This week in Jerusalem: Happy birthday to the light rail

Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs.

Jerusalem light rail. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Jerusalem light rail.
Happy birthday
Unbelievable but true – the light rail has been operational for five years now. Five years have passed since the first trains transported thousands of residents and visitors who wanted to experience the city’s new wonder.
After almost five years of gargantuan road works that threatened to paralyze the capital completely – and forever changed Jaffa Road – it finally became a reality. The first two months of riding were free, to check both the new machinery and the capacity of passengers to get used to it.
No one expected the flood of passengers who would give it a try, and there were a number of growing pains to address – such as the air-conditioning system, which couldn’t adapt itself automatically to the large number of passengers, causing an uproar.
Eventually the kinks were ironed out, and the light rail has become an integral part of life in this city. The comfortable and useful method of transportation has reached an impressive ridership, logging 155 million annual trips, according to the Master Plan for Mass Transportation team.
Next on the agenda are the debates and decisions to be taken regarding the two additional lines – the blue and green.
Parking meter swan song
Ever felt helpless facing one of those machines for paying your parking, when you realized you had no cash in your pockets? Well, this is one problem that is soon going to disappear from our daily lives.
The municipality is working on an application for smartphones that will make parking meters obsolete. Thirteen hundred parking devices scattered across Jerusalem will soon be uprooted and relegated to oblivion, as residents and visitors will be able to use an application to make parking payment smooth and easy.
Part of the motivation for this decision is that maintenance of the machines has proven too expensive for the city budget, hence the search for another solution.
Before anyone gets too happy here, the inspectors who ambush anyone not properly paying for parking are not going to disappear.
What still needs to be solved is the problem of those who do not have smartphones, and tourists who do not have the application on their smartphones. At Safra Square, they are still addressing these and other issues, and the solution should be launched by the beginning of 2017.
Praying for a prayer resolution
Residents of Gilo have long complained about the high volume of the muezzin calls coming from the mosque in the nearby Beit Safafa neighborhood. Last week, city inspectors confiscated the mosque’s two large speakers, which were positioned so that most of the sound was directed toward Gilo and had become a real nuisance for the residents.
However, and in a very inspiring way, the problem hasn’t become a flashpoint for tension or anger between the residents of Gilo and Beit Safafa. The heads of both local councils are seeking to solve the problem in a friendly manner.
Enlisting the help of the municipality and noise and acoustics experts, the two sides are working toward a solution that will enable muezzin calls to reach Beit Safafa residents without disturbing the sleep of those in Gilo, since the problematic call is scheduled for around 4 a.m.
Save the date
“Last Folio” is the name of a new exhibition that will run from September 12 to November 30 at the Van Leer Institute on 43 Jabotinsky Street. It is comprised of an incredibly moving collection of photos taken by Slovak-Canadian photographer Yuri Dojc, telling the story of the Jewish community in Slovakia as it was on the eve of World War II, just before its eradication.
In addition, the exhibition includes many of the sacred books that yeshiva students left behind in 1942 when they were taken to the concentration camps and the gas chambers. While on a visit to Slovakia for research on a documentary, Dojc and his team discovered a place where it seemed time had stopped before the war. In an old school building, they found books, notebooks and student certificates, and Dojc relates that he even found some sugar in one of the cupboards.
At one point, Dojc found one of his grandfather’s books; he understood then that his journey was over.
Dojc’s exhibition, which has been displayed around the world, is now coming to Jerusalem. Daily viewing hours are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Fridays and holiday evenings from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
There is an entrance fee.
Shalva for all
Imagine a world in which there is no separation between regular children and those with special needs or disabilities. It may sound a little utopian, but that is the approach of the Shalva organization, as reflected in its motto: “Inspiring Hope, Changing Lives.”
Inclusion preschool classes offer opportunities for children with different skills and capacities to meet, learn, play and grow together, preparing them to become adults that embrace priceless values of acceptance, tolerance and human dignity. The new school year will bring to the city two new municipal inclusion preschools for children aged three to five; these will be located at the Shalva National Center, between Bayit Vegan and Ramat Beit Hakerem.
At a September 1 press conference marking the opening of the school year, Mayor Nir Barkat will speak about the important aims of the Shalva inclusion concept in preschool education. For more details: or 073- 232-4107.