This week in Jerusalem 496971

Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs.

A LIGHT RAIL TRAIN waits at a station in Jerusalem. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
A LIGHT RAIL TRAIN waits at a station in Jerusalem.
Blue Line is back
After a rather long period without any new moves on the Blue Line light rail project, it’s time to get back to business. A special hearing of all involved parties was held this past Wednesday at Safra Square. Officially, this hearing by city engineer Shlomo Eshkol and members of the local planning and construction committee has no real impact on the decisions of the district planning committee, where the entire project is awaiting a final decision regarding its route. However, the municipality is obliged to hear all the residents’ objections.
Since residents have filed some 1,700 objections, with about the same amount filed by organizations and other public bodies, it is not surprising that the local committee members wish to hear some of them. About a dozen residents have been invited to present their case, as well as attorneys representing organizations or other bodies that might be affected by the light rail route. The real and determining decision remains in the hands of the district committee only, unless someone decides to take it to the High Court of Justice – but we are still far from that point.
Light their fire
On Sunday evening it was Mayor Nir Barkat’s turn to fire the cannon announcing the end of the 16th day of the Ramadan fast. Although it has been a tradition established by mayor Teddy Kollek, this year quite a few new steps have been taken by the municipality to mark the Muslim holy month. There is more decorative lighting outside the Old City, and even musical and other cultural events inside. One example is the joint Tahrir Nights in the Old City project undertaken by Tahrir Bar and the Jerusalem Development Authority, which brought hundreds of Jews and Arabs to Mauristan Square to enjoy classical Arab music. Moreover, two weeks ago, the Knesset approved a special NIS 177 million budget to clean and beautify the Arab spaces inside and around the Old City.
Reaching the end
The Israel Festival is reaching its fourth and final week. Besides the political scandal surrounding a show involving nudity that angered Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev, it seems it is a great success. On his third festival since he was appointed, director CEO Eyal Sher has managed to navigate this large cultural shipload through tempests and bring it safely ashore. One of the most popular events was the Czech Circus with its “Slapstick Sonata” at Zion Square, which ran for two days as the highlight of Prague Week in Jerusalem. It was a blurring of boundaries between acrobatics, dance, puppetry, theater, music and sport.
Last Thursday – in what appears to be a new tradition established at this festival – the Jerusalem Theater was the scene for “Night Guard,” a multievent that ran until the next morning, exploring theater, music, dance and performance. At its center was “Transfiguration,” a one-man performance presenting different aspects of a religious cult. The festival’s final days will host celebrated choreographer Lucinda Childs and her iconic work “DANCE,” a synchronization between the dancers on stage and the dancers in a video projected on the screen behind them.
One more light
Until June 28 the Old City will be lit with thousands of colored LEDs to mark the annual Jerusalem Festival of Light, whose theme this year is light games. For the first time, the public is invited to take an active part in the interactive light art installations, including giant illuminated seesaws and puppets, daring light mobiles, vibrant pools of light, powerful video mappings and projections, interactive sensor-controlled games, 100-meter-long light carpets and magic screens that challenge the senses. The various installations invite both children and adults during the summer vacation to influence the installation’s appearance. For example, the audience can hop over pools of light at Jen Levin’s “The Pool” installation, influencing its colors.
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification, a spectacular audiovisual display will light up the Old City walls, telling the story of Jerusalem. Students enrolled in the light festival course at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design will present seven spectacular light installations along Mount Zion Boulevard, hung 18 meters in the air above visitors’ heads. In addition, students at the Nissan Nativ Academy for Music and Dance will open the festival with their incredible “Love and Colors” show on a daily basis.
And last but not least, a new initiative will incorporate the capital’s community in the festival: Children hospitalized in Jerusalem will paint pictures to be projected on the Old City’s walls, with live web streaming and special photography enabling the kids to see their works on one of Jerusalem’s most iconic sites. The festival was initiated by the Jerusalem Development Authority, the municipality and the Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Ministry, and produced by Ariel Municipal Company. Admission is free.
Whose children are they?
Until last week, the painful situation of the over 200 children treated and being followed up at the pediatric hemato-oncology department at Hadassah University Medical Center in Ein Kerem was a national issue between the hospital and the department’s nine doctors (who resigned on June 4 in protest of the alleged mismanagement of Hadassah Medical Organization director-general Prof. Ze’ev Rotstein). Moreover, Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman has refused to let nearby Shaare Zedek Medical Center – which is not yet licensed to perform bone marrow transplants on children – add patient beds to expand its pediatric oncology department. As a result, young patients with life-threatening cancers have gone to other institutions – mostly outside the capital – for treatment once their physicians resigned. The parents, with the significant support of public opinion and friends in Jerusalem, organized a public protest and have been trying to find a solution. But now it seems that the city council, and more precisely Mayor Nir Barkat, are also involved in the case.
Council member Fleur Hassan-Nahoum (Yerushalmim) posted in outrage on her Facebook page earlier this week, denouncing what she sees as the “cowardly retreat of city council members,” including two deputy mayors, from their original commitment to support the parents’ struggle and the resigning doctors. Hassan-Nahoum adds that despite their commitment to request a special city council meeting to debate the matter, no council member of the coalition has, thus far, dared to sign the letter requesting such a meeting. According to the rule at least a third of the 30 members need to sign the request, and so far, only the three members of Yerushalmim (in the opposition since last February) and Laura Wharton of Meretz have agreed to sign. Hassan-Nahoum insists that while this is a matter under the purview of the Health Ministry and Hadassah, “Jerusalem, and its mayor, have still something to say about it and therefore should act.”
A municipality spokesman says Barkat is working hard on the national level, in various ways, to help find a proper solution.
Kosher Pango
City council member Israel Kellerman (United Torah Judaism) declares he is satisfied with the special campaign launched by Pango – a parking application that bypasses meters and charges an exact parking fee, down to the second – for the applications it provides for haredim, who do not use smartphones. Following the municipality’s decision to remove all parking meters and use more sophisticated means through smartphone applications, Kellerman raised the problem of his sector, which usually use kosher phones that do not include applications. Pango CEO Roy Elbaz has shown how the company will provide alternative ways to park even with kosher phones, by calling *4500 or with a new application that will soon obtain the kosher stamp to be used on these special phones.
Anger in Beit Hakerem
A new plan for the Beit Hakerem neighborhood has angered residents, who thought they had reached an understanding with the head of the local planning and construction committee in taking into account their objections. But it now seems that the plan has not significantly changed, and some residents feel betrayed. Basically, the main objection is that this project does not respect the neighborhood’s particular character and introduces too many towers. Originally, the plan was meant to add 1,400 housing units to Beit Hakerem, but it now appears that this number does not include another project that has already been approved in the framework of a larger “urban renewal” project. Thus, at the end of the day, there will be more than 2,000 new housing units without any sign of planned infrastructure (especially in regard to transportation solutions).
On the morning of June 14, at the end of a stormy meeting held near the no-less-stormy protest by many residents, the local committee approved the plan. The panel is now preparing to submit it shortly to the district planning committee, despite more than 1,000 objections submitted by residents.