Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs.

Mayor Nir Barkat dedicates the Torah scroll from Baghdad – now installed in the Katamonim (photo credit: JERUSALEM MUNICIPALITY)
Mayor Nir Barkat dedicates the Torah scroll from Baghdad – now installed in the Katamonim
Money in the bank
At 1 a.m. on Monday, local journalists received a long message on their smartphones announcing the end of the clash between Mayor Nir Barkat and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon. Following a long and stressful exchange of more or less (mostly less) polite and cynical remarks between the two, an agreement was finally reached to grant additional funding to balance the city’s budget for 2016.
Not surprisingly, the following day saw a slew of press releases and announcements from the municipality, the Interior Affairs Commission and the State Comptroller’s Commission at the Knesset and the Finance Ministry. Even less surprisingly, each allocated a different sum of money to help the city, not to mention the accompanying negative comments by the presidents of the two commissions about what they deemed “the lack of seriousness and responsibility with which Mayor Barkat drives the city’s budget” (MK David Amsalem, president of the Interior Commission, a longtime enemy of Barkat’s).
The sums vary between NIS 400 million (what Barkat required) and NIS 59m.
(added as a gesture of goodwill by the Prime Minister’s Office, but it is not clear if it is included in the NIS 400m.) and so on. Millions of shekels are whirling from one source to another, ending with, according to Barkat’s official announcement, “all the firing of employees – sanitation workers, social workers and employees of the community centers – was canceled immediately.”
For Barkat, this is a victory for which he paid dearly. For his coalition members, who watched the battle from the sidelines, it is a moment of relief. But not everybody is happy. Most of the council members feel that things were not managed appropriately, and the rift between the Safra Square administration and the employees who had been fired for several days is real.
However, there is at least one positive outcome. One of the decisions following the agreement specifies that a two-party commission will be formed to study and prepare the next budgets in advance according to the growing needs of the city. Deputy Mayor Ofer Berkowitz (Hitorerut) says that the commission will avert the same saga next year, adding that “Only long-term planning of the city’s need for economic development can provide long-term solutions.”
An expensive toast
Miami hosted the third annual Kosher Food and Wine Festival, the proceeds of which go to WIZO. Some 2,000 attendees had the opportunity to taste – or at least get to know about – one of the most special wines of the Psagot Winery (north of Jerusalem), priced at $10,000. At the festival’s gala evening, to which only 100 guests were invited to take part, two bottles of the wine were purchased by Mercedes and Manny Ivcher and Lawrence Friedman. The Psagot Winery is on the list of boycotted products (as it is located in the West Bank). But according to winery owner Ya’acov Berg, the boycott has not harmed his products. In fact, he adds, he has managed to reach new markets outside Israel, where the boycott has not curtailed the potential for new clients to enjoy good Israeli wine.
Ensuring a safe trip
The transportation of people with disabilities, more specifically, pupils at schools for the handicapped and/or those with special needs, has been at the center of various debates. A new bill is being promoted to regulate the standards required by law for this operation. Meanwhile, the death of a handicapped pupil as the result of a fall has added more sensitivity and urgency to the whole procedure.
Alyn, the pediatric and adolescent rehabilitation facility in Jerusalem, didn’t wait for this tragic event to seek better ways to transport such persons safely.
Quite a while ago, Alyn established a Center for Safe Transportation, which proposes and promotes ways to ensure the safety of the disabled. The rules developed at the center include special safety belts, ways to secure the person during the trip, and precautions to protect the head. The center has 120 instructors who are sent anywhere in the country to teach these safety rules.
A meaningful gift
A Torah scroll written in Baghdad some 150 years ago, owned by Prof. Mark Weinberg of Montreal’s McGill University, has come to Jerusalem. Carried by Mayor Nir Barkat, the scroll was installed in the new synagogue for the Ethiopian community (founded by the municipality) in the Katamonim.
Weinberg presented the Torah scroll as a gift in memory of Shira Banki, the young Jerusalemite who was stabbed to death last summer at the Gay Pride parade. Present at the touching ceremony were Weinberg, Banki’s parents and members of the Ethiopian Synagogue, led by Rabbi Sharon Shahar.