This week in Jerusalem 386376

Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs.

Jerusalem Mea Shearim (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Jerusalem Mea Shearim
(Bar-)Shalom in Jerusalem
After years of commuting to Jerusalem’s Haredi College, which she founded, Adina Bar-Shalom – the daughter of late Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and recently appointed head of the new Shas women’s council – has finally accomplished another of her dreams and moved to the city. Bar-Shalom, who sees her recent decision to establish the council as a step toward her eventual participation in politics, has, perhaps surprisingly, bought a house in one of the most secular neighborhoods in the city: Beit Hakerem.
She always wanted to come back to live in the city of her youth, but for family reasons she had to keep postponing the move year after year. Now she is once again a resident of the city in which her father’s political movement began – though many observers believe the once-pivotal party may be nearing its end. Bar-Shalom has declined to elaborate on why she didn’t move to the Har Nof neighborhood, where her father’s home was and where the rest of her family lives.
Mea She’arim makeover
Years of public property damage in Mea She’arim may be coming to a close. It seems that someone at the municipality has gotten tired of having to provide new garbage bins every time protesters in the haredi neighborhood burn them at a demonstration. From now on, there will be a new type of bin: one buried underground, below the sidewalks, and made of non-flammable material.
The change will accompany a large-scale renovation of Kikar Shabbat, the famous fivestreet junction in the Mea She’arim and Geula neighborhoods where most of the city’s haredi protests, including the more violent ones, have taken place for years. The initiative comes from the haredi representatives on the city council – particularly Deputy Mayor Yossi Daitch (United Torah Judaism), who aims to upgrade the square to a more modern design, including elegant pavements and perhaps even a fountain.
Beautifying Bukharim
Daitch’s concern about Mea She’arim’s neglected state extends to the Bukharim neighborhood’s as well. As holder of the portfolio that deals with upgrading and renovating the capital’s haredi neighborhoods, he is launching a major renovation project in this beautiful old neighborhood as well.
The main part of the project, which has Mayor Nir Barkat’s full support, involves buying up some of the oldest buildings for renovation, restoration or a complete overhaul. This will require a considerable sum of money, part of which will come from donations, and the rest from the government.
Among other things, there are plans for a modern, glass-roofed market that will include some historical areas for tourists, with the aim of reviving the history of the neighborhood.
From council to Knesset?
Deputy Mayor Rachel Azaria may run for the next Knesset on former Likud minister Moshe Kahlon’s new list. Azaria has yet to respond officially, but sources at Safra Square say there have been more than preliminary talks between the two, and that the chances of Azaria reaching the Knesset are fairly high. The “best man” in that political marriage, according to the same sources, is Kahlon’s brother, Kobi – himself a deputy mayor until recently, when he took three months of leave to manage his younger brother’s campaign.
Azaria has more than one advantage to offer Kahlon. Besides being a woman, religious and a feminist, she could help Kahlon moderate his rightwing image.
She is not the only one who might leave the city council by next March. Meretz representative Laura Wharton is running on her party’s national list and considers herself to have a chance of reaching the next Knesset, too.
Young mothers
The municipality is launching an initiative to promote new projects for mothers on maternity leave. A new municipal center will offer a wide range of opportunities for young mothers, to help them cope with motherhood on both a personal level and a professional one. The center will also create a Facebook page to make it easier for new mothers to be in contact with veteran ones, so they can share ideas, tips, information, and news on facilities and jobs that fit the needs of young mothers from all parts of society.
This service will be available from pregnancy until after birth, including empowering workshops.
It will provide special attention to mothers who are having a hard time in their new situation, encouraging them not to feel guilty about their difficulties or incapable of succeeding in their roles.
The first workshops will take place on Wednesdays at the First Station between 9 a.m. and noon, with the babies, who will be taken care of, and once a month for mothers only. Each workshop costs NIS 20 and includes coffee and cake.
Educational victory
More than two years of legal proceedings ended this week with a victory for the municipality’s Education Administration against an independent haredi school. The Darkei Noam school, which had refused to leave the Gonenim state-religious school’s campus, will have to clear out by the end of this school year, and Gonenim will finally get back the classrooms that Darkei Noam has occupied unlawfully until now.
The saga began more than 10 years ago, when Darkei Noam – which the Education Administration does not recognize, since it is part of the independent haredi stream – refused to leave the facilities it had been authorized to use for one year. Since then, for various reasons and despite a clear order from the Education Ministry’s directorgeneral, the school has maintained its refusal to vacate the premises.
This week, Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Judge Anna Schneider issued a ruling ordering Darkei Noam to leave the site by the end of June. The ruling is a victory for Barkat, who has invested a lot of effort in the case via the municipality’s legal department.
Barkat emphasized that the municipality under his leadership was adamant about bolstering the religious and secular public schools in order to provide support to the non-haredi sector, which has been steadily growing over the last three years.
Echoes of color
“Echoes” is the name of an exhibition of recent works by Yossi Pnini, which will be on display at the Jerusalem Theater’s art gallery until the end of the month. Pnini, 65, may be better known as the founder and longtime director of the Meitarim education association, which aims to enable religious and secular children from kindergarten through junior high school to study together.
However, he recently quit that position to devote himself completely to his paintings.
Pnini paints with oil colors, abstract works that he says reflect his quest for answers outside his daily life as an educator and a religious man. The artist, who started to paint while he was directing a Jewish summer camp in Russia some 20 years ago, says that when he finds his inner answer he will stop painting, even if his last canvas has only a dot on it. Until then, he exhibits at least once a year.