Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs

Shuafat and Akab  (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Shuafat and Akab
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Going nowhere
Shlomo Eshkol has been asked for the third time to continue serving as city engineer. Eshkol, who reached retirement age two years ago, has been implored to postpone his retirement twice during the last two years. A beacon of professionalism and gentleness, he agreed in 2015 to serve for an additional year, then for another six months. Now he has acceded to requests to extend his tenure until the end of the year.
While this could be regarded as a simple need to keep the best person in place until another best candidate is found, there is more to it. The city engineer is a high-ranking position and the task of finding a replacement next year is nearly impossible; 2018 is an election year, and special rules make it very difficult to publish tenders for such a high position.
Sources at Safra Square believe that the personal prestige of Eshkol – highly regarded by all sides and universally acclaimed as honest and reliable – has made him indispensable for those at the top of the municipality who wish to promote some unpopular plans, such as the evacuation-construction planned for several neighborhoods. It is noteworthy that the request to prolong Eshkol’s term of service was presented to the city council for approval this time – unlike the former two occurrences.
Eliyahu in the city
Seven years after he died, the name of former Sephardi chief rabbi and spiritual leader of the national religious sector, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, will be commemorated in a new housing project in Givat Shaul.
That in itself wouldn’t be remarkable unless this plan augurs a change in the housing policy. Unlike the haredim, Zionist religious residents tend not to live separately. (Two neighborhoods, Kiryat Moshe and Givat Mordechai are significantly changing in character with a massive influx of haredim replacing veteran residents who died or moved elsewhere.) Despite their political influence in the city and their strong backing of the mayors policies – such as the unification of the city and the right of Jewish residents to move inside the Old City – the national religious sector does not have a residential “stronghold” in Jerusalem.
The new project, Neveh Eliyahu, with more than 400 housing units, may change the trend, and could be the start of a trend for national religious residents to prefer separate neighborhoods to more mixed environments.
Healthy and kosher
What is going on in the city in regard to healthy living may be no less than a revolution. Healthy snacks and meals are being served at kindergartens and schools, the sale of sugar-overloaded snacks and beverages in the machines in public schoolyards has been terminated, and healthy habits are being introduced in senior homes and community centers.
A new front has been included in the battle to make Jerusalemites healthier.
Until now, sports have not generally been part of the curriculum for pupils in the haredi sector. This year’s successful two-month pilot program in that sector will be enlarged next year. The program includes sports activities for pupils from kindergarten age (Talmud Torah) to yeshivot and girls’ seminaries – in addition to healthy cooking lessons. All of this is in addition to – and not instead of – Talmudic studies, which has made the change possible and acceptable.
In the coming school year, sports, walking, healthy nutrition and cooking will all be integrated into the curriculum of all haredi educational institutions in the city.
Stormy subcommittee
More than 120 residents from the German Colony neighborhood, all members of the Refaim association, met last week with members of the district planning and construction subcommittee to discuss the light rail’s proposed Blue Line route along Emek Refaim Street.
Strong opposition within the neighborhood led to the creation of the association, representing at least 2,000 residents who are striving to change the course of the planned line.
One of their major complaints is that the course of the Blue Line was not seriously or transparently researched and debated at the professional level, as required by rules of the municipality and the Jerusalem master plan for transportation). Consequently, the public became aware of some of the aspects of the plan too late.
Association president Avraham Mordechai stressed that the Mesila Park route is not an option; the only solution for the Emek Refaim segment is a tunnel like the one approved for the same Blue Line in Geula – even without pressure from the residents there.
After 10 hours of stormy debate, the committee called for another meeting within two weeks.
Holy separation
Since Jerusalem was reunited in 1967, every attempt to change this status has been strongly rejected. Attempts to re-divide the capital generally originate on the Left side of the political spectrum, but this week it seems that something basic has changed.
Legislation promoted by Bayit Yehudi calls for some of the Arab neighborhoods beyond the separation fence to continue to be under Israeli authority but to cease to be part of the juridical area of Jerusalem. As a result, the Jerusalem municipality would no longer be responsible for the lack of municipal services to these neighborhoods, which are in an advanced state of neglect.
Moreover, the demographic situation would dramatically change.
According to various surveys,two of these neighborhoods – Shuafat and Akab – have some 140,000 Arab residents.
If these were removed from the tally of city residents, Jerusalem’s population balance between Jews and Arabs would dramatically change to the benefit of the Jewish state.
Mekudeshet is back
Another year has passed and one of Jerusalem’s most interesting annual festivals is back: Mekudeshet – an event in which Jerusalem stars as both the setting and the chief protagonist.
Mekudeshet is also considered a state of consciousness, explain directors Nomi Fortis and Itay Mauntner.
This year the festival will take participants to seven of the roofs of the city, immerse them in an incredible dialogue between art and social psychology and teach new rituals and ceremonies in a city loaded with ancient religious rituals and ceremonies. As in the past three years, the festival will take participants to spots where visible or virtual frontiers can melt, and will even invite us to sleep among total strangers to the sounds of sacred music from a broad range of regions and peoples.
This year’s Mekudeshet (August 23 to September 15) is being presented under the title of “Kulna” – from the Arabic for “all of us.” More at
The Kotel by night
MK Yisrael Eichler (United Torah Judaism) is promoting a number of welcome improvements in public transportation to and from the Western Wall. In addition to new arrangements to enable buses to park on both sides of the road leading to the Dung Gate to provide easier access to holy sites, Eichler is also seeking to expand the hours of operation – up to a 24 hours a day for the buses bringing visitors to the site.
Since many of the visitors are old or disabled – yet there is no possibility to allow private parking near the gate – Eichler is also promoting the use of shuttles.
These minibuses would transport visitors from the bus stops up the road outside of Dung Gate that are not easily accessible for seniors to Goren Square, inside the walls close to the prayer areas. Eichler criticized the poor level of service provided by Egged, saying that it is unacceptable that the most visited site of the country should be so inadequately served by public transportation.
Regarding the additional hours of service, it is worth noting that from the beginning of the month of Elul until Yom Kippur, service hours are already extended.
The promised article presenting a counterpoint on the light rail’s Blue Line will run in a future issue.the setting and the chief protagonist.