Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs.

The opening of Jerusalem aquarium has been delayed as sharks and other fish have died. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The opening of Jerusalem aquarium has been delayed as sharks and other fish have died.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Unfair fair
For the last nine years, Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design graduates, particularly those with special interest in art and jewelry, have been running a fair every Friday morning on Shatz Street. The fair operates with a permit from the municipality and follows clear rules, yet it has attracted the determined opposition of the local council of the Lev Ha’ir area where the fair takes place.
Opponents of the street fair complain about noise, dirt (the participants in the fair are repeatedly accused of not cleaning up after themselves), crowding, and difficulty parking and even entering the buildings they live in. Last week things reached a boiling point with the peremptory request of a representative of the local council to stop a musician invited by the fair organizers to perform there.
The policemen who were called in determined that the musician had all the relevant permits to perform and refused to prevent the vocal artist from playing and singing. But the real issue seems to be that the businesses owners on Shatz and Bezalel streets are divided regarding the benefit of hosting the fair there. Some maintain that it increases foot traffic in the area and thus benefits their own businesses, particularly the coffee shops and restaurants.
Others claim that potential clients do not patronize their establishments, since the stalls at the fair include many items that compete with their own merchandise.
The municipality is not planning to cancel the permit.
Brave new world
The digital revolution in the city’s educational system is taking another significant step forward. Following the introduction of tablets in the junior high and high schools in the city, now it is the turn of the elementary schools.
This coming school year, all elementary schools in the Hebrew public stream (religious and secular) will be equipped with tablets for the teachers and pupils.
In addition, the municipality is launching a pilot program for the city’s public Arab sector schools, starting with 200 classes there and expanding to all of the public elementary schools there in the next couple of years.
The goal to universalize the use of tablets is part of the digital revolution in the capital’s educational system announced a few years ago by Mayor Nir Barkat, who has been the holder of the education portfolio since his first tenure. The growing role of tablets in schools has not been welcomed by all parties; some parents fear of the danger of radiation and express concern about the high expense to families (despite significant municipal participation in the cost).
However, almost everybody understands that education – like so many other aspects of life – without digital devices is not realistic anymore.
Homeless drug dealers
The municipality has decided on a radical solution to end the ongoing problem of drug dealing that has been taking place for years in the structures built for garbage cans near some of the buildings in the Neveh Ya’acov neighborhood.
The structures, which for years served as the place where garbage containers were kept until the cleaning teams came to empty them a few times a week, turned into dens where drug dealers – mostly openly – came to sell and deliver “goods” to youths in the neighborhood.
The drug activity has been known to the authorities for years, but nothing serious has been done to put an end to it, despite innumerable complaints from residents and the neighborhood council. Last week someone at Safra Square took the initiative and sent teams to demolish the structures, putting an end to the problem.
“I imagine these dealers will quickly find other solutions, but at least residents will be able to throw their garbage away without being exposed to unpleasant and possibly dangerous situations,” said a source at the municipality.
The sound and the fury
It took them more than a decade, but the residents of Herzl Boulevard, near the turn the light rail takes on the Calatrava Bridge, finally won their case.
Right from the beginning of the project more than a decade ago, a group of residents of the three high-rises on the corner of Jaffa and Herzl streets, led by Tamar Tenenbaum, warned the municipality that the route of the light rail was too close to their apartments and that the noise and the proximity of the train so close to their bedrooms would be an unbearable nuisance. But they lost their case, and the bridge was built.
Nevertheless, the residents didn’t give up. Soon they discovered that the noise of the train ascending the rails on the bridge was even worse than they had feared, and they were back with a new complaint – they wanted to be compensated for the nuisance. What’s more, it turned out that for safety reasons, large projectors were installed on the bridge right in front of their windows, adding to the already severe disruption of their quality of life.
More than 10 years later, the special assessor appointed to estimate the level of nuisance and damages ruled that the residents were entitled to receive some NIS 4 million (for all the residents of the three buildings on Herzl Boulevard).
Of course, the noise will still go on, the lights will continue to disrupt the quality of life of the residents and, as a result, the value of their apartments will keep dropping, but at least they have obtained not only justice but also a sum of money that will, at least in part, compensate them for all those inconveniences.
Aquarium on hold
It was planned to be one of the biggest attractions in the city, and a bold one, too.
Imagine a gigantic aquarium in a city that has no access to the sea or even a river.
Funding brought huge sums of money, plans were prepared, announcements followed more announcements, and everything was ready for the grand opening.
But, alas, it just didn’t work out. Two sharks died, and other special species of fish died as well, and the whole thing began to look like the next biggest farce, causing much embarrassment to the municipality, the Biblical Zoo (the hosts of the project) and the city in general.
“The Mediterranean brought to you by Sea Israel: The Gottesman Aquarium – a major new Jerusalem attraction and conservation center to educate and raise awareness about the challenges facing Israel’s many and diverse aquatic habitats with emphasis on the seas of Israel” held so many hopes for a great success, but something failed. For a few weeks, there were a lot of uncertain declarations and rumors, contradictory – although non-official – announcements added to the blur.
