This week in Jerusalem: Ready for 2022

A round-up of city affairs

 The municipal budget includes a nice sum for bike paths (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
The municipal budget includes a nice sum for bike paths
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The Finance Committee has approved the municipality’s budget for 2022, which is NIS 12.6 billion (it was NIS 12.3b. in 2021, up from NIS 11.2b. in 2020). This includes the current budget (NIS 7.64b.) and the supplementary (special infrastructure projects) budget at NIS 5b., which are both similar to 2021. 

Some highlights: The education budget is NIS 3.19b., with an additional NIS 3 million for youth activities in the neighborhoods; the budget for heritage activities and education will be NIS 5m.; the community local councils administrations will be renovated with a budget of NIS 5m.; the fall-prevention project (for senior residents) will continue to operate and will stand at NIS 7m.; the development of the City of David was budgeted at NIS 2m.; youth movements received NIS 2.5m.; NIS 61m. will be dedicated to bicycle paths and NIS 30m. will be allocated to outfit the city with green lighting (LED); the culture budget stands at NIS 400m.; the fight to stop violence against women received NIS 1.2m.; NIS 180m. will be used for street upgrades; NIS 50m. for preschool upgrades; NIS 65m. was given to the sanitation budget; NIS 600,000 will go for neighborhood sports events; and last but not least, NIS 700,000 for summer events.

Obscene acts in the city

Jerusalem pianist Yefim Gelman has been accused of committing indecent acts on three students. According to the indictment, during a lesson, Gelman asked a male resident of an Arab neighborhood, to strip and expose himself, but the student refused. 

In the second charge, Gelman is accused of committing indecent acts on another student he taught at Tzur Hadassah. “At one point the defendant began stroking the student’s hand and then led the student’s palm under his pants. The student stopped playing but the defendant did not stop until he reached sexual satisfaction.” According to the indictment, Gelman asked that student to remain quiet and to avoid revealing what happened. The third charge states that Gelman harassed another student he taught, this time a girl. Gelman is accused of having taken her left palm and placing it on his genitals. 

SEXUAL ABUSE cases must be brought to light and addressed by rabbinic and community authorities. (credit: PIXABAY)SEXUAL ABUSE cases must be brought to light and addressed by rabbinic and community authorities. (credit: PIXABAY)

In a different circumstance, municipal employees claimed that during a trip organized by the Jerusalem District Branch of the Histadrut labor federation to Eilat, a senior employee kissed a female employee in public (while he was apparently intoxicated) without her consent. The woman’s boyfriend, who saw it happen, got angry and a clash ensued. Staff who were also present reacted angrily, pushing and shouting at each other.

The municipality, which was informed about the incident, promised the employees involved that the case would be referred to the Committee for the Prevention of Sexual Harassment, and yet another brawl ensued. A senior official present at the scene tried to mediate between the parties and indeed managed to prevent a further escalation. It is important to note that the law for the prevention of sexual harassment is stricter in the event that the harassment was committed at work and as part of an employment relationship. The law imposes a responsibility on the employer to prevent sexual harassment in the course of work.

Hamiflezet back in the crosshairs

A large construction project planned for the Bezeq complex on Henrietta Szold Street in Kiryat Hayovel has been halted by the haredi representatives in the local planning and construction committee. What stands behind their opposition is Hamiflezet pub, still operating in a temporary tent since 2016, which is considered illegal due to lack of a building permit. Supporters of the drinking establishment claim that since it is a temporary structure, there is no need to issue a permit for it. The haredi representatives are putting pressure on the municipality, which is interested in promoting the large construction plan that is planned to be built near the pub, although there is no connection between the two. If the municipality finally sanctions the bar for operating out of an illegal structure, it may be evicted – a threat that drew angry reactions from representatives of the opposition at city council.

Who let the barriers out?

Barriers set up by the municipality to prevent cars blocking sidewalks on Ein Gedi Street were removed within a short time, with Safra Square claiming it was done according to residents’ requests. The bollards have been removed on the corner of Ein Gedi and Koreh Hadorot, just one day after being installed by the municipality. Drivers who park vehicles on the sidewalk on Ein Gedi Street bother pedestrians, especially parents with baby carriages and the disabled, who are forced to go on the road. Because enforcement was lax, it was decided to place barriers to physically prevent parking on sidewalks. Some of them were taken off, albeit repositioned by the municipality. According to residents at the local council administration, they were removed to allow some parking on sidewalks while also allowing pedestrian traffic. 

Free Jerusalem 

According to the Israel Hofsheet movement’s annual municipal freedom index, Jerusalem fell to 20th place, a decrease of four places, with its overall score being 27% freedom. The index, published earlier this week, says the Jerusalem Municipality does not care enough about the city’s secular and liberal public. Israel Hofsheet notes that “the capital of Israel is not the capital of freedom and the situation seems to be getting worse year by year... More than the solution, the municipality is part of the problem,” conclude the researchers. According to the index, in the Shabbat Public Transportation category, Jerusalem received 3 out of 17. “Taxis to Tel Aviv throughout Shabbat operate without the participation of the municipality.” As for the Shabbat Shopping Category, the city received a score of 9 out of 15, as there are restaurants in the city center that operate on Saturday, even if only a few. As for the Religious Affairs Budget category, the city received 4 out of 13, with the Holy City dedicating 0.94% of its total budget to religious affairs. 

For comparison, Tel Aviv’s was 0.54%, while Bnei Brak’s was 2.58%.