This week in Jerusalem: Problematic greeting

“It has exacerbated the already bad atmosphere between parties in the haredi sector,” commented a city council source from the haredi benches. Porush has not yet issued a statement on the topic.

Rabbi Eliezer Berland (left), a convicted sex offender. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Rabbi Eliezer Berland (left), a convicted sex offender.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
In a photo that rapidly went viral in haredi social networks recently, former deputy mayor and current Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush (Agudat Yisrael faction of United Torah Judaism) appears to be greeting convicted sex offender Rabbi Eliezer Berland at a Berland family wedding. Porush – a leading hassidic personality and one-time mayoral candidate who backed Yossi Daitch this year – angered many by appearing publicly at Berland’s side.
“It has exacerbated the already bad atmosphere between parties in the haredi sector,” commented a city council source from the haredi benches. Porush has not yet issued a statement on the topic.

No entrance for Egged
The Transportation Ministry seems to have terminated the special status that Egged has long enjoyed in Jerusalem. Following last month’s decision to end the company’s monopoly in its urban lines by adding 42 new lines to be operated by other companies, Egged has now been barred from the tender on operating the city’s next light rail lines.
While Egged representatives have been invited by the ministry to a hearing, ministry sources confirm that Egged will not be taking part in the tender.
Private companies are invited to submit their proposals for the operation and maintenance of the Jerusalem’s new blue and green light rail lines, now in advanced stages of planning.

Tear down this wall!
Following a traffic incident last week, City Councilman Arieh King is proposing to demolish at least part of the Old City walls, arguing they are remnants of the Arabian reign of Suleiman the Magnificent – a remnant that today’s sovereign Israel does not need in the Holy City. In the incident, a garbage truck got stuck in Dung Gate, blocking traffic and causing minor damage to the structure.
King, who is part of the city council coalition and will become deputy mayor in a rotation procedure in 2021, noted on his Facebook page that demolishing the wall does not impact any religious site or any party’s sovereignty, but rather is an act intended to address an urban nuisance. He added that the presence of the wall produces a sense of partition in the city, and hence it is better to take it off.
While this proposal raises some concern among archeologists and others who care about preserving the special character of the city and its antiquities, it is worth noting that King is not the first prominent personality to suggest removing the Old City walls. This is exactly what David Ben-Gurion proposed a few weeks after the end of the Six Day War.
Ben-Gurion’s idea was not accepted and it seems that King’s proposal will meet with the same fate.

Running in the rain
The sixth annual relay race from the First Station to Eilat kicked off this week, to raise attention and funds for Afikim. Key stats: 36 hours of race and 60 runners who will run 370 kilometers – in the wind, rain and cold, for the benefit of the children supported by the Afikim association.
Afikim was created to address the enormous child poverty crisis in Israel. Families are kept intact rather than going to foster care, with hot meals, tutoring, counseling and programing ensuring that youth are given the tools to become successful members of Israeli society.
There is also a track for program graduates, who after their IDF service, return to the community and join the staff to help the “next generation” of children. The personal example of those who started at the same difficult point and managed to overcome the obstacles instills confidence in the children that they, too, can achieve their dreams. Most of the work is done with children and their families who are newcomers from FSU and Ethiopia, and includes help with homework, private lessons in schools in the afternoons and cultural activities.
Rabbi Benny Lau, a major Afikim supporter, has decided to join the runners this year, at least for a part of the race. This year’s race is in memory of Sari Rubinstein, after whom the most recently opened Afikim center (in Talpiot) is named. The center was dedicated by her parents, Supreme Court justice Elyakim Rubinstein and his wife. A nonprofit recognized by the Education Ministry, Afikim enjoys the support of a range of Jewish communities is North America and in France.
For more info on the association and the race: www.run4afikim.org

No fun and games
For more than six months, their complaints to the municipality have remained unanswered, so a number of residents, mostly from the Rehavia and Nahlaot neighborhoods, have decided to turn to the media. Their complaints focus on the poor maintenance of the sports complex in Gan Sacher, which has become a real nuisance, they say. Problems such as lack of lighting and cleaning, broken flooring and inadequate equipment have reached a level that they say prevents safe use of the sports complex there. Half a year has elapsed since they first contacted authorities, but nothing has been done to improve the situation as of yet.

Construction ahead
Rabbis and others who live and work in the neighborhoods around the city’s entrance express serious concern that the municipality’s extensive, ambitious project there will disrupt their way of life. The plan calls for a large business complex, hotels and offices that will completely change the character of the entrance to Jerusalem, which is extremely close to haredi neighborhoods such as Romema and Geula. A group has published a call to oppose the plan before it becomes a reality. However, the submitted plan has cleared practically all stages of review and approval, so it is not evident how anything can be changed at this point, despite the political influence of the affected haredi sectors.