This Week in Jerusalem: Light rail decision draws heavy opposition

Peggy Cidor's round-up of city affairs.

Yehudit Rail Station in Tel Aviv under construction (photo credit: NTA)
Yehudit Rail Station in Tel Aviv under construction
(photo credit: NTA)
Light rail decision draws heavy opposition
Following three days of debate, the Jerusalem Planning and Construction district sub-committee has decided to route the new Blue Line through the German’s Colony main artery – Emek Refaim Street – much to the dismay of many residents and business owners. Most of the debate focused on damages the segment will cause to local businesses – damages that some say cannot even be calculated or estimated by the committee.
“However,” said Mordechai Avraham, a local business leader, “this is far from being the end of the game.” According to the residents’ association, which opposes the route, there is still a long way to go before the Blue Line construction begins and things still look favorable for the opposition, whose next steps include turning to the national planning and construction committee (which is above the sub-committee that decided this week). They also want the City Council to review each of the relevant decisions made by former mayor Nir Barkat. In their view, Barkat bypassed appropriate rules by submitting the issue to the subcommittee on the very last day of his tenure.
Meanwhile, the new president of the local planning and construction committee, Eliezer Rauchberger (Degel haTorah), has ruled that none of the projects or issues concerning construction plans in the city can be submitted to the district committee (including its sub-committees) before being submitted and debated at his committee. If so, debate on this issue should be brought back to the Jerusalem local council before any further steps are taken.
Dome residents expressed disappointment in Mayor Moshe Lion’s position. During the campaign, Lion said he was in favor of reconsidering the district committee’s decision to run the Blue Line through Emek Refaim. However, as one activist said, “Since he has been elected, Lion has avoided the issue.”
Back-street women
Mayor Moshe Lion and representatives of secular lists at city council protested and pledged to prevent gender segregation in public spaces, it but attempts to impose it are still going on. Residents report that the Har Hatzvi Synagogue in Geula (close to Mea She’arim) has two large signs indicating separate walkways for men and women in order to prevent “too-close mingling” between the genders.
This is not the first time such a thing has been noted in that part of Geula, mostly during 2011-2012. At city council, where no fewer than 17 seats belong to haredi representatives, it seems the issue will not be debated, although no one there of them has officially expressed support for the signage. The official reaction of the Jerusalem Municipality is that the signs will be removed.
Selective cleaning
A garbage war has erupted in the narrow streets of the shuk. A group of merchants in the “Iraqi Shuk” section reportedly attacked municipal sanitation workers for some reason two weeks ago. According to one of the merchants, tensions reached a boiling point over the issue of whose responsibility it is to clean large cardboards boxes from the alleys.
Two sanitation workers were apparently physically attacked by some of the merchants. Damages were limited, but the reaction was swift. The sanitation workers committee announced that they would no longer clean this part of the shuk. In less than a week, the place has begun to look bad, with garbage spread around, unpleasant odors and difficult access for the public.
There is no current president for the merchants association, as Nino Peretz quit the position a month ago, so the situation is worsening by day. “There is no one to talk to in order to reach a solution,” one sanitation worker said. Peretz, who still hasn’t decided if he will run again, has nevertheless noted that there are efforts by the new administration at Safra Square to ameliorate the situation and problems should be solved in a respectful way, never by using violence. Meanwhile, garbage and filth continue to plague the narrow alleys.
Marching for diversity
A surprising decision was made at the Jerusalem Open House: the Gay Pride parade will take place in the streets of Jerusalem with the full cooperation of the Tel Aviv Municipality. The date chosen was June 6 (also the date when First Lebanon War began), and it is expected to be the largest such march ever held in the capital. During the municipal elections campaign, then-candidate Lion repeatedly said he supported the LGBT community’s rights but would never join the march itself, as it does not fit his personal way of life and beliefs.