Nature and bees in the city

Muslala’s terrace project brings art and environmentalism to downtown Jerusalem.

Some workshops that will be offered to the public in The Terrace’s combined areas include woodwork, urban agriculture, dance and even beekeeping (photo credit: YAEL BRYGEL)
Some workshops that will be offered to the public in The Terrace’s combined areas include woodwork, urban agriculture, dance and even beekeeping
(photo credit: YAEL BRYGEL)
Sustainable living in the city is the focus of an impassioned group of young artists working from within the spiritless Clal Center building on Jaffa Road, next to the Mahaneh Yehuda market.
Muslala, the nonprofit organization established by this group in 2009, opened its doors on the Clal rooftop in 2014 and held its official grand opening last month during Jerusalem Design Week, after completing initial renovations on the space.
Hamirpeset (The Terrace) is a visionary project consisting of a multi-functional 300-square-meter area on the fourth level of the Clal building with an adjacent 2,000-sq.m. rooftop encircled by large buildings that make up Jerusalem’s downtown cityscape. The combined areas are set to offer workshops to the public at large, on subjects related to art, sustainability and community, including woodwork, urban agriculture, dance and even beekeeping.
Matan Israeli, a soft-spoken artist and one of the founders of Muslala, which has around 50 community members, offered guided tours through the Clal building during Design Week. Given the disorientating nature of the site – with a setup reminiscent of the Penrose stairs optical illusion – having someone knowledgeable in the lay of the land was most appreciated. The starting point was on Jaffa Road, at an arch that remains from the Alliance Vocational School, the first Jewish trade school in Jerusalem that was built in 1880 and taught carpentry, sculpting, weaving and other disciplines.
Most of the school buildings and garden were razed in 1970 to make way for the Clal Center, combining shopping and office building space, which now has approximately 270 business owners, all considered co-owners of the center. The Muslala group views the Terrace as an opportunity to bring back some of the artistic flavor and energy that was lost when the school was demolished.
During the tour, to Matan’s right, in the plaza at the front of the center, sat a group of people at their computers, partaking in a 3D printing design workshop run by Machshava Tova (A Good Thought), a nonprofit that provides underprivileged populations with access to technology.
Adjacent to them, the Shidrugation (Upgrade Station) attracted Jerusalemites with pieces of home furniture in need of an artistic revamp. Each of these activities during Design Week provided a snapshot of what Muslala hopes to offer in coming months.
Once in the building, Matan pointed out contributions that Muslala has made to the center – decorative benches, a gallery space with an exhibit of recycled art and a mural on the outside of a small synagogue – before ascending the stairs to the Mirpeset, officially known as the Carol and Larry Ryder Indoor Terrace. There he gave an overview of the project’s four main hubs, starting with Adamahi, which offers construction and sculptural workshops using soil and raw materials. The hub recently trained a group of Arab women from east Jerusalem in basic home construction skills using some of these resources.
“When people think of construction using soil, they typically think of mud houses located in northern and southern Israel. Adamahi will demonstrate how these kinds of methods can be used right here in Jerusalem.”
The “Roof of Eden” hub will focus on teaching city dwellers how rooftops can be used to grow produce.
“We hope to teach people how to use their rooftops for purposes other than placing their solar-powered water heaters.”
The tour concluded with an intimate encounter with local residents of the Propolis hub – thousands of bees who occupy hives on the building’s rooftop. We sit face-to-face with the flying insects, as they roam freely in close proximity to our bare arms and legs.
“When they are treated properly, they don’t sting humans,” explains Yossi Aud, the impassioned and highly experienced director of the hub’s beekeeping enterprise and workshops where people will learn skills in biodynamic, urbanbased beekeeping.
The fourth hub is Prizma (Prism), which will provide workshops in body movement and dancing.
With more than a million shekels in funding to date from the Jerusalem Foundation, the Jewish National Fund of Canada, the Eden Company for the development of central Jerusalem, and the Jerusalem Municipality, the Mirpeset, is in full swing. Later this month Prism will begin its yoga and capoeira classes for between NIS 40 and 55. Acro Jam yoga will take place each Friday, free of charge. Other upcoming activities include compost workshops and a herbal medicine workshop for beginners.
What remains is the final development of the roof area, which is in progress but needs more than NIS 2 million for completion.
“It was crucial to us to have community input and cooperation in the development of the project’s final stages. We opened the Terrace now to provide exposure and encourage involvement.”
Along with other design flaws, the Clal building’s elevator does not reach the fourth floor, something which Muslala plans to address by installing a wheelchair elevator in the near future.
Our tour concluded at Muslala’s small open kitchen where people gathered and Clal business owner David Dadon was sitting drinking coffee.
Dadon, formerly from the pastoral surrounds of Moshav Aderet, is eager to tell In Jerusalem readers about the impact of Muslala on the building’s regeneration.
“What was missing from this building was nature. I hope to come here every afternoon to drink a cup of coffee and enjoy nature in the city.” 
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