This week in Jerusalem 493890

Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs.

A stately residence in Baka (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
A stately residence in Baka
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Victory in Baka
Almost 30 years of legal struggle – involving thousands of hours in court – ended last week with a clear victory for the Baka neighborhood residents.
The struggle to keep an area on Yehuda Street clear of building for a public green space has been decided by the city’s District Court. The story began in the early ’80s with a decision – unclear to this day how and why it was made – to change the use of a plot on that street and redirect it for construction. It was initially designed to be an open, green space, as part of a rule in city planning that requires constructors and entrepreneurs to designate a space for public use wherever they obtain a certain number of plots for construction projects. The additional areas were granted to constructors, but somehow the compensation for the public – the green space for the benefit of residents – was not made available. This pushed the interested parties into the lengthy court battle. It took 30 years, but justice has been done and now residents and the local council are busy planning how the open space will look.
Raindrops keep falling on our heads
Ever felt upset about hanging out in Mahaneh Yehuda’s central alley while raindrops fall on your head? Well, no more. As of next year, with the completion of the tender, the roofs there will undergo repair. They were severely damaged four years ago during a storm.
The cost – NIS 17 million – will come from the municipality’s budget, Tourism Ministry (since the market is now considered a central touristic point) and the Jerusalem Development Authority. Deputy mayor and holder of the Community Administrations Department portfolio Moshe Lion is the man credited with securing NIS 12m. out of the total sum required for the project. So, the weather forecast for the area: Even if rain will still pour down on your head, it will only be until the end of 2017.
Never lose hope
The troubling sights of young haredim burning effigies of IDF soldiers on bonfires during Lag Ba’omer last week have raised anger and shame among some of the city’s haredi leadership.
Two out of the nine haredi city council members publicly condemned such acts, and added that they are convinced they were the deeds of a small minority and should not stain the whole haredi community. The two city council members, deputy mayor Yossi Daitch and city council member Yaakov Halpern, declared that they rejected these acts which are “unfitting for the spirit of the Torah.” However, these acts, aimed at dissuading young haredi adults who are considering enrolling in the army (nicknamed “hardakim”) are not so new. Just two months ago, such a soldier was hunted down and nearly lynched by a mob of haredim on Yehezkel Street (close to Mea She’arim), but the attackers haven’t yet been arrested.
Whose honor is it after all?
Honoring distinguished guests at official ceremonies can be tricky. Mistakes can easily be made. That is precisely what apparently occurred last week at a special ceremony for reaching a milestone in the planned cultural center at Menorah Square in the city center. The prestigious project, which will include an auditorium, theater, concert halls, classrooms and more – and is mostly funded by the Kirsch Family Foundation – has been promoted for years by former deputy mayor Pepe Alalu, who is now retired from politics. Later on, the project was strongly supported and promoted by present deputy mayor and president of the Planning and Construction committee at the city council, Meir Turgeman.
However, neither of the two was invited to the ceremony. This caused the two, especially Alalu, lots of frustration and anger. Officially, it was decided to invite the current deputy mayor and holder of the arts and culture portfolio. But the question of why those who were so involved and identified with the project at Safra Square have been so easily forgotten remains unanswered.
Art and holiness
For years, the Art Shelter Gallery in the haredi Mekor Baruch neighborhood has been expanding community awareness of local haredi artists, their work and the challenges they face.
A haredi artist has two central callings – artistic and religious. Even when the seeming dichotomy is resolved on a personal level, there is a need for dialogue with the community and to generate curiosity and interest in what the artists do and achieve.
For this and more, the shelter has become a warm and supportive home to aid, guide and encourage men and women (strictly separated in their lessons and work) in their artistic path. In this spirit, the shelter’s directors and curators have launched an initiative to assist the haredi artists to market their work, since most of them lack the background, ties and connections generally enjoyed by their counterparts in the secular artistic milieu.
“Exhibitions, artwork sales, tips on how to promote their work – all that and more are included in the short but efficient course for artists, including how to cultivate a personal following and support,” says Noa Lea Cohn, co-curator and art lecturer in the shelter and gallery.
Left behind
Now that the IBA has been replaced by the new public broadcasting corporation Kan, there remains a question of what will happen to IBA properties in the city (and in Tel Aviv). There are three large properties here of particular interest.
The magnificent and picturesque old building on Heleni Hamalka Street (off Jaffa Road, close to Safra Square) belongs to the Ethiopian Church in Jerusalem.
The fate of the long-term rental agreement has not yet been determined, but one option is for Kan to continue to use it, since the law dictates that it must broadcast from Jerusalem, and for the moment it doesn’t have any other good option.
The fate of the Channel 1 TV building was promised three years ago to the Boyan Hassidim; the plan is to demolish the structure and replace it with a large modern central beit midrash.
The stately historic structure on Jaffa Road, formerly the Shaare Zedek Hospital, has already been renovated and preserved as a protected site. It has been sold to an entrepreneur who plans to convert it for use as a hotel. Generally speaking, the IBA liquidator, Dr. David Hahn, is responsible for selling assets to offset the severance pay owed to IBA employees who lost their jobs. Those who were not on special contracts will receive severance pay according to the collective agreement which has not yet been honored. Those who did have special contracts, even if they were taken on by Kan or transferred to other government offices, will be entitled to whatever severance pay is stipulated in their contracts.