This week in Jerusalem 383692

Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs.

Parents and pupils protest the conditions at the Gonenim State- Religious School. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Parents and pupils protest the conditions at the Gonenim State- Religious School.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Card-carrying blues
A few years ago, when Uri Lupolianski was mayor, the capital launched a membership opportunity for Jerusalemites: the Yerushalmi Card. Owners of the card, which was available for free to everyone living in the city, were eligible for discounts on municipality events, and part of the goal was to give the members of this new “exclusive club” a sense of pride in being Jerusalem residents.
Almost seven years later, according to the municipality’s Quality of Service Department (yes, there is such a department at Safra Square), the findings are not very encouraging: Only 75,000 out of the city’s nearly 900,000 residents bothered to get their Yerushalmi Cards.
Now the department is sending residents – including all the holders of the card – a short survey to find out whether those who did get the card are at least satisfied with the advantages it provides. Perhaps it would be better to start with a simple question to find out why such a small number of residents have the card in the first place?
Micro moves
The Micro Theater, a local theater company, is moving to its new home as part of the Jerusalem Theater. Next Wednesday, December 10, the company will inaugurate its new base of operations with the play Teibaleh and Her Demon – adapted from an Isaac Bashevis Singer story – in the presence of guests including Mayor Nir Barkat.
The company’s new home is in what used to be the studio and offices of the now-defunct Telad Film Company, on the upper story of the Jerusalem Theater. The space has been completely renovated and now has 150 seats, a rehearsal hall, offices, a warehouse, dressing rooms, and of course, a main performance hall for the plays. The move completes the plan to gather in one building the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra (which has already been there for years), the Micro Theater, and the main halls of the Jerusalem Theater and Sherover complex.
The Micro Theater was established in 1994 by an immigrant from the former Soviet Union, Irina Goralik, and a group of actors and playwrights who made aliya in the ’90s. The Culture and Sport Ministry officially recognized it as a professional theater company in 2004.
Kosher revolution
It started two years ago as a small local initiative to replace the Chief Rabbinate’s kashrut certification with a friendlier one that would still adhere strictly to Halacha. Orthodox Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz of Nahlaot, today the president of the Nahlaot-Lev Ha’ir neighborhood council, agreed to give kashrut certification and guidance to a few small businesses in the neighborhood.
The idea was to find an alternative to the too-often unfriendly – and costly – kashrut supervision from the rabbinate’s official supervisors.
Slowly but surely, more owners of small restaurants and coffee houses in the neighborhood – as well as in other neighborhoods nearby – began using Leibowitz’s services. And religious customers, including some haredi ones, were comfortable eating and drinking at those places.
Now the project has reached a turning point of sorts, with a new phase called “Hashgaha Pratit” – a play on the Hebrew term for “divine providence,” which translates literally to “private (kashrut) supervision.” The idea is to launch Leibowitz’s kashrut as an official private alternative to the rabbinate’s.
Leibowitz – who is also the principal of Nahlaot’s Sulam Yaakov Yeshiva – says that kashrut is first a matter of confidence, of trust. He says he aims not to impose his certification on anyone, but to offer the necessary guidance to those who want it.
At present, there is a fund-raising campaign for this new endeavor, which its promoters say will bring about a revolution in the relationship between religion and the state.
Studying in the rain
Singing in the rain may be nice – at least according to the famous old song – but studying in the rain and cold tends to be a less enjoyable experience. That has been the situation at the Gonenim State Religious School since last week, which parents and pupils protested against on Tuesday at Safra Square. Power outages, leaks and cold winds have made holding classes a formidable challenge.
Despite the serious conditions at the school, which is in the Gonenim neighborhood, neither the Education Ministry nor the municipality’s Education Administration has given approval to cancel classes, says the school’s parents’ association.
Moreover, some of the problems are not new to the school building. But so far, says parents’ association president Bat-El Epstein, nothing has been done, and it is not clear when this damage will be repaired.
No chicken today
The Delicious slaughterhouse in Atarot, which provides chicken for a large percentage of the capital’s butchers, has been shut down on the orders of the municipality’s Public Health Department. The decision followed findings that the health and sanitation conditions at the abattoir did not meet ministry and municipal standards. The closure was effective as of Tuesday last week, and will remain so until the municipal public health services and the Health Ministry are satisfied that the place has been cleaned up and is ready to operate according to the rules. Meanwhile, the Public Health Department has issued a reminder to all residents to purchase only meat and chicken that have the Health Ministry’s stamp of approval.
Hi, tech!
Jerusalem has seen a massive surge in new hi-tech companies during the past two years, according to the latest report from the municipality’s Business and Development Administration.
While 12 such companies opened in the capital in 2012, at least 100 new companies started operating here this year. Also in 2012, 25 existing local hi-tech companies raised about $58 million in investments to develop their projects, while this year, 47 existing companies have raised $172 million.
The Jerusalem Development Authority, the municipality and the Jnext Authority – which encourages the development of hitech enterprises in the city – have unanimously declared that the capital is slowly but surely becoming a preferred place for investors in hi-tech and start-ups.