This week in Jerusalem: Law and friends

Peggy Cidor's round-up of city affairs.

The US Consulate on Agron Street (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The US Consulate on Agron Street
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Law and friends
What wouldn’t we do to ease things for our friends?
Earlier this week, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon instructed the relevant authorities to exempt the Americans from most of the procedures for the building of the US Embassy in Arnona. That decision was announced despite opposition from certain legal quarters that zoning laws and procedures should be upheld, even in this case.
The request was approved by the National Infrastructure Committee, headed by Avigdor Yitzhaki, formerly CEO of the Prime Minister’s Office. It exempts the Americans from obtaining a construction permit for the renovations in the consulate building in Arnona to make it appropriate to house the Embassy soon to be opened in the capital. Planned construction includes a large fence around the building, which ordinarily would require submission of detailed plans for approval.
Exemptions of this nature, restricted to national projects that have a strong impact on the security of the state, may not apply to this case, but sources say that facilitating the rapid construction of the American embassy in our capital can be considered a national priority.
Fishy eggs
Thousands of eggs were destroyed on Sunday morning following an inspection by Health Ministry supervisors. Periodic checks take place, especially before holidays, to spot illegal merchandise at the Mahaneh Yehuda market. This week resulted in the seizure of no fewer than 12,300 smuggled eggs, unchecked and of uncertain origin, suspected of not being fit for consumption. The eggs, which bore counterfeit stamps, were disposed of in one of the large garbage bins nearby and the merchant who tried to sell them is subject to further investigation.
Juvenile and Jerusalemite hi-tech
Five local teenagers won top prizes in a rigorous competition held each year for young scientists and hi-tech innovators by Jerusalem’s Bloomfield Science Museum.
The competition, open to youngsters from all over the country, brought together 58 finalists this year, who presented 40 different projects that feature innovative use of science and technology. Itay Eden (Hebrew University High School), Naomi Brunner (The Israel Arts and Sciences Academy), Hillel Shohat (Hebrew University High School), Michael Keinan (Himmelfarb) and Lev Raz-Sitton (ORT Givat Ram) emerged as the top winners. Yaeli Caspi won a special prize named after the late Noam Knafo, who was a beacon in the sciences.
Eden and Brunner will represent Israel (and Jerusalem, of course) at the European Union competition for young scientists (high-school students) who advance scientific development. Shohat and Raz-Sitton will represent Israel at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair competition in the US.
One thin shekel
A report on the sums spent by the cities and regional councils across the country on their residents confirms what many of us suspected already – that Jerusalem does not expend particularly large amounts of funds on its taxpayers. The audit and financial consultant firm that issues the report every year positions Jerusalem’s residents somewhere in the middle of the list: No. 50 among 75 cities included.
In shekel terms, this means that every resident in Jerusalem benefits from the modest annual sum of NIS 2,318 (compared to the generous NIS 6,737 that Tel Aviv allocates to each resident, for example).
A quick glance at other items in the report reveals the same trend, with Jerusalem in 33rd place among the 75 cities in education, spending NIS 652 per person per year; No. 31 in culture, with NIS 279 budgeted, and No. 37 in welfare, with a sum total of NIS 252.
But perhaps we should rejoice; things could be worse. The report says that Beitar Illit spends an average of a single shekel on each resident each year! These are the sums that come from the city’s budget generated from arnona and other income. They do not include the sums given by the national government. All figures are based on the official annual audit report and the Central Bureau of Statistics.
Tribute to a special woman
Last week, Emunah Jerusalem held an evening tribute to the late Toby Willig, who served the organization both in Israel and the US. The program celebrated Willig’s Zionist zeal and overriding dedication to the State of Israel, which knew no bounds. This was reflected in her 51 years of service to Emunah. Her devotion to her family and others created a bond and she appeared at innumerable celebrations as part of the family. Willig was everyone’s mother, grand - mother, sister and confidante; all knew she loved them unconditionally.
Guest speaker Adv. Philip Morginstin revealed he had studied 250 of her letters published in The Jerusalem Post over the past year or so, quoting from them under headings including Social Awareness; Activism; Politics; Security, etc.
Post Letters Editor Lawrence Rifkin, present at the evening, talked about his close relationship through their regular discussions and admiringly described Toby as erudite, hardly needing any editing, and said he provided Willig a framework in which she could express her ideas, many of which he published. He shared that he had never met Willig personally but had a special category in his filing system from which he could not bring himself to erase Willig’s name.
Many people present agreed that Willig’s letters should in some way be made available to be read by all. The audience was given a minute to close their eyes and imagine one of Willig’s attributes, to perpetuate her memory. Finally, a plaque was unveiled in the entrance lobby of Beit Emunah, in memory of Willig’s years of devoted service to the organization as an Eshet Hayil.
More than words
The Mary Gallery, located on the same floor as the veteran Agrippas 12 Gallery, is launching an interesting new exhibition next week.
“Sands and Holidays” exhibits photos made by asylum seekers from Africa in the city. Some 10 cameras were distributed to African men and women, who were asked to take photos from their daily life and environment – photos of themselves and of what they see and meet around them during a week.
“To see their life through their own eyes,” said Miri Germizo, who initiated the project, and is its artistic director. After she showed the men and women albums of photos taken over the years by celebrated photographs, they were sent to document their own lives though the lenses of the cameras. Germizo believes that the results, which will be on display at the gallery starting Sunday, April 1, will tell the story of people who live among us but are not really part of us.
Candlesticks and stones
The magnificent golden menora that has been on display for the past five years in the Jewish Quarter overlooking the Kotel plaza is changing its location. As work gets under way to build an elevator from the Jewish Quarter level to the Kotel level, the menora has been moved to the square in front of the Hurva Synagogue, deeper inside the quarter. Made of gold, the menora is estimated to be worth about $1.5 million, funded by a donation from Vadim Rabinovitch, who has already approved the location change. It took three days of intensive labor (at a cost of about NIS 500,000) to remove the menora and situate it in its new location, where it will remain until work on the elevator is completed about a year from now.
Agnon is here
A mini-festival of plays based on works by the Nobel Laureate S.Y. Agnon will be presented next week as one of the special pro - grams to mark the 50th anniversary of the Khan Theater. A lecture by Jeffrey Saks on Agnon in the cinema – which will include excerpts from films of Agnon’s stories – will address the special challenges of translating the author’s language for the movies. Tehilla, In the Prime of her Life, and Agnon on Stage and Screen will be presented, with the first two being be performed in Hebrew accompanied by English subtitles. Details and tickets at or (02) 630-3600.
Saving lives in east Jerusalem
Magen David Adom in Jerusalem and its branch in the Sur Bahir neighborhood recently trained paramedics, ambulance drivers and additional staff for various emergency cases. No fewer than 50 new candidates for these teams attended the course twice a week for the past few weeks. The Development of the Negev and Galilee Ministry initiated and financed the course, which enabled additional staff to be added to the city’s emergency services. The class also gave an opportunity to young men and women from the capital’s Arab sector to take part in this important activity.