Whose victory is it anyway?

When the wave of terrorism began two weeks ago, it took some time for all parties involved to draw a clear line of action in reply.

Mayor Nir Barkat speaks to border police last week (photo credit: FACEBOOK)
Mayor Nir Barkat speaks to border police last week
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)
Sunday morning the official statement at Safra Square was a firm and adamant stand to go on strike at all of the educational institutions, in response to the lack of supplementary safety budgets.
Sunday evening – through the mysterious ways of politics – resources were (miraculously!) found and approved, and the strike was canceled even before it began. Someone obviously blinked first, and everything – well, almost everything – is back to normal.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat’s announcement that, due to the current situation, he wouldn’t open schools and kindergartens as long as the government did not finance additional hours for security revealed further areas of interest.
One issue that has become a hot topic at Safra Square is who led the campaign for more security vigils? There are, at the moment, no fewer than three pretenders to the crown – Barkat; the Jerusalem parents’ association and its president, Paz Cohen; and Deputy Mayor Ofer Berkowitz and his Hitorerut movement.
It’s not that only one of these really cared about the security of Jerusalem’s pupils from kindergartens to high schools and took action, while the others only mumbled – it’s just the familiar syndrome of too many parents of one success story.
The issue of safety at educational institutions in the city comes up every time there is a deterioration of security. The events of the last two weeks have brought the city back to a situation similar to that of the riots and events of last year.
And that is exactly the worst nightmare of Barkat, who has been working diligently to promote the city as a center of culture, leisure and business as usual. Everybody here knows that this image of the city is a fragile one – weeks of successful cultural events and plenty of restaurants and coffee shops and cinemas open (including on Shabbat) can be overshadowed in an instant by a single stabbing anywhere in the city.
Everybody was aware of this, yet when the wave of terrorism began two weeks ago, it took some time for all parties involved to draw a clear line of action in reply.
Barkat is quick to react; he has a track record of excellent instincts in hazardous situations.
Carrying a weapon (lawfully, of course), he chose to show up immediately at every site of a stabbing. He declared that Jerusalem’s residents who own weapons should carry them and be ready to use them, and then he announced that he would close schools and kindergartens if the government didn’t provide resources for additional security vigils. It took only a few days for the government to admit that security for the children of Jerusalem was not something it could just ignore, and to provide funds. So, in a way, Barkat won. But what a Pyrrhic victory it is! The sight of a mayor walking the streets armed, his call for residents to carry their weapons when going outside and the threat to close educational institutions had one sad result: they all conveyed an image of a Jerusalem struggling for its survival, attacked from all sides, hardly capable of holding on in the face of this wave of terrorism. Exactly the image that this mayor and his assistants – and most of the city’s residents – have been trying so hard to prevent in public opinion around the country and overseas.
Barkat is not responsible for this new wave of violence. He has been working hard these past several years to drastically improve – for the first time in 46 years of Israeli presence in the east side of the city – the infrastructure, conditions and quality of life of the Arab sector. But his reactions have sent a very wrong message.
For those who do not live here, and are not experiencing the extraordinary quantity of cultural events (not to mention their quality) the number of restaurants, coffee shops, galleries, cinemas and events that are taking place despite the situation – the declarations of the mayor were counterproductive.
Taking the light rail, going to a coffee shop and sitting at its terrace and visiting the Old City (without his gun) would have better served the interests of this city.
But there is still time to change the mood – and hopefully, meanwhile, things will calm down.