This week in Jerusalem 481187

Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs.

Jerusalem light rail. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Jerusalem light rail.
Airport, here we come
The Afikim company has won the Transportation Ministry tender and will run, as of next week, the 485 direct line from Jerusalem to Ben-Gurion Airport. Buses will run 24 hours (except Shabbat), hourly, from Museums Avenue (below the government ministries) past the Knesset, the Wohl Rose Garden, Jerusalem International Convention Center and the central bus station, going from there to the airport. The buses will have Wi-Fi service; cost is NIS 16 per ticket.
Go home
A painful rejection hit the residents of the German Colony this week, when the court turned down their first appeal against the light rail’s Blue Line on Emek Refaim Street. After a hearing this past Sunday at the Administrative Court, Justice David Mintz’s ruling the next day approved the municipality’s side and rejected the residents’ opposition to that segment of the light rail.
Residents were also ordered to pay NIS 30,000 for court expenses. Residents announced they would continue the fight, and will appeal their case to the High Court of Justice.
The Blue Line, the second of eight lines of Jerusalem’s light rail project, is planned to link the Ramot neighborhood in the city’s north with Gilo in the south, crossing the city center and passing through the German Colony, with a short segment of about 1 km. on Emek Refaim Street. While most of the parties involved – residents, business owners and passersby – agree that the street needs renovation, opposition to the light rail centers on the claim that it doesn’t take into account Emek Refaim’s special characteristics and would ruin its unique charm.
Residents and business owners also cite the difficulties they will face during work on the light rail, which no one knows exactly how long it will take to complete. Upon publication of the plan three months ago, angry residents held a few stormy meetings at local community center Beit Yehudit, raising their opposition to the entire project and specifically to the local segment. Meetings were held with municipal representatives, including former holder of the Transportation portfolio Fleur Hassan- Nahum, who has since resigned from Mayor Nir Barkat’s coalition together with her partners on the Yerushalmim list over the recent strike in the city.
Deputy Mayor Meir Turgeman – the head of the local planning and construction committee, who strongly supports the Blue Line path – heard their claim but remained dedicated to the project, including the Emek Refaim segment. The opposing residents claim the mayor didn’t seriously take into account the alternative paths they proposed and submitted, and that the entire project was not built in full transparent coordination with them and does not take into consideration their needs and welfare. Turgeman accused them of acting out of sheer “not in my neighborhood” concerns, and gave full support to Barkat to go on with the project as is.
No politics
The decision of the Barbur Gallery to host a meeting with Breaking the Silence – the controversial NGO that provides anonymous testimonies of soldiers of alleged IDF transgressions, and which has been banned from speaking in Israel’s schools – was apparently too much for the city. As a result of this scheduled event (which was to take place this Wednesday), the gallery’s directors were summoned to a hearing at the municipality on grounds of inadequate use of public space for political events.
The tension between the gallery’s direction and the municipality is not new, on a couple of counts. One is the repeated attempts of neighbors in the small neighborhood of Ohel Moshe, part of Mahaneh Yehuda, to obtain the space for more religious and haredi kindergartens. The other opposition comes from right-wing activist Shai Glick, who claims that because the gallery is located in a public venue earmarked for offering services to residents, it should not be involved in any event that has any political overtones whatsoever – in this case for the left-wing Breaking the Silence – and therefore should not be allowed to continue its activities. The directors of Barbur were summoned on Tuesday morning to a special hearing at Safra Square, and it was unclear at press time if the scheduled event indeed would happen.
Open or closed?
Remember the scandal that erupted regarding minimarkets open on Shabbat? Well, it seems that the municipality may have lost at its own game.
One of the decisions reached some six months ago was to develop new rules that would determine where and how a minimarket could operate on Shabbat. The criteria included the location of the minimarket (if it is on the way to the Western Wall, for example, or if it is in or near a religious/haredi neighborhood), and whether the minimarket is located in a tourist area or in a residential neighborhood that has no businesses in it.
According to the municipality’s guidelines, at least five of the eight minimarkets forced to close down a year ago should be allowed to conduct business on Shabbat. For the moment, the only thing that the municipality is ready to do is to reconsider the closure rulings in cases where the owners of the minimarkets can prove that they are in accordance with Safra Square’s own rules.
