Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs

NIS 100 million was approved by the government to support city-center businesses suffering due to the terror wave.

Adina Bar-Shalom (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Adina Bar-Shalom
Maybe too late
After the bad blood and feuding between Mayor Nir Barkat and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon came the good news: NIS 100 million was approved by the government to support city-center businesses suffering due to the terror wave.
But now that the money is in the city’s hands, bureaucracy and rules are slowing the progress, with some businesses already closing down. Cavalier, the high-end and high-quality French restaurant, is the first – and probably not the last – to announce its closure due to lack of customers.
According to Deputy Mayor Ofer Berkowitz (Hitorerut), those who have been experiencing difficulties since Operation Protective Edge “won’t last; not all the businesses can be saved.”
But the main issue remaining is to see how quickly and efficiently this money (partly for loans with favorable conditions, partly for more urgent help) will reach the owners. According to figures released last week by the municipality, no fewer than 70 businesses dependent on tourists (locals and foreigners) are now on the edge of closing down, due to lack of cash on hand and of customers.
Who by tweet
Young adults and even teenagers from the Arab sector attracted by the heroic image of martyrdom make wide use of social media, and very often even announce their intention to act through Facebook or Twitter.
That is the conclusion of security forces dealing with the situation in the city. As a result, a lot of attention is focused on Arabic-language social media posts, to look for those who have started to share their enthusiasm about friends or relatives who perpetrated stabbings in the streets of Jerusalem, in order to follow in their footsteps.
The principle is to track those who glorify these acts of terror, and learn when such glorification starts to sound more like an intention to act, to try to prevent them from acting. This is, according to police sources, the best way to track terror attacks, since at present there is very little, if any, logistic organization behind these acts. Last week, police arrested a Palestinian attorney who tweeted numerous anti-Israeli declarations and at some point, according to the police sources, began to incite to violence and not just express admiration for stabbers caught or killed in action.
Fines at Hagai Street
In the framework of tight new measures to fight back against terror, fines are being imposed on merchants on Hagai Street in the Old City, close to the location of where Nehemia Lavi and Aharon Banita were stabbed to death during Succot. Some of the merchants say the fines are not connected to any serious breaking of the law, but rather are designed to respond to their attitudes on the night of the stabbing – when some of them were accused of not assisting – and even jeering – those injured in that event.
They say city inspectors check on them more frequently, imposing fines for things dealt with more easily before the terror wave – such shop signboards without Hebrew alongside Arabic as required by law, or in the case of a falafel counter, putting out chairs without a permit.
According to Akram Mahdi of the Arab merchants’ association, since the beginning of the events, some 50 businesses on Hagai Street and its environs have been forced to shut down, due to lack of business and customers.
“Foreign tourists don’t come here, and the Jews also don’t patronize our shops,” explained Mahdi.
Bar-Ilan protection
The Haredi College of Jerusalem, founded and directed by Adina Bar-Shalom, has been experiencing problems on the academic level.
The Israeli Council for Higher Education does not approve of Bar-Shalom’s decision to simultaneously work with lecturers from several academic institutions.
Until now, the rule has stated that a college that wishes to obtain the academic recognition of the council should work under a recognized institution – meaning one of Israel’s universities.
Bar-Shalom works with several such institutions, reflecting the breadth of studies at her college.
Now she has been required by the council to stop this, decide which university she wants to work with and become a branch of that chosen institution.
Last week, rumors had it that such an agreement had been achieved with Bar-Ilan University, which would take the Haredi College under its auspices. If this goes forward, it is expected to encourage more students to register at the Haredi College, which in the past year has experienced a significant decline in students, following the council’s decision not to recognize the academic side of studies until the matter is resolved.
The Haredi College is the first ultra-Orthodox college that equips its students with an academic level of studies in a strictly haredi environment (with complete gender separation and supervision of study content by a rabbinical council).
Thanking the messenger
Until a few months ago, MK Roy Folkman was an employee of the municipality – first as a close assistant to Mayor Nir Barkat and later as head of strategic urban planning for the capital. During his term, Folkman was exposed to the issue of abandoned buildings and the fact that it meant less municipal tax in Jerusalem’s coffers.
Now that Folkman is a Knesset member (Kulanu), he has not forgotten his findings while serving at Safra Square. He was among the MKs pushing hard at the Knesset to recognize the damage caused by this situation (not just in Jerusalem), ultimately heading a group of MKs from several parties to submit a bill to resolve the situation.
The bill states that owners of abandoned or uninhabited ruined buildings will be exempt from paying municipal tax on the structures for up to three years, as opposed to an unspecified time. One of the reasons invoked for the new law is that in light of the country’s severe housing crisis, abandoned buildings on which owners do not pay taxes is unacceptable when such buildings could serve as affordable housing for young couples and families.