This week in Jerusalem: Brave Latinos

Your weekly round-up of city affairs.

 JERUSALEM JAVA: Not on Shabbat? (Illustrative). (photo credit: YAHAV GAMLIEL/FLASH90)
JERUSALEM JAVA: Not on Shabbat? (Illustrative).
(photo credit: YAHAV GAMLIEL/FLASH90)

Brave Latinos

Despite Omicron, 30 Jewish schoolteachers from across Latin America beat the ban and entered the country to complete an advanced education training course in Jerusalem. Earlier this week, the group – which included teachers from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Panama – managed to obtain permission to enter Israel in December, in order to complete their 18-month advanced teacher-training course and receive a teaching certificate from the Education Ministry. Some participants needed to travel to the US to receive a third COVID shot that was not available to them in their own country, while course organizer Rabbi Shmuel Kornblit spent hours liaising with the Health Ministry to obtain their travel permits to enter Israel. 

The Rimonim International Teacher Training Program is a joint project by the Diaspora Affairs Ministry, Education Ministry and Herzog College, through the UnitEd project for training Jewish studies teachers from the Diaspora. Of the initial 40 students who planned to complete the course through an intensive one-month program in Israel, only 30 were able to enter the country and graduate, but there are already 20 more students planning to come to Israel in July. 

The Spanish-speaking educators from diverse backgrounds spent three weeks visiting historic sites and completing course projects relating to biblical history and Zionism. Over the past 18 months they have each invested 900 hours of work, alongside their full-time teaching commitments in Jewish schools, taking courses in Hebrew, Bible, Oral Law, Jewish Thought, Zionism and Digital Pedagogy. Participant Miriam Guindi from Mexico’s Magen David School said: “Some of the courses have helped me to broaden what I teach and enhanced my own Jewish identity.” Diaspora Minister Nachman Shai, whose ministry hosts the project, declared at the ceremony marking the opening of the course that he is proud to head an office which recognizes the importance of teachers in the Jewish world, and invests time and resources in their professional development.

A city under construction

 IN AN unsurprising move, more towers are set to go up in Jerusalem. (credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90) IN AN unsurprising move, more towers are set to go up in Jerusalem. (credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90)

More towers will dot the capital’s urban landscape: The municipality has approved a plan for the construction of a new residential area in the southern aqueduct complex, located south of Kibbutz Ramat Rachel, west of the Tzur Baher neighborhood, north of Shmuel Meir Avenue and east of the Katisma archaeological site. The project has been approved by the local planning and construction committee, since its location near the light rail line that will pass through Hebron Road enables the already approved large plan to build towers along the light rail path. 

The plan is for 1,215 housing units, including 250 housing units for sheltered housing for seniors; towers will run from 11 to 28 stories. Also in this large project – open spaces and nine plots for public buildings and institutions, which include a post-primary school, an elementary school, kindergartens and a sports hall. The next step is to recommend to the District Committee the submission of this new plan for approval. 

Hallelujah

Piyut and Nigun is an organization founded 20 years ago in Jerusalem, aiming to make the experience of listening and acknowledgement of piyutim, the liturgy of the Sephardic Jews across the centuries. The Piyut experience with its various components – music, text, ritual and communality – has become a shared legacy for diverse audiences throughout the country over the years. In recognition, Piyut’s Kehilot Sharot (from the Hebrew “singing communities”) won the 2016 Flegg Award from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 

How it works: Groups meet on a weekly basis throughout the year, learning and experiencing a vast variety of traditions from Andalusia to Babylon, Yemen to Turkey, as well as Hassidism, becoming a community. Currently, the Jerusalem young adults community for Piyut resumes its weekly meetings every Monday at 8:15 p.m. starting January 22, at the Terminal in the First Station. Participation is conditional on pre-registration; space is limited. For details and registration: www.kehilotsharot.org.il

Shabbos coffee

Is the municipality preventing Jerusalemites from enjoying a cup of coffee on Shabbat in the recently opened coffee shops in some of the city’s urban parks? In an open letter, the Hitorerut opposition members of city council called upon Mayor Moshe Lion to refrain from enabling this decision, dictated, they believe, by the haredi members of Lion’s coalition. “We, religious and secular residents of the city, demand from the mayor not to violate the status quo and allow the opening of cafes on Saturdays,” wrote Hitorerut in the letter, adding that the closure of places of entertainment on Shabbat is pushing the secular population out of Jerusalem to a variety of cities where the supply of leisure and entertainment on Shabbat is immeasurably greater than in Jerusalem. Overall, it is to the detriment of the city. Ofer Berkovitch, president of the list, added that while Jerusalemites have always been accustomed to living under the message that neither the feelings nor the needs of any population should be harmed – this is also true when it comes to the secular population, he pledged that he and his movement are here to preserve “the Jerusalem of us all – even on Saturday.”

Hold your card

Jerusalem Card holders now have new benefits for purchasing a subscription to Europe, the franchisee of the municipal bicycle venture, to encourage the use of bicycles throughout the city. The project, in collaboration with Eden – the Municipal