This week in Jerusalem 400704

Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs

The Ades Synagogue in Nahlaot, Jerusalem (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Ades Synagogue in Nahlaot, Jerusalem
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Fifty years of good relations
On Sunday evening, the Mishkenot Sha’ananim auditorium hosted the first in a series of encounters and panel discussions dedicated to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany. Following the speeches by Berlin Deputy Mayor Frank Henkel and Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Ofer Berkovitch (Hitorerut), a panel led by Michael Borchard, director of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (Foundation) in Israel, discussed the attraction of Berlin to young Israeli adults.
Among the participants on the panel was Naor Narkiss, an Israeli who lives in Berlin and was the initiator of the Milky protest last summer, which was based on the discovery that the dessert pudding costs much less in Berlin than it does here. As a result, Narkiss created a movement called Olim Leberlin (Making “aliya” to Berlin) and claims that hundreds of thousands of young Israelis have already followed him to the German city.
Following his statements, most of the debate focused on the issue of young adults leaving for Berlin and all the controversies it raises. The participants in the discussion included MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid); Prof. Oz Almog, a sociologist who specializes in the young generation in Israel; Matan Hodorov from Channel 10; and Juliane Schäuble, head of the political desk at the German daily Der Tagesspiegel.
Originally, the debate was intended to look into the needs and changes in the habits of young adults in Jerusalem compared to those of their peers in Berlin; but after Narkiss’s provocative statements, which upset even Borchard, it became very difficult to bring the debate back on course. Henkel seemed very impressed by the stormy Israeli style of debate and followed the exchanges between the panelists and the audience with great interest.
A new link in the chain of improvements
As of June 1, for the first time in the nation’s history, Jerusalem residents will be able to submit a request for a construction permit via the Internet, addressed directly to the relevant department at the municipality. Rishui Mekuvan is a new application available through the municipality’s website, thus avoiding all the waiting time previously required.
The new application is another link in the chain of improvements through extended use of computerized systems for the residents. Residents who do not have Internet access or are not familiar or comfortable with the technology will still have to go to Safra Square to submit their request, but at least they may now have less of a wait.
Fighting racism
There have been many reports of incidents of racism and hatred perpetrated by teenagers and young adults in the city in the past year. Teachers and public figures have been trying all kinds of approaches to combat the situation, but these unfortunate acts still occur.
One of the latest approaches has been implemented by Deputy Mayor Ofer Berkovitch (Hitorerut), holder of the culture and the young adults portfolio. He has decided to talk to students at junior high and high schools. He meets with them in their schools every two weeks and talks to them about the gravity of the racist actions and tries to make them understand that things could be different.
The series of meetings started last month and has received quite a positive response. Berkowitz plans to go to several schools in the Arab sector as well.
Returned to its former glory
The Ades Synagogue in Nahlaot, one of the most famous synagogues in the city, has been restored and is now open to the public. The Israel Antiquities Authority has worked extensively to restore and repair the ravages of time and of a private initiative that had added to the damage. The synagogue was built by the Aleppo community at the beginning of the last century, and Bezalel artist Ya’akov Stark did the beautiful ornamentation on the walls of the main hall in 1912.
The ornamentation on the walls of the synagogue is considered to be the finest monumental work of art in the country of that time. It includes the symbols of the Twelve Tribes, verses from the Bible, plants from the Land of Israel, as well as such symbols as the menora, the Magen David and beautifully ornamented Hebrew letters. The main sanctuary was crafted by a Syrian artist in 1901.
The benches are made of wood with beautiful ornaments in a Damascus style and are reminiscent of the Aram Tzoba Torah that came from the same community. The Ades Synagogue is also renowned for hosting the Shirat Habakashot, the liturgical songs of the Sephardi communities, on Saturday nights during the winter.
The renovated synagogue, which was inaugurated on Sunday, will be open to visitors after prayer services.
Whose body is it, anyway?
Should women participate in a conference on gynecology? Should a large health fund, Meuhedet in this case, organize such a conference in accordance with the conditions requested by haredi rabbis – that is, not to invite any woman, neither patients nor doctors? On Tuesday, such a conference took place in the city. The Israel Medical Association clarified that its members should not participate in any forum that excludes women, and for Rabbi Uri Regev – founder and head of Hiddush, an organization that fights for religious freedom and equality – it went without saying that the conference should be disregarded by all doctors and medical researchers.
But for the health fund’s heads, the point had nothing to do with the exclusion of women, but rather reaching haredi spiritual leaders and exposing them to women’s health issues. That way, believes Meuhedet – which has about 250,000 ultra-Orthodox patients in Jerusalem alone – the rabbis will encourage women of their sector, who often consult with them before seeing a doctor, not to neglect their health.
Peace through cuisine
An interesting initiative coming out of Safra Square – markets to be shared by residents of seam neighborhoods, Jewish and Arab – aims to reduce tension and acts of defiance, and enable some kind of coexistence. Deputy Mayor Meir Turgeman, who is behind the project, believes that a food and crafts market for residents on both sides could lead not only to a less tense and risky atmosphere, but to the establishment of better relationships between neighbors.
The first location will be on the seam line between French Hill and Isawiya, and if the project proves realistic and successful, the next one will be held in the area between Gilo and Beit Safafa.
The markets, implemented by local councils, will take place in commercial centers of Jewish neighborhoods – and residents from both sides will be invited to share their merchandise, various handicrafts and typical foods or basic products like olive oil.