This week in Jerusalem 432836

Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs.

Damascus Gate on Nakba Day (May 15) (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Damascus Gate on Nakba Day (May 15)
Outlaw knives
One of the results of the stabbing wave near and inside the Old City is the new rule by municipality supervisors forbidding the sale of knives or any other sharp objects at the small peddlers market at the Damascus Gate. In one of many attempts to reduce the danger of stabbings, the whole area around the gate – inside and out – must be knifefree.
Damascus Gate merchants association president Ahmed Araki admits there is a need to prevent the threat of stabbing attacks on passersby as much as possible, but says suspicion is so high and the situation so sensitive that many peddlers have simply decided to stay at home until things calm down.
“The policemen check them and their merchandise, Jews avoid coming here and even Arabs prefer not to come by, since this area has been the site of so many attacks. Who wants to shop in such an atmosphere?”
Whose committee is it?
On November 5, Deputy Mayor Meir Turgeman (Jerusalem Will Succeed) was nominated as president of the prestigious and powerful local committee for planning and construction. This was merely an official step, since Mayor Nir Barkat had already made it clear that he planned to assign Turgeman to the position. Officially, there was no opposition to the decision, but in reality another Deputy Mayor, Ofer Berkowitz (Hitorerut), tried hard to prevent it, with no success whatsoever.
Whether Barkat will leave the municipality at the end of this term (2018) or remain for a third one, it is now clear to observers at Safra Square that the next round over the helm of the city will be between Turgeman and Berkowitz – with the two considering themselves appropriate candidates to run the city after Barkat. But until this point, the issue was behind the scenes, with the official relationship between the two was fine.
That is, until last week when, at the very last moment, Berkowitz attempted to prevent the nomination – first by being absent during the vote, and two days before, when he tried to convince the two Yerushalmim city council members – Tamir Nir and Aaron Leibowitz – to join him in opposing Turgeman’s nomination. Neither of these attempts succeeded.
Turgeman is now president of the planning and construction committee, and the relationship between the two has become openly hostile.
Musical chairs
Last week’s city council meeting brought a new face to the council – Pini Ezra (Shas), replacing former deputy mayor Eliezer Simhayoff, who was sentenced to prison for his part in the Holyland Affair. Simhayoff has appealed to the High Court of Justice and awaits its decision, and although at the beginning of the trial he refused to resign from the council, he recently decided to do so.
About a year and a half after the Jerusalem District Court sentenced him to a term of six years, Simhayoff finally resigned two weeks ago, and paved the way for Ezra to join the council. Simhayoff, who maintains his innocence, has written Shas leader Arye Deri, stating he will certainly return to his city council duties as soon as he is cleared of his alleged crimes of corruption.
Fighting ‘shahidism’
An interesting initiative of the psychological service at the municipality’s department of education might provide some tools for parents in the Arab sector who have lost control of their children. A letter addressed to all parents in the Arab sector provides tips for identifying, from the beginning, a tendency in their children to join the quest for becoming a shahid (martyr). Changes in behavior, interest in knives or other sharp objects, as well as being in contact with young adults who are not attending school, or interest in websites on shahids and their actions – all these are considered indications that something has to be done quickly to prevent further deterioration.
The psychological service suggests that in such cases, parents should talk with teachers and principals, or ask for help from the education administration.
Kosher art
The municipality is promoting a project to use one of the buildings of the Schneller Compound (between the Geula and Mekor Baruch neighborhoods) as an arts hub for haredi residents. The center will house a few movie halls, a gallery, and studios and facilities for haredi artists who wish to create in an ultra-Orthodox environment. The model for the project is the haredi center at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design.
Haredi city council representatives have complained many times that artists in their community do not have facilities that meet their needs or adequate places to screen haredi films or present works of art to their communities. The Schneller project should provide a solution, and will enjoy the immediate support of all the haredi representatives with regard to budget. The project budget is not yet finalized, but it is planned to be part of the 2016 city budget.