This week in Jerusalem 467284

Peggy Cidor's round-up of city affairs.

Har Hamenuhot (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Har Hamenuhot
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Whose grave it is, anyway?
The acute shortage of burial plots in the city’s cemeteries has caused leading burial society Hevra Kadisha Yerushalayim to seek alternative solutions. One of the reasons for the shortage is the request by thousands of Jews in Israel and abroad to be buried in the holy city, as it is believed that when Judgment Day comes, they will be the first to be resurrected.
According to Israeli law, any Israeli citizen is entitled to free burial in their city. If the place of residence is not Jerusalem, a fee is required for burial there. While the high demand for plots in the capital’s cemeteries has led to a shortage of burial land over the years, the lack of planning and building permits for Har Hamenuhot in Givat Shaul has not helped matters.
Since 2012, things have been more organized and a plan to prepare more plots has been implemented, but the shortage of land is still acute. Therefore, for the past three years, in addition to traditional interment in the ground, the dead are being entombed in tiers of shelved coffins.
And now, there is a new phase. A large necropolis based on burial in the walls of a cave, as was used in ancient times, is being built there. The immense burial cave will be accessible to mourners and visitors via two large elevators, with a capacity of up to 150 people. There is the slight possibility of obtaining burial plots in the ground there as well, for a rather high fee.
City of festivals
One would think that in light of the increasing number of festivals in the city, some of them would suffer from a lack of attendance. But that seems not to be the case.
Take, for example, the annual Hutzot Hayotzer, which officially closes the summer events. For 11 days, more than 100,000 people enjoyed the international crafts and musical events that featured some of the country’s top singers and performers. Despite the relatively high entrance fee of NIS 65, thousands of visitors from around the country attended the large fair at the Sultan’s Pool.
But the season of festivals doesn’t end there. We are entering the second week of Mekudeshet, the music-philosophy festival presented by the Jerusalem Season of Culture. And in less than a month, the Piyut Festival of liturgical songs and music will follow. Not to mention the growing attraction of participating in slihot, the special prayers for the month of Elul, preceding the Days of Awe towards Yom Kippur, which bring tens of thousands of participants every evening – worshipers or visitors seeking some spirituality. In between, there are many outdoor cultural events for the young generation and a long list of other events in many neighborhoods.
Hold your horses
Planning to get your driving license soon? Better think again. The situation has become untenable in regard to that simple mission. Officially, the main reason is the lack of inspectors from the Transportation Ministry to test the candidates for a license. But it is a little more complicated than that.
At the beginning, there was an attempt by the ministry to privatize the whole process of obtaining a driver’s license.
However, the driving instructors, who feared it would compromise their income, went on strike for two months earlier this year. As a result of the strike, fewer students registered to take the test – many of them waiting to see the outcome – and there was indeed a heavy loss of income for the instructors.
But it seems the situation has not improved. According to the Driving Instructors’ Association, there are only 22 inspectors in the city (appointed by the ministry), while they estimate that there are almost 20,000 people who registered to take the driving test and are still waiting, some for more than four months.
The ministry has 150 testers for the entire country and seems to be aware of the problem. But it appears it will take a while until the former waiting time of a week or two to take the test is resumed.
Blue Line blues Following the stormy city council meeting last week, the decision was made to postpone submitting the proposal for the light rail’s Blue Line to the Interior Ministry’s District Planning Committee for at least three months (with an option for one more month). Meanwhile, representatives of the residents concerned about the project – including those opposed to the route down the German Colony’s Emek Refaim Street and those who support it as is – will meet regularly at a special forum of residents and officials.
This understanding, established by Deputy Mayor Meir Turgeman, head of the local planning and construction committee, will enable a serious process of sharing all aspects of the project – including alternatives that had been dropped and potential new ones – among Jerusalem Transportation Master Plan staff and representatives of the local planning and construction committee at Safra Square. A municipality spokesman said that “after hearing residents’ requests, [Mayor Nir] Barkat accepted the idea of postponing the project submission to enable further dialogue between the parties – long before [city council member] Laura Wharton brought the issue to [last week’s] city council meeting.”
From the start, city council member Fleur Hassan-Nahum (Yerushalmim) supported the proposal to postpone the project until things were clarified for the residents, stating it is important that supporters of the Blue Line route, as well as its opponents, express their opinions and listen to those of others.
The way to Tmol Shilshom
He has a PhD in philosophy from the Sorbonne in Paris, studied at the Royal Academy of Arts School in London and holds a degree in business managing from MIT. He is a translator and an editor and much more – and now he is coming to Jerusalem to tell us something new about the famous book Catch-22, its context and its author, Joseph Heller.
Dan Shorer, an actor, a lover of music and a tireless innovator in many fields of arts and culture, will be presenting a series of lectures on various topics. The first encounter is scheduled for this coming Tuesday (September 13) at Tmol Shilshom. Shorer will take his listeners on a journey examining Heller’s personality through the winding roads of wars, insanity, normality and what lies in between. He will read passages, present, explain, act a bit and will answer questions.
This will be the first in a series of encounters on books, arts and the most important questions one can ask about our life here. At 7 p.m., Tmol Shilshom in Nahalat Shiva. Entrance fee requested.
New park in town
An ecological pool, a path for extreme riders, shaded grounds and benches, a community garden, a public garden to grow herbs, a playground and a garden for dogs, picnic benches, an open amphitheater, fountains and path for walkers and of course public bathrooms – all these an even more can be found in the Gonenim Park, that was inaugurated this week by Barkat and Jerusalem Affairs Minister MK Ze’ev Elkin.
The park is the result of an unprecedented large-scale partnership between the city administration and the residents of the neighborhood, who have from the beginning a few years ago, insisted on being part of the planning for this project.
The park has been made possible through joint support from the city, the Jerusalem Affairs Ministry and the Jerusalem Development Authority, as part of a vast project to add municipal parks inside the city and metropolitan parks surrounding it from all sides, and to encourage ecological investment for a greener environment.