Generally speaking, as of now, the city has three areas with different rules for businesses to open on Shabbat in line with the character of the neighborhoods in those areas.
Shabbat wars – the next generation
Officially, the new round in the Shabbat wars in the city is between the haredi sector and the desecrators – including the mayor who authorizes the opening of bars and restaurants on the holy day.
However, the real war taking place seems to be an internal one in the haredi sector, which, unlike its image, is far from being monolithic. For some time, extremists among the haredim in Mea She’arim have felt that the city council representatives (whom the residents do not support, since they are opposed to any normalization with the Zionist authorities) are not doing their job.
Members of the Eda Haredit, including the Satmar anti-Zionist faction, say that the eight members of the Ashkenazi haredi list – United Torah Judaism – have neglected their primary duty, which is to prevent at any price ongoing Shabbat desecration by bars, coffee shops and restaurants – not to mention the opening of new such places.
Their methods are not politically correct. Last week, large parts of walls in Geula, Mattersdorf and Mea She’arim were covered by pashkevilim (religious posters) denouncing the desecration and detailing no fewer than 240 businesses open on Shabbat (including their names and addresses) across the city – most of them in the city center.
Whether as a result of the pressure or coincidentally, a few days after the pashkevilim appeared, representatives of the haredi sector at city council asked the mayor to cancel a Friday evening community event scheduled by the Kiryat Hayovel local council. The venue for the event was a private one – the Mifletzet Pub – but since it hasn’t yet obtained a business permit, the haredim pressed for cancellation – which was indeed secured at practically the last moment.
Time to pay
For the first time in a long period, the Jerusalem police force has confiscated moneys suspected to have come from Hamas to families of terrorists in several Arab neighborhoods in the city.
Seven homes of families whose sons or siblings have been killed or arrested after they committed terrorist attacks in the city in the past few years (including during the second intifada in the early 2000s) have been searched by the police, acting on intelligence information that identified funds coming from Hamas.
The police discovered large sums of cash in Israeli and foreign currency, jewels and two trucks in the homes of each of the families, living in Jebl Mukaber, E-Tur, Shuafat and Ras el-Amud. All of the relevant items were confiscated.
The issue of terrorists’ families receiving large sums of money after terrorist acts committed by their sons is a contentious one and not always easy to prove.
We are all winners
The annual Jerusalem Winner Marathon is back and this time it is part of the framework of special events to mark the 50th anniversary of the reunification of the city. With more than a month before the March 17 kick-off, registration of participants is on track to break the last year’s record of 26,000 runners. Organizers report that as of last week, more than 8,500 people had already registered, with several more weeks to go. The last date for registration is Marc 4.
This year’s marathon, the seventh annual edition of the endurance competition, will be dedicated to Jerusalem’s reunification, and this will be reflected in a number of ways along the route.
In addition to the full marathon (42.2 km.), there will be a half marathon (21.1 km.), as well as shorter races and other related activities.
Another event related to the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War is the Fourth Annual Sovereignty Conference, an event promoting application of Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria.
An initiative of the Women in Green organization and its Sovereignty Now branch, the conference will map out various approaches to sovereignty. Journalists, rabbis, lay leaders and politicians addressing the conference will focus on awareness and practical application of the vision of sovereignty in those historic areas.
Two “Distinguished of the Sovereignty” awards will be conferred at the end of the conference – to Jerusalem Post senior contributing editor Caroline Glick and to the family of the late Uri Elitzur, former editor-inchief of Makor Rishon.
The conference will kick off at 6 p.m. on Sunday (February 12) at the Crown Plaza Hotel. Info:
Bad news for ‘arnona’
The Knesset Finance Committee is set to approve an amendment to the law that exempts entitled bodies from arnona (municipal taxes). While the current law already exempts places of prayer – such as synagogues – from tax, the new guidelines will extend the exemption to religious learning institutions. Committee chairman MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) clarified that the amendment applies to non-Jewish organizations as well.
Although this law is countrywide, its impact will be particularly significant in Jerusalem in terms of loss of income due to additional exemptions from taxes, due to the many churches, mosques and related religious institutions in the city.
The national government has always refused to refund the municipality for the loss of municipal income through tax exemptions of this nature, although part of the special grants for the city take this issue in consideration.