This week in Jerusalem 447488

Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs.

Mitzpe Neftoah (photo credit: MIRIAM KRESH)
Mitzpe Neftoah
(photo credit: MIRIAM KRESH)
Save the British Mandate
The commitment to preserve Jerusalem’s historical buildings still seems shaky. Last week, two large holes were made in the facade of the Central Post Office on Jaffa Road, without a permit issued by the city preservation committee. Deputy Mayor and committee head Tamir Nir (Yerushalmim) has expressed his anger at this, despite a clear announcement by his committee that the work would not be allowed.
The purpose is toward an entrance for people with disabilities, but as Nir explained, “Even such an important reason does not allow for work that is not permitted, especially after the committee’s decision to reject the work request.”
The Central Post Office dates back to the British Mandate, built in 1938, and has been designated for preservation. Meanwhile, the municipality has issued an order to freeze all works planned there, but the two large holes in the facade remain in their ugliness – partly hidden for the moment.
Nice income
In 2015, NIS 48.6 million was received from residents’ parking fines; in 2014, income from such fines reached NIS 46.3m. It seems this income will just continue to rise ever higher in the coming years, due to the lack of parking spots, and the high cost of private parking in the city center and other neighborhoods.
Tamir Nir, who holds the city’s transportation portfolio, agrees that in some cases there is no other way than to impose a fine – such as when someone parks close to a pedestrian crossing – but otherwise, he believes that something should be done to ease the issue of lack of city parking. Among other possibilities, a new application will help drivers to find easily accessible spots and avoid fines.
Though the money is invested in a range of activities and projects for the benefit of residents, the fact that for the past few years the fines have been included in the municipality’s official income doesn’t sound great.
Personal accountability
Yesh Atid MK and Jerusalem resident Mickey Levy was the first to submit an objection to the Mitzpe Neftoah construction project (on the slopes of Ramot). The project, to which Mayor Nir Barkat and the city council are unanimously opposed, has nevertheless been presented by the Interior Ministry to the national planning committee. For now, the procedure is that anyone – individual, group or association – who feels harmed or may have a reason to object to it, can submit such objection to the committee, which debates on them.
Levy submitted his criticism on the grounds that the project would seriously harm a crucial city green lung, and that there are at least 20,000 potential housing units that could be built elsewhere without harming one of the last environmental spaces. Levy added that he has the right to appear in front of the committee to present his objections in person. The capital’s environmental associations have high hopes that his example will be followed by many more.
Better late than never
It took five months, but it finally has been done – Itay Gutler has left the Meretz benches at city council, moving on to Barkat’s “Jerusalem Will Succeed” list – turning it into the largest list after United Torah Judaism. Gutler represented the Zionist Union in the local and ad-hoc coalition between it and Meretz at the last election for city council in October 2013, but it has been a while since things went swimmingly with his counterpart on the only opposition list, Laura Wharton. Not that personal interaction was the problem, but the fact that Gutler obviously preferred to be on the executive side – and not limited to the opposition with very little influence, if at all.
Whispers about his moving to Barkat’s list began about half a year ago, but following a firm request from Wharton and an even firmer one from the former – and still very influential – head of the local Meretz list, Pepe Alalu, the move was not canceled but postponed. However, things continued to move forward in the same direction, and last week Gutler officially announced to Wharton and city members of Meretz that he had made up his mind to finally move to the other camp.
For the moment, it is not clear if Gutler will get any trophy for his decision – in this case, the title of deputy mayor – but Alalu believes this will probably be the next step. To be continued...
Women’s work
An exhibition opening March 9 is to feature works by young religious female artists, created together at the Studio of Her Own group. The “Women’s Work” exhibition is taking place at the American Center (19 Keren Hayesod Street), co-curated by Heddy Abramowitz and Batnadiv Hakarmi – and is in honor of International Women’s Day on March 8.
US Vice President Joe Biden, on a visit this week to the city, has expressed interest in the works and the artists – and might even visit their studio.
City of ice
As the first waves of warm weather announcing the spring start to reach us more often these days, the “Yambakerah” – Jerusalem’s “winter entertainment event” – is back in town, and will run through the end of April (one month longer than before). The venue will be open during Purim and Passover, which will certainly make more than one child happy.
Prices are NIS 35 for Yerushalmi card-holders and children; regular tickets are NIS 40. Since the ice skating takes place at the Cinema City compound, on some days movie tickets will include a package deal with entry to the skating area as well. There will be workshops and other children’s activities during Passover, at the same price.
This entertainment is made possible by the Ariel company, a municipality auxiliary, but is a private initiative. Over the years, it has attracted thousands of visitors, from locals to those hailing a wide range of other cities. Yambakerah is open daily: Sunday to Thursday, 3:30 to 11 p.m.; Fridays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturday night, one hour after the end of Shabbat until midnight. For information: (02) 547-9400.
From Ireland to Jerusalem
The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies on Monday marked the 80th birthday of Reuven Merhav, who held high-ranking positions in the Mossad and the Foreign Ministry. The guest of honor was Lord John Alderdice, a Northern Ireland representative at the UK House of Lords renowned for his part in establishing the dialogue that eventually led to reconciliation in Northern Ireland between Protestants and Catholics. Alderdice, a psychiatrist, gave in his speech at the JIIS a glimpse of how taking into consideration the feelings of the parties concerned can ease a dialogue.
Merhav founded the International Dialogue Institute, where members from different parts of the world – including Iran, the US and nations throughout Africa and Europe – have developed models for regional peace processes.