This week in Jerusalem 405727

Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs.

The Israel Museum  (photo credit: TIM HURSLEY / COURTESY THE ISRAEL MUSEUM)
The Israel Museum
The art of the dispute
After three days of protests and a partial strike, the employees of the Israel Museum have agreed to curtail their activities to allow the Jerusalem Labor Court to propose an agreement. The employees are protesting against the administration which, according to their representatives, is refusing to reach a new employment agreement.
With total support from the Jerusalem district branch of the Histadrut, the employees took their case to the labor court. The first hearing, which took place on Sunday evening until late into the night, ended with the parties agreeing to await Justice Sarah Yashar-Zadah’s ruling on the matter.
Who’s the boss here?
Who should decide what and where to build in the city? Apparently, there may be some confusion over the issue between the mayor and the Treasury. Following an announcement by the Treasury at the end of last week, Mayor Nir Barkat sent Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon a letter asking him to rescind the plan to build on the Ramot slopes and the Mei Neftoah site. Barkat added that he would not allow the Israel Lands Authority to override the decisions made by the city council and the local planning and construction committee, both of which have stipulated that no construction would be permitted on these sites in order to preserve nature.
Just last week, the local committee approved such a decision and proposed an alternative plan: a center for nature preservation in lieu of building a new neighborhood. Barkat pointed out that Jerusalem is the nation’s premier city that builds the largest number of housing units and therefore cannot afford to give up such an important natural environment.
The Free Loan Association
An important guest of honor addressed some 350 guests and members of the Israel Free Loan Association, which has been operating in Talpiot for more than a decade. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, until recently the chief rabbi of Great Britain, spoke to the audience about the importance of interest-free loans to help people overcome financial difficulties.
The ceremony was held on the occasion of the retirement of IFLA chairman Edward Cohen. To date, the IFLA has granted more than NIS 872 million through 53,000 loans and had a 30-percent increase in loan requests in 2014.
Hundreds of private foundations, the majority of them created to honor the memory of a loved one, have enabled these loans. Between 2010 and 2014, the IFLA gave NIS 5.85m. in loans to small businesses in the South; and during Operation Protective Edge last year, loans were given to 348 small and medium-sized businesses there.
It is interesting to note that while the IFLA grants loans to people who cannot obtain credit from the bank, the repayment rate for borrowers is 97.7%, which is considered very high.
A place where everybody knows your name
A group of Katamon residents, mostly young adults, have decided to add what they lack the most in their neighborhood – a coffee shop that would serve as a community pub. The group, part of the New Spirit organization and the local council Darom, in the framework of the establishment of Young Communities across the city, has launched the project. It is dedicated to the memory of Moshe Dawino, a soldier who was killed during Operation Protective Edge last summer.
The cafe, called The Butke in Katamon, is not completed yet, but the promoters are working on making it a community project. Instead of seeking investors, they are asking the public to participate in the cost of the first stage. Several prices are proposed, and each entitles the purchaser to different rewards, such as one to 10 cups of free coffee.
The idea is to create a cozy place that would be kind of an extension to a person’s living room yet function as a homey coffee house, where one can sip a cup of coffee, read a newspaper or play checkers without having to leave the neighborhood.
The Butke in Katamon, led by the Kerem community in Katamon, has more than 200 supporters and sponsors.
Clamor in Katamonim
Multitudes of Katamonim residents took to the streets Monday, holding a one-hour warning strike in protest of what they say is Mayor Nir Barkat’s indifference toward the condition of the neighborhood’s state-religious educational facilities.
Close to 200 residents set up protest tents near the Gonenim State- Religious Elementary School, declaring, “If we don’t have classrooms and kindergartens, we’ll study in tents.” According to them, the mayor prefers to spend massive budgets on festivals and sporting events, even as many residents have not received placements for their children in schools and kindergartens.
City councilman Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz, who has pledged his full support for this cause, participated in the demonstration; he reiterated that the municipality must provide additional educational facilities to address the needs of the city’s young population.
According to the school’s parents’ committee, Monday’s demonstration was only the beginning of their protest. Future plans include a stay-away at the end of the school year; if necessary and their demands are not met, the residents will prevent the opening of the coming school year.
Einstein on-campus
The first statue of legendary scientist Albert Einstein is now ensconced on the Hebrew University’s Givat Ram campus, marking 100 years since the publication of his Theory of Relativity and 60 years since his death.
The 2.5-meter bronze statue was unveiled on June 3 in front of the National Library, unsurprisingly next to the departments of mathematics and physics. The work was designed by worldrenowned sculptor Georgy Frangulyan, and highlights the deep historic relationship between Einstein and the Hebrew University.
Einstein was a founder of the university and one of its most loyal supporters, bequeathing it his writings, intellectual heritage and the rights to his image.
The initiative for this gift came from Mark Zilberquit, author and president of the Heritage Projects and Tchaikovsky International Charity foundations. Also involved in the statue’s construction were a number of leaders of Russian and American Jewish communities, including Russian-American philanthropist Leonard Blavatnik, Israeli businessman Aaron Frenkel and well-known pianist Evgeny Kissin.
The project was executed through a collaboration between the Israeli Embassy in Moscow led by Ambassador Dorit Golender, the Israeli- Russian Business Council, the Heritage Projects and Tchaikovsky International Charity foundations and the Hebrew University.
“Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was a watershed moment for scientists around the world and on this anniversary of his achievement, it is a great privilege to recognize him at Hebrew University, an institution he so actively supported,” enthused Zilberquit.
“The unveiling of Albert Einstein’s likeness on this campus is a timely way of celebrating the enduring legacy of one of history’s most impactful personalities, and reminds us how Prof. Einstein’s work has affected everyone at the Hebrew University and around the world,” noted university president Prof. Menachem Ben-Sasson.