This week in Jerusalem 404391

Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs.

Benjamin Netanyahu and Nir Barkat (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Benjamin Netanyahu and Nir Barkat
Festival season
The Israel Festival in Jerusalem has barely kicked off this week, but another festival is already emerging on the horizon: the Jerusalem Season of Culture, which will bring a wide range of events to the city. The season, which begins on July 27 and ends September 4, will open with a new work by Peretz and Mark Eliyahu called “Makam,” after the ancient Mediterranean musical scale – in Hebrew, “makom,” which means “place.” One of the season’s events will be the traditional Sacred Music Festival in September, which this year will include a pilgrimage to the Temple Mount and invite several different religions to share their prayer music.
Building boost
The city of Jerusalem has received a gift from the Interior Ministry: a grant of NIS 4.5 million, as a reward for the significant increase in building permits issued by the city’s administration for planning and construction. The increase occurred during 2014 (compared to 2013’s numbers), and there are expectations that 2015 will be even better. By March 2014, Jerusalem already had 3,656 new housing units in the process of construction – the highest number in the country. The next-highest was in Tel Aviv, which had only 2,097 housing starts during the same time.
Water, water
An antique aqueduct that brought water to Jerusalem 2,000 years ago was recently discovered in the neighborhood of Umm Tuba, near Har Homa. The aqueduct was found during road work by city water company Hagihon, which had been laying a new sewage line for the two nearby neighborhoods of Umm Tuba and Sur Bahir. According to archeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority, the aqueduct was still operating on and off until about a century ago. It begins at Ein Eitam, close to Solomon’s Pools between Bethlehem and Hebron, and runs some 21 km., with a descent of 1 meter per kilometer.
The archeologists photographed and documented the segment that was found, then covered it up again, and the work on the sewage pipe resumed.
Kabbalat Shabbat
Slowly but surely, the weekly Kabbalat Shabbat event at the First Station is becoming a tradition. Now in its third year, the series of pre-Shabbat musical and storytelling programs open to all communities free of charge kicks off this Friday. Each week will feature a different musical ensemble and focus on the weekly Torah portion.
Since its launch, the event has gained popularity among the city’s residents – religious and secular, adults, youth and children. Details are widely advertised in the local press, on municipal signboards and at the Ginot Ha’ir community center. The organization behind this initiative is the Yeru-Shalem Forum, which aims to expand the pluralistic approach to Shabbat in the city – in this case, with a pre-Shabbat gathering for all denominations.
Lost it in Kiev
Back in the days of the intifada, very few actors or comics came to perform here. One of the few who did was Deb Filler – and she is returning to perform in Jerusalem for a single evening, at the Khan Theater. After several successful tours across Europe, Australia, New Zealand and of course, the US, Filler is coming back with her I Lost it in Kiev show, recalling some of her experiences in the Ukrainian city. Filler is renowned for her rich character portrayals (she had no fewer than 36 in one of her past shows) and she is a master storyteller, blending fact and fiction. See her on Wednesday, June 3, at the Khan Theater; tickets are NIS 80, at
Beat the heat
The sharav season is upon us, when temperatures climb and the air is dry. In one sense it’s nice to be delivered from the humidity so prevalent on the coastal shore, but there are some rules to observe during this weather, besides the evident need to drink much more than usual. The sharav is even more dangerous for older people and the Melabev organization, which takes care of seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia, has issued a series of directives. If you have an older neighbor living on their own or older parents living in their own apartment, ensure they drink enough (always have a bottle handy and check that medications don’t cause dehydration); wear long sleeves to protect from the sun; use sunblock; and above all, don’t stay outside for too long in the sun.
Environmental planning
A new plan for the development of the Mei Neftoah site (part of the Ramot neighborhood) was presented last week, prior to Shavuot, to replace the existing one – which was considered harmful to the environment. Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, the Hebrew University’s School for Environment Studies and the Ramot Association for the Protection of the Environment have collaborated to work out a new strategy for the important and unique area, which contains rare species of plants and birds. The new proposals call, among other things, for a center for ecology and biological studies to be built on the site, with nature paths to the surrounding woods. The plan has been submitted to the municipality’s planning committee and is supported by Deputy Mayor Tamir Nir (Yerushalmim), himself an expert in environmental and sustainable issues.
Promises, promises
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to have reneged on his pledge to grant Mayor Nir Barkat the responsibilities of the Jerusalem Affairs Ministry – with the appointment on Monday of Likud MK Ze’ev Elkin to the post. The understanding between Netanyahu and Barkat – that the best way to enhance the government’s support for the capital should begin by appointing the mayor to the position, while not with the official status of a minister – was agreed upon a few months ago. The decision was ratified by the government at its festive Jerusalem Day meeting, but politics, especially in this part of the world, has the last word.
With the need to compensate Elkin, who lost a portfolio to MK Gilad Erdan, Netanyahu decided to satisfy Elkin with the ministry, which was quickly resuscitated for the occasion.
Barkat didn’t waste any time, issuing a statement expressing his indignation within a few hours of the announcement: “The decision to reestablish the Jerusalem Affairs Ministry has been reached in opposition to my opinion, and contradicts the prime minister’s pledge – which specifies that the city’s affairs will be directed from the Prime Minister’s Office in full collaboration with Jerusalem’s mayor,” he wrote.
“Jerusalem is not a compensation prize and I am sorry that political considerations will lead to a large and superfluous waste of money and bureaucracy, which will only harden the cooperation between the government and the Jerusalem Municipality.”
It is worthwhile to note that Barkat has expressed his opposition to this ministry more than once, arguing that only close cooperation between the prime minister and mayor can really boost the city and its development and growth needs. Sources at Safra Square add that Barkat is particularly angered by the fact that he had to learn from the press that Netanyahu had decided to break his promise.