But then, finally, came the first official declaration about the situation: “After much consideration, we have decided to postpone the opening of the aquarium by a few weeks. This decision stems from the need to acclimate the fish and other sea creatures and protect their well-being.
Additionally, we have been testing to ensure the most enjoyable and complete aquarium visit experience. Updates on the opening will be posted here and in the media, and you will then be able to book your visit for a specific date and time through the website. The aquarium will initially open on a limited-capacity basis at a special price during the initial running-in period. Admission will be with a separate ticket from the zoo. Stay tuned for more updates,” reads the announcement on the aquarium’s website.
Off the record, a few very discordant remarks made by several parties involved in the project – and its failure – point to a mixture of hubris and ignorance among the team that handled the project, such as not being aware of the special needs of various species in the aquarium.
“They thought it was like a domestic aquarium, just bigger,” scoffed one high-ranking official who followed the entire procedure closely. “No wonder it ended up like that.”
The phoenix is here
The Vertigo Dance Company is launching an exciting new program specifically conceived for the city. There will be three daily performances – including one at dawn – in the Bonei Ha’ir gardens in front of the Old City walls between Jaffa Gate and Zion Gate each day from September 1 to 6.
The topic of this new performance is the “Birth of the Phoenix” – a nod to new beginnings as Rosh Hashana approaches.
The three daily performances will take place at 7:30 p.m., 10:30 p.m. – and one at 6 a.m. to salute the dawn of a new day.
This is the second presentation of this program, which was seen by no fewer than 250,000 spectators when it first appeared here 13 years ago. The choreography by Noa Wertheim depicts a process of “Birth from the Earth.” To the sounds of natural music from nature, spectators are invited to get closer to the dancers and even embrace them, eliminating the “hierarchy” that usually exists between performers and the public.
The hours between the three performances will be filled with music and dancing – all free for the public at large.
Time for ‘slihot’
Once again we approach the High Holy Days. According to the Sephardi tradition, special slihot prayers asking for forgiveness are said each night this month (or at dawn) in synagogues; those who follow the Ashkenazi tradition will start slihot in a few weeks.
A tradition has developed over the past few years to visit the Old City’s synagogues and end up at the Western Wall. During this period, the streets of Jerusalem – particularly in the Old City but also in the small picturesque neighborhood of Nahlaot – are packed with visitors from around the country and abroad, as tour guides discuss the local traditions and visit the oldest synagogues there.
For the past few years, according to police statistics, the numbers of visitors peak at close to half a million people – and the numbers are still growing. Some of the strangest scenes, which have become natural over the years, are refreshment shops near the Dung Gate owned by Arab residents that loudly play some of the best-known Jewish piyutim (liturgical songs) to enhance the special atmosphere and boost business.
This year, the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter will provide – free of charge – guided tours inside the Jewish Quarter in the Old City, including the Ramban Synagogue, the Hurva Synagogue, the Davidson Center and the Herodian Quarter archeological site. All of these tours will be accompanied by a paytan (sacred song cantor) representing the traditions of the various communities. For more details: or call *4987
Deconstruction in the community
Should the Darom local council be disbanded? Some activists of the southern neighborhoods believe so, but not all involved parties in the municipality are ready to do it.
The council was established about four years ago in the framework of the elections for boards to local councils and community centers in the city. Some people warned then that the newly created Darom council, encompassing several small neighborhoods in the area – wouldn’t hold for long.
Indeed, within just a few months, problems began to surface.
Council chairmen were replaced in stormy sessions, members of the professional staff left one by one, salaries were not paid on time, and violence – including physical – was never too far removed. Most of the council and community center activities are now paralyzed and things have reached a point where it is not clear whether the kindergartens operated there are opening for the coming school year. The general atmosphere is that no community work can be done there.
Despite the large sums of money invested in community projects, almost everything is halted – even a vital special program for children at risk. Activists in the neighborhood expect Mayor Nir Barkat to intervene; most of them see no alternative to dissolving the link between the Gonenim and Katamonim neighborhoods, a coupling that they say was misguided from the start.
Justice for Zvia
Zvia Gorodetzki has been seeking a get (Jewish divorce) for 17 years from a recalcitrant husband who would rather sit in jail than grant her a divorce.
Over the years as a single mother, she took any job she could to provide for the needs of her four children. Last May, she intensified her efforts to persuade the rabbinical court to find a solution for her by going on a hunger strike for a few days.
Now she is facing another problem – the municipality is demanding that she pay the arnona (city taxes) owed by her husband, holding her responsible because she is still his wife. The NIS 195,000 debt far exceeds her ability to pay. In light of her special situation, the municipality has made an effort to reduce the debt as much as possible, lowering it to NIS 69,000, which they are prepared to accept in 36 payments. Unfortunately, this is still significantly beyond her means.
The Vertigo Dance Company is launching an exciting new program specifically conceived for the city. (Pictured: Elisabetta Giri; PR) 26