This week in Jerualem

Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs

No-Smoking Sign (photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
No-Smoking Sign
(photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
Whose party is it?
Student Day at the Hebrew University has traditionally been celebrated for years on Jerusalem Day, but the link may be reaching its end this year. Student association members at the university are promoting a proposal to separate the two events and hold them on different days.
The reason behind the attempt is not – as one might think – because someone at the association believes we are entitled to two days of festivities, but out of concern for the feelings of the Arab students. Considering that Jerusalem Day is perceived by many Arab residents and students as a day of mourning, some association members believe that Student Day should be transferred to another date on the calendar.
Needless to say, the proposal, which may be finally voted upon by the end of the week (probably Thursday, November 26), has aroused lot of anger and criticism among other members of the association, as well as among Zionist-oriented associations on campus.
No smoking
Until now, smoking (cigarettes and cigars) in public (closed) places was forbidden by law, and transgressors who were caught were immediately fined by municipality supervisors.
As of this month, this regulation is being expanded to include the public smoking of nargilas on both sides of the city. As the first step toward enforcement of this new rule, municipal inspectors have been visiting shops that sell the oriental water-based smoking devices, requesting that the store owners act to prevent nargila use by customers in or close to the shop – even if there is an open space nearby, such as a balcony.
City council member and holder of environment portfolio for the city, Aryeh King (United Jerusalem), the man behind the new law, argues that he is responding to the wish of a large segment of the residents who protest the use of nargilas in public spaces.
The first case of enforcing the rule occurred last week, with an owner of a smoking products shop fined NIS 5,000 for allowing customers to smoke a nargila inside the store.
A new vigil in town
City council member Yitzchak Pindrus, (United Torah Judaism,) once a vice mayor and today a member of his list in the council, is providing a personal example. As of this week, Pindrus is serving on a volunteer basis as a guard at a haredi school – the Bais Yaakov seminary for girls in the Bayit Vegan neighborhood.
Pindrus explains that, based on an analysis of the present security system, he has reached the conclusion that it doesn’t provide an adequate security solution to the wave of terrorist stabbing attacks. Therefore, until additional budget is obtained for that purpose, he will man his post, and calls for all city council members to join him on this mission.
With or without
All parties agree that education is the best way to address hatred and violence. Youth movements provide some of the best such responses, as they mostly teach democracy and good civics. However, this has not always been the case among some of the Arab youth movements operating in the city and in Israeli Arab towns, and this has been a cause for concern for many years.
Now it seems that something is moving in the right direction – with the newly established Scouts branch, which already numbers some 100 members, in the Sur Bahir neighborhood. The movement is under control of the Education Ministry, and all the activities will be aimed to promote a positive framework, including democracy, leadership among the community and respect for the others.
Until now, all of the branches of the Scouts Youth Movement in the Arab neighborhoods were under the aegis of the International Muslim Association for Youth.
This is the first branch that is departing from this framework, as a result of intensive work that went on for almost two years.
The municipality will fund the activities of the new branch with a very small budget of only NIS 2,000, but sources at the municipality have indicated that the sum will increase rapidly, according to the needs of the group’s activities and programs. One thing will nevertheless be different – the Sur Bahir Scouts branch will not sing the Israeli national anthem, nor will they have Israeli flags in their activities.
Saying farewell to May
She was born to a haredi family, and according to her testimony, given in a long interview to an Israeli newspaper about a year ago, she felt there was something “wrong” with her body and gender affiliation from early childhood.
It took a few years more for the young haredi yeshiva student to realize that he was in fact a female imprisoned in a male body. By then, he was already married and father of two children, and the long and painful road to transform from a man to a woman involved terrible cost – including the total and cruel refusal of the family and the rabbinical court to allow him/her to see the children.
May – that was the name she chose after completing the process of transgendering – couldn’t find peace of mind or any sort of completion with her situation. Friends who were close to her describe a woman who could never overcome the separation from her children, the ostracism from her family and all the results on her daily life.
Eli, a friend (and himself a transgender) recently described May’s life as a slow but irresistible descent to hell, and recalled the many times she announced openly that death had become her only way out. In an interview to an Israeli newspaper that was never published, given a year ago, she said that she felt “totally empty inside.”
After her death, her haredi family appealed to the High Court to prevent the implementation of the section of her will in which she requested that her body be incinerated. The court has not yet announced its decision.