This week in Jerusalem 443096

Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs.

Bridge of Strings (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Bridge of Strings
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Walk on by
Love to walk? Deputy Mayor Tamir Nir has you in mind. A new plan proposed by Nir, who holds the transportation portfolio, will increase the number of footpaths in the city.
The idea is to connect as many of the paths as possible so that residents will be able to walk from one place to another without having to drive or use public transportation. The project, called A City within Walking Distance, will kick off in Baka, which has many walking enthusiasts, most of whom use the footpath in Mesila Park. The plan will eventually spread to other neighborhoods. The paths will ensure the safety of the walkers, including children, as one of the initiators of the project is city council member Aaron Leibowitz, who holds the children’s safety portfolio.
Or take a bike
The rent-a-bike-for the-day project is getting under way. A tender for the supply of sufficient bicycles for the project has been published, and the project should be up and running by next month. Stations along the main streets in various neighborhoods will enable people to rent a bike for the day or order one at a certain hour and a specific location. A smartphone app will let people know where they can find an available bike and where they can park it. Users will also be able to connect the use of the bicycles with buses and the light rail (if they have a Rav- Kav card), and a discount will be given to those willing to leave the bike in remote parking areas at the end of their stint. The cost to rent a bike for the day is NIS 17 before all the discounts available, such as for holders of the Yerushalmi card.
“We want to change the concept of the bicycle from a vehicle used for leisure and sport to that of a means of transportation – a vehicle that saves energy and prevents pollution,” says Deputy Mayor Tamir Nir.
Bridge over troubled matters
In the summer of 2005, a joke by a young haredi resident almost turned into a local scandal. He told a local journalist that the Rabbinical Committee for Chastity Affairs decided to forbid women to walk across the Bridge of Strings because the glass windows on its sides were transparent and revealed intimate parts of the women walking there.
Sacks of sand were brought immediately to the bridge to protect the modesty of the women, and it took a few days before it was revealed that the whole thing was just a hoax.
Now the bridge – designed to be a splendid sight in the city – is once again bearing some embarrassing news. Dirt, broken windows and burnt-out lighting are just a few of the many degradations of the bridge. There is lack of maintenance, lack of accountability (it is not clear who is responsible for its maintenance) and no regard for the pollution that is blackening the bridge’s white walls.
According to the original plan, the Moriah subsidiary company was responsible for the maintenance for the first five years.
Since then, the task has been part of the municipality’s Sanitation Department, but things are not working out that way.
“It’s two different departments,” explains an official at the Sanitation Department.
“The Maintenance Department does repairs such as broken windows or faulty lighting, and the Sanitation Department is responsible for the cleaning. One relies on the other. There is no coordination between the two.”
Getting ready
Passover is still about three months away, but for David Amsalem, chairman of the Knesset’s Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, it’s not too soon to get ready for the visitors at the Mount of Olives cemetery, who traditionally visit the site just before the holiday. At a special session of the committee, Amsalem said that while the security situation at the cemetery has improved in the last three months, the conditions are still unsafe, and people refrain from visiting the graves of their loved ones for fear of being attacked by local Arab residents. It seems that the improvement is due mainly to the increased presence of the police, who have installed a 24/7 vigil there.
But the larger plan – to build a high fence around the cemetery, with closed-circuit cameras – seems to be stuck for the moment due to lack of finances. Amsalem said that the Prime Minister’s Office, which handles the situation of the cemetery, requires several million shekels from the Council of Cemeteries in Jerusalem, a group that doesn’t have any such budget.
“You are irrelevant in this matter because you don’t have the money,” Amsalem told council president Rabbi Hillel Horowitz.
To conclude, Amsalem asked the police to present plans to prepare for the many visitors expected before Passover.
Jewish rebels
The National Library is inaugurating a series of encounters next month – Jewish revolutionaries. Every two weeks, Eran Sabag of Army Radio will present a figure from a long list of Jewish men and women who served “utopias” from a revolutionary point of view. The first subject in the series will be Manya Shochat, who began her revolutionary career in Communist Russia and continued in Israel with the founding of Hashomer, who were vigilantes and fighters for the Jews in the recently established kibbutzim. Sabag will speak with historian Prof. Mordechai Golani; and actress Helena Yaralova will read some of Shochat’s letters, accompanied by music performed by the Babayaga ensemble.
The first session will take place on Thursday, February 18, at 8:30 p.m. NIS 30 per session. Tickets available at