employment rates. The ministry recently ruled on a 0.75-percent increase in arnona for 2015 – a decision that has, for the moment, raised much opposition at city council, among both the coalition and opposition.
The council decided to present a request to approve reductions of up to 50% in arnona for new businesses opening in the city. Among the proposals being drafted is an arnona discount for students, young families and banquets halls, to encourage more entrepreneurs to run such businesses.
One for the books
Sometimes, there is good news from the establishment. A young couple living on Ma’agalei Yavne Street in the Katamonim neighborhood were told by a city inspector to dismantle and shut down the library in their building lobby. In this private initiative, the couple wanted to provide a nice and handy opportunity for the neighborhood children – and their parents – to read books without having to pay. The books were attractively displayed on bookshelves along the walls of the entrance to the building, and obviously didn’t bother anyone.
But like in some stand-up sketch, a city inspector who visited the place a few days ago announced that the local venture was illegal, a cause of disturbance and dirt in a public place, and should be removed. The couple decided to fight back, and finally managed to convince the municipality there was nothing wrong with their project; on the contrary. Earlier this week, they were informed that they could continue with it.
Whoever wants to bring books to add to the library is welcome to do so.
Mystic paintings
Mysticism usually deals with things beyond our natural perception, but here is a person who has found a way to combine scholarly knowledge of Kabbalah with paintings. From yesterday (Thursday, June 26) through July 11, Dr. Sandra Valabregue will present her works at the Jerusalem House of Quality on Hebron Road. The exhibition, “Hiding Places,” is a visual game between what can be seen and what is imagined, through the gaze of one who is both a scholar and artist.
Vallabregue lives in the capital, having made making aliya from France, where she graduated from the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, in parallel to her studies in Jewish thought and mysticism, which she also taught at Ben-Gurion University.
On July 3 at 5 p.m., BGU’s Prof. Haviva Pedaya will give a gallery talk at the exhibition, on the issue of the “spoken word spaces” connected with the works on display.
Entrepreneur accelerator
A special evening to promote social enterprises by young adult residents will take place this coming Sunday, June 29, at 7 p.m. at Hansen House. The idea behind the event is to display projects that combine business with social engagement, and thus attract the interest of prospective investors. Nineteen projects will be presented, with the attendance of Mayor Barkat, who encouraged the initiative from the beginning; also participating will be the PresenTense association, which emphasizes the social aspects of business initiatives.
All of the project entrepreneurs have benefited from a six-month training towards the development of their ideas. Among the projects is Guests for Shabbat, which aims to brings together lone soldiers with a network of hosting families; Botanica, a nursery that will specialize in employing persons with special needs; Shidduch, which through the municipality will connect seniors who need furniture with residents who are interested in donating theirs; and an east Jerusalem center dedicated to shortening the time it takes for ambulances to respond to calls from the city’s Arab sector.
A healthy agreement
The recovery plan agreement signed on Tuesday between the various sides in the dispute over the financial situation of the Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO) has elicited a sigh of relief among the general public, though some doctors are still not on board. According to the plan, the government and the Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization of America will each contribute NIS 1.5 billion to the hospital over about six years and senior doctors and administrators will accept pay cuts. More than 18 months after the beginning of the crisis at one of the country’s leading hospitals, too many issues are still far from being settled, the objecting doctors say.
The process will continue next week, with separate agreements to be signed between the government and the various employees’ committees.
The most recent event that highlighted for the staff the gravity of the situation was the resignation earlier this month of hospital director-general Avigdor Kaplan, an outsider and insurance executive who navigated the hospital through the crisis, including a staff strike and the institution’s threatened closure. In a letter addressed to the staff, Kaplan wrote that he could not see himself continuing in his position, while an independent auditor appointed by the government would in fact make day-to-day decisions. But it seems that there is more than that, and according to a senior doctor, Kaplan refused to accept an auditor who would have harmed what he calls “the spirit of Hadassah.”
“We are facing what is known in the business world as a hostile take-over,” says a senior physician, who asked not to be identified. “The hospital is now totally under the control of the HWZOA, creating a situation in which neither the doctors nor the state has a word to say. This is simply intolerable for all of us.
“We will consult the Israeli Medical Association to decide what further steps we may have to take,” concluded the senior doctor. According to other senior doctors, one of the results may be a mass exodus of doctors for other institutions, including overseas.
Hadassah national president Marcie Natan issued a statement praising all sides in the agreement. “HMO’s mission is more vital today than ever,” she said. “The fast-growing State of Israel needs medical institutions that can care for the sick and injured, conduct research that pushes the frontiers of human knowledge and teaches the caregivers of the future. By putting HMO on track to return to financial stability, this agreement ensures that this mission will carry forward for years, and we hope generations, to come. May we go from strength to strength.”