Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs

Though the wave of violence that began last September has calmed down, the level of apprehension of residents and visitors has not really dropped, especially in the city center.

Sana’a, Yemen (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Sana’a, Yemen
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Present, absent
With elections for the local neighborhood councils scheduled for December, the municipality is seeking new ways to ensure “satisfactory” results. Until now, residents could participate in the voting process without having to prove anything other than that their private address is in the neighborhood where they are voting.
In Kiryat Hayovel, this rule raised fears that haredi residents, usually well-organized, would vote in a bloc, causing the secular residents to lose control over the local council board, even though the ultra-Orthodox presence in the neighborhood constitutes only a small minority.
Additional interested parties could use the elections to take control of local councils, mostly for political reasons. (For instance, there was an attempt last year by sources close to Hamas to use the elections to increase their power in the Arab sector’s local councils.) Accordingly, a search has begun for ways to maintain the fragile equilibrium between the different sectors – particularly, but not only, in Kiryat Hayovel.
Last week the municipality, under whose authority the local councils operate, decided that four meetings will be held in each neighborhood where elections will take place this year to discuss the goals of the local councils and community centers.
But there is more: The municipality has also decided that only those who show up at these four meetings will have the right to vote. Not surprisingly, this decision is meeting with significant opposition.
Shabbat at the theater
Last week, a motion was passed to reconsider the open-on-Shabbat status of Beit Mazia Theater. Haredi representatives at the public funding committee refused to approve the municipal budget of the city center theater because of its activities on Shabbat. The feeble presence of non-haredim at the meeting – only three city council members – couldn’t prevent the move, but managed, with difficulty, to change the vote into a decision to reconsider the present situation.
The haredim seek to change the use of the facility and turn it into an educational institution for their sector. That was in fact the former plan, to use the building – which belongs to the city – as an elementary school and small yeshiva in light of its proximity to haredi neighborhoods. Due to the efforts of former councilman Pepe Alalu (Meretz) and with the support of Mayor Nir Barkat, the structure became the home of three theater companies, which also get financial support from the municipality’s culture budget.
More police
A significant change in city policy on security matters is in the works. First announced during a ceremony last week honoring several security forces and rescue organizations in the capital on behalf of the Jerusalem District Police, the new plan will be implemented by the end of this month, adding about 1,000 police officers on a permanent basis to ensure the security of residents.
The concept is that Jerusalem’s security needs cannot be answered only in an ad-hoc manner, whenever there is a rise in tension or terrorism. To achieve a more serene atmosphere in the city, at the request of Mayor Barkat, security measures here were reevaluated.
Though the wave of violence that began last September has calmed down, the level of apprehension of residents and visitors has not really dropped, especially in the city center. The daily presence of hundreds of additional policemen is expected to improve the sense of security and help prevent more violence. Police will be noticeably positioned both in east and west Jerusalem, particularly in tourist areas.
Religious compromise
Quick intervention by two city council members – Dov Kalmanovitch (Bayit Yehudi) and Arieh King (United Jerusalem) prevented a new flare-up in the already tense relationship between religious and haredi groups in Givat Mordechai.
The tension centered on the use of two kindergartens that were originally planned for the religious public, but suddenly were declared by the haredi education administration at Safra Square to be intended for ultra-Orthodox children, most of them not residents of the neighborhood.
The two kindergartens in question are located in a larger structure in which two classes for kindergartens already exist, serving local religious residents. The strong opposition of the two councilmen resulted in a decision by Barkat, who is holder of the education portfolio, to adhere to the existing planning and enable the children to use the two structures for the coming school year.
A solution for the significant lack of kindergarten classes in the haredi sector will soon be found elsewhere, added Barkat.
Jews of Sana’a
The National Library is presenting an exhibition of photographs taken of Jews from Sana’a, Yemen, in 1901. The pictures were taken by Herman Burchardt, who traveled across the world to visit remote Jewish communities; he reached Yemen at the beginning of the 20th century and observed some of the most far-flung and isolated Jewish communities there. His photos have been at the National Library for many years, and are on public display for the first time.
Killed in 1909 by robbers in an ambush in the Yemenite desert, Burchardt was deeply mourned by the Jewish community he had documented for several years.
Arts in struggle
Akim, the Association for the Habilitation of the Intellectually Disabled, has launched the annual exhibition of creations from its artistic workshop. Developmentally and physically disabled persons of various ages produced a range of paintings and other works of art now on display at the exhibition hall of the Judaica Museum at Heichal Shlomo on King George Avenue.
The works are dedicated to Rachel Mathia, the devoted CEO of Akim Jerusalem who died last year. In attendance at the opening of the exhibition, which highlights pieces from 16 of the disabled artists living in the Akim home in the city, were National Insurance Institute CEO Prof.
Shlomo Ben-Yossef, whose administration supports many projects for the well-being of disabled persons, and the mayor, who purchased one of the paintings for his office.