This week in Jerusalem 446779

Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs.

Mayor Nir Barkat – holding a Jerusalem Marathon T-shirt – kicks off the 2016 race with a press conference (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Mayor Nir Barkat – holding a Jerusalem Marathon T-shirt – kicks off the 2016 race with a press conference
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Local elections set for June
Following haredi opposition to movie screenings on Shabbat evenings in Kiryat Hayovel, elections will be held there in June, as well as in five additional local neighborhood councils.
Three of them will be in Arab neighborhoods – Beit Hanina, E-Tur and Wadi Joz. Due to the serious possibility that these elections, aimed at establishing a new community leadership to promote residents’ needs, might be hijacked by extremists in these neighborhoods, the elections there will not be open to the larger public. The municipality has the choice to decide, according to the rules of each association that heads each local council, if the election will be open to all neighborhood residents or limited to a list of registered activists in each neighborhood who are not connected to any of the political streams – such as Hamas.
It is interesting to note that in the last election held in Beit Hanina, some five years ago, it was the residents’ initiative to ask for a cancellation of open elections, for fear that Hamas elements, quite strong in the neighborhood, would take over the council. The same still goes for this neighborhood, as well as for Wadi Joz, while residents of E-Tur insist – for the moment – on open elections.
From Yiddish to Hebrew
History is being made at the famed Mirrer Yeshiva, the largest and one of the oldest in the city, and considered the flagship of haredi yeshivot. Studies are moving from Yiddish to Hebrew. Following the need to adapt to the many students coming from abroad; to the growing number of local students who are not fluent in Yiddish, as was the former generation; and with the death of the head of the yeshiva a few weeks ago, the revolutionary change has been officially introduced, and studies are now being conducted in Hebrew.
Poland is here
An interesting innovation of the Israel Arts and Science Academy in Jerusalem: A trip across the country has replaced the controversial journeys of students to Poland and the Nazi death camps there. School principal Etay Benowitz declared in a recent interview with a local Hebrew newspaper that the trips’ high cost prevented many students from underprivileged families from participating, and, moreover, they were of disputable moral benefit. This brought him to the conclusion that there should be another way to teach the young generation about the Holocaust.
As such, the college’s program includes a trip across the country to institutions and locations linked to the memory of the Holocaust, encounters with members of the special unit who interrogated Adolf Eichmann when he was captured, and meetings with representatives of families of some of those recognized as Righteous Among the Nations who moved to Israel. The Israeli Journey – the name Benowitz chose for the project – kicks off next week for the first time and will last one week.
Barbecues and green lungs
It might sound a little strange, but it is true – at last week’s meeting, the finance committee at Safra Square approved a complete renovation of Sacher Park. According to the plan, the largest green lung in the city center will be modeled on New York City’s Central Park and will feature a coffee shop (open on Shabbat), a bicycle path and a walking path, as well as a special barbecue corner. A model of a mini Hyde Park, to be positioned next to the coffee shop, is to be named after late Meretz councilman Ornan Yekutieli, whose major concern and struggle were to ensure a pluralistic city.
The project has been promoted over the past few years by the Hitorerut list at city council. The cost of the project at its first stage as approved by the committee is NIS 2 million.
Besides the need for renovation of the park (with a special emphasis on rejuvenating the grass), the project may become the next point of tension in the capital, as haredi and national-religious representatives have already announced they will not tolerate any activities desecrating Shabbat. It is important to note that this park has become, over the years, a favorite leisure spot, mostly on Shabbat, for the large ultra-Orthodox community in the neighborhood.
The decision of the committee came just one day after city council approval – despite haredi opposition – of the decision to allow the First Station complex to continue operating on Shabbat. Close to its third year of activity, the First Station is now officially allowed to keep its coffee shops and restaurants open on Shabbat and holidays.
And the winners are...
The city council has approved the list of Distinguished Citizen of Jerusalem awardees for this year. Writer Aharon Appelfeld, Jerusalem Foundation founder Ruth Cheshin and Hebrew University law professor Ruth Gavison are just three among the 12 new laureates. A jury composed of Rabbi Dr. Benjamin Lau, Adina Bar-Shalom, Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies founder Ora Ahimeir and Rabbi Yitzhak Goldenkopf chose the laureates from among a long list of recommended persons who had given something special to the city.
Also on the list of the new members of this prestigious group of residents: former MK Yehoshua Matza; Adel Dahar Muhammad Sharbati, who founded a shelter for women in the Arab sector and serves as a judge at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court; and Suzanne Hochstein, who fought for the establishment of Jerusalem’s Evelina de Rothschild Elementary School for Girls and has promoted religious feminism among young religious Jerusalem women.
The award ceremony will take place in accordance with tradition at the end of Jerusalem Day in June.
Immersion in solidarity
Let Us Immerse Quietly, a group of local religious women promoting the right to ritual immersion without the supervision of a mikve attendant, initiated a debate at the Knesset on the topic this past Monday, at the Knesset Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women headed by MK Aida Touma-Sliman of Hadash.
At the group’s request, Roni Hazon-Weiss, a leading promoter of the issue and the coordinator for the Yerushalmim list at city council, presented information about the current situation. There is interest in a solution that would allow women to come to a ritual bath without having to explain their reasons for doing so, and without requiring the approval of a bath attendant.
Former deputy mayor Rachel Azaria, now a Kulanu MK, remarked that not a single representative from the Bayit Yehudi list showed up at the debate. Being a secular Arab didn’t deter Touma-Sliman from bringing up the issue, a fact highly appreciated by meeting attendees, who mentioned that this debate was a milestone in enabling positive change.
The show will go on?
Veteran Jerusalem residents may remember the Pargod theater, located on Bezalel Street in the Nahlaot neighborhood, which in the 1970s and ’80s was a center for city avant-garde theater, highly appreciated and attended by students.
The theater slowly lost its prestige over the years, finally closing down about a decade ago. One of the reasons was that the building, an old bathhouse classified for preservation, belonged to Prazot, the social housing company owned by the government and municipality, was designated to be converted for use as student dormitories. The theater was shut down and the building has been totally abandoned for years – but no social use of any sort has occurred there since.
This week, the building was handed over by Prazot to the municipality, and a new struggle has begun to determine its future use. Deputy Mayor Tamir Nir (Yerushalmim), a Nahlaot resident who heads the city’s preservation committee, and Aaron Leibowitz (also of Yerushalmim), are planning a project to rehabilitate the old building and to again make it a venue for cultural and artistic activities.
Winner: 2016 Jerusalem Marathon
Believe it or not, the wave of violence that has been striking the city for the past five months hasn’t affected the success of its marathon, scheduled for Friday, March 18.
Almost 26,000 runners have signed up – a new record – including 2,400 from 62 countries across the world.
Another impressive achievement this year is that there are participants from Egypt and Jordan, alongside a firsttime group of 160 runners from China.
As in past years, Mayor Nir Barkat, who founded the marathon seven years ago, will take part in this year’s race.
The marathon also provides economic benefits. The municipality looks forward to an estimated influx of about NIS 10 million in revenues from the running guests for hotels, restaurants, bars, shops and more.