Muezzin monitoringAbout six months ago, the first pilot for a comprehensive project to monitor the volume of muezzin calls to prayer was canceled due to the wave of violence in the city and the Arab neighborhoods.With NIS 200,000 invested to find technological solutions to spare nearby Jewish neighborhoods from the exceedingly loud volume of the calls, the project was not followed by any implementation.The municipality has now decided to renew the project, and a sum of NIS 170,000 has been approved to check for solutions to the problem – first in the Jebl Mukaber neighborhood, close to East Talpiot. The project is being conducted with the full cooperation of the Jerusalem police, to enable the safety of the experts and city employees inside the Arab neighborhood, and with the professional support of the Environmental Protection Ministry. One of the proposed solutions is to add technical devices to mosque speakers, so that the sound will by aimed specifically at the Arab neighborhood and not dispersed to the entire surrounding area.Beware of the fire antJerusalem has been threatened by a possible invasion of fire ants, an omnivorous insect that causes a painful, burning sting. Usually these ants are found in South America, but in a repeat of events of a few years ago, they have somehow reached the Holy Land. For the moment, most of the danger is localized in nurseries and public gardens, and the municipality organized a symposium for nursery owners and gardeners.Considered an “invader” species, the fire ant attacks not only humans and animals, but also plants and crops, and thus must be annihilated as quickly as possible.At the March 14 symposium at Safra Square, important information was imparted by experts to gardeners, both private and those employed by the municipality.Additional information can be obtained by writing Ivtali@jerusalem.muni.il.Elephant in the room The works of classical composer Johann Sebastian Bach are performed worldwide and in Jerusalem. Among his most famous works is St. Matthew Passion, which depicts dramatic episodes in the story of Jesus’s life and death. In one of the passages, the populace accuses the Jews of his murder and, for a Jewish ear, this is not an easy moment.As a result, haredim have always protested and prevented any attempt to play the work here.This week, the Jerusalem Bach Festival – yes, one more festival is upon us – has found an interesting way to get around the problem.St. Matthew Passion will be covered in an exhibition and international symposium, without playing the work itself. In addition, the festival – running from March 17 to 21 – will include a range of concerts, conferences and guided tours across the city, with special attendee discounts.For now, it seems that avoiding the work itself might be enough to prevent any agitation.More details at itraveljerusalem.com or www.jbo.co.il.Me and myself The Sala-Manca group – Lea Mauas and Diego Rotman, local artists working in the Beit Hansen compound – issued a call for auditions (couples or singles) to be a Sala-Manca doppelganger, as part of “The Doubles and Ourselves” project. The idea is to create a performance work based on the selection of one or more pairs of doubles to stand in for the Sala-Manca group in its various artistic and public activities.The two were inspired to ask questions: In this era of the global neoliberal economy, can we create a franchise out of ourselves? Can we, human beings, be duplicated physically or spiritually? As a result, over the next year, the pair will cast a series of doubles of themselves, who will appear in place of the artists: performing Sala-Manca’s works, giving lectures on art and on the history of the group, teaching at the art schools where the artists teach, managing the Mamuta Art & Media Center, and maybe – why not? – going to visit Mauas and Rotman’s family and friends in Buenos Aires. Perhaps they will even swap partners for a while, appearing in public with one original and one double.Auditions for candidates are on March 31 at Mamuta in Beit Hansen, by appointment. Email to arrange an audition: prod@ mamuta.org For the sake of a tree It sounded almost like a “take two” of last year’s announcement of Lev Smadar’s premature death – but it seems that once again, lamentations were premature.One of Jerusalem’s most legendary sites, the beloved movie theater venue in the German Colony is not going to close down soon – no matter what the reasons. This time, the threat came from... a tree.There is a very old tree whose roots penetrate deeply into the main hall of the theater lobby.According to city rules for preservation of such trees, this was (almost) a reason for a municipal administration request to close down the coffee shop in that lobby. The theater administration announced immediately that if the coffee shop closed down, so would the theater.When rumors of the double threat reached the desk of Einav Bar, Hitorerut councilwoman and holder of the small- and medium-businesses portfolio, she acted to stop the immediate threat, and the cafe owners have until mid-May to obtain all the permits required to continue (and not just two weeks, as requested previously).What remains a bit depressing at this point is the ease with which various municipal administrations take such harsh decisions.Kedem plan is back The plan for promoting a visitor center on the edge of the Silwan neighborhood is back for discussion after consideration of appeals against the plan’s approval that were submitted to the National Council for Planning and Building’s appeals committee – including appeals by residents of Silwan and some Israeli NGOs.The council’s appeals committee held three hearings. The first, on March 12, 2015, was followed by two full appeal hearings held on May 27-28. The project was finally approved by the committee on June 7, albeit with significant amendments.The visitor center, planned by architect Arieh Rachamimov to be constructed about 20 meters from the walls of the Old City, has received warm support from authorities such as the local planning and building committee; the district committee; the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, which joined the project as an additional submitter; and Mayor Nir Barkat himself.Although the district committee ordered the building size to be reduced by one story, it rejected substantive objections to the plan – most notably the objections of a group of Arab residents of Silwan, backed by Ir Amim and Emek Shaveh, an association of archeologists opposed to excavations in the City of David by the Elad Association.The new center is expected to significantly increase the number of tourists in the Old City in the coming years.