This week in Jerusalem 459386

Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs.

The Great Synagogue of Ludmir – home of the eponymous Maiden – is seen in the 1920s. It was destroyed by Soviet forces after World War II (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Great Synagogue of Ludmir – home of the eponymous Maiden – is seen in the 1920s. It was destroyed by Soviet forces after World War II
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
No virgins down here
In another place and time it could even be funny, but it happened here just last week. Recently, the idea of naming a street after a famous, educated Jewish woman – Hannah Rachel Verbermacher from Ludmir, more commonly known as the “Maiden of Ludmir” – faced adamant opposition by haredi representatives on the municipal commission for street names.
Born in Ukraine in 1805 and buried on the Mount of Olives in 1888, the maiden learned Torah and encouraged other women to do so as well, even putting on tefillin. She gained unusual stature for someone of her time as an independent woman involved in the world of Torah, becoming a beacon for religious women to excel in Torah learning, although she refused to get married all her life.
The haredi representatives were not opposed to memorializing her on one of Jerusalem’s streets, but objected to using the world “maiden” as it hinted at her refusal to marry, something opposed to their beliefs and customs. As a compromise, the decision was made to call the street by her full name – which might not be as known to all – as Hannah Rachel from Ludmir Street.
The commission also approved an adjustment to the name of another street commemorating a woman of valor – Bruria Street in Katamonim will now be “Bruria, Wife of Rabbi Meir” (a Talmudic sage). It will not note Bruria’s own merits, even though she was also a great Torah scholar.
It is not clear if these namings will remain isolated cases or if this augurs a change in naming more Jerusalem streets after Jewish women of note.
Upgrading the opposition
Many Jerusalemites may have noticed that the number of women at the helm of Egged buses in the city has gone up recently. While for many passengers this has translated into more politeness and gentleness – with passengers greeted upon boarding the buses – this hasn’t encouraged gentleness among some of the haredim living in the Mea She’arim and Geula neighborhoods. Last week, new pashkevilim (posters) appeared on the walls of the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, warning that women driving public buses are involved in licentious behaviors, endangering the morality of the residents there.
Some of the pashkevilim go so far as to hint at violence, saying that “an effort has to be made at all costs to push these women drivers out.” The signs say these women are themselves immoral, and therefore their presence on the streets of these neighborhoods is an attempt to attack and ruin their modesty and morality – openly calling on residents to prevent these women from entering the “holy streets” of Geula and Mea She’arim.
Vacation? Think again
As of this writing, about 272,000 pupils from grades 1 through 12 are on vacation for two months. While for most it is a welcome period of laziness, leisure and fun, it appears that Jerusalemite youth are also willing to use this time for… working (and making some money, too).
According to the findings of a survey conducted by Geocartography (for the First International Bank), 73 percent of youth on vacation in the city will work. While a lot of them do so to finance their own leisure activities, a large portion work because their families need the additional income.
Among Jerusalemites aged 12 to 17, only 25% get pocket money from their parents; the rest must rely on employment to finance vacation activities and to keep them going during the year.
High voltage
The news released on the morning of June 28 revealed that a group of Palestinians were entrenching themselves in al-Aksa Mosque with a large supply of stones and fireworks, ready for the arrival of Israeli security forces. At least one person had already been lightly injured by one of the stones down below, in the women’s section at the Western Wall.
The tension had been rising for three days prior, according to Jewish sources monitoring the highly volatile situation on the Temple Mount, apparently following the police’s decision to allow Jewish visitors and foreign tourists to visit the site during the last 10 days of Ramadan.
Ami Metav, a former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) agent and today a coordinator of holy sites for the Jerusalem Development Authority, says this turn of events was not that surprising. As the last 10 days of Ramadan are considered very holy, many Muslims spend entire nights on the Temple Mount in prayer and meditation. Metav adds that based on the experience of the past three years, preventing foreign and Jewish visitors from visiting has proven effective in preventing riots.
Officially, the rules regarding visiting the Mount had not changed, but unlike the last three years, as of this past week foreigners and Jews had been allowed to visit. On June 28 this changed, as in reaction to the violence, the Prime Minister’s Office issued an announcement stating that the police had just been instructed not to allow tourists or Jews to visit until the end of Ramadan. It took hardly an hour for Mayor Nir Barkat to publish a press release stating the complete opposite – announcing his opposition to surrendering to violence and rioters by banishing Jews who wish to do so from visiting the holy site.
Asked if he supports Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reaction to the violence, Temple Mount activist and MK Yehudah Glick said that once the original decision to allow it was taken, it should have been applied without hesitation. Moreover, he added, once it was agreed to prevent such visits, rioters should have been immediately stopped from continuing the agitation and arrested.
Hadassah, the symphonic side
The Paris Sciences et Lettres Orchestra and Choir opened its first tour in Israel with a visit to the Hadassah University Medical Center in Ein Kerem on Tuesday. In the atrium of the hospital’s new wing, the musicians and singers gave a free two-hour classical music concert to staff, patients and visitors, ending with a new work performed as a premiere on the Mount of Olives. The PSL is touring the country during July.
Not for us
More than 30 activists and NGOs, some of them identified with the Left, issued this past Tuesday an official press release declaring their opposition to the aims of former minister Haim Ramon’s Movement for Saving Jewish Jerusalem. His movement is promoting a plan for a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from 26 Arab neighborhoods in the city, without offering any solution regarding their future – even calling them, during a meeting with French Hill residents, “tumors that have to be removed.”
Within just a few hours, the press release had obtained the support of quite a few political activists from the Right and news about a series of withdrawals of prominent members from Ramon’s movement leaked to the press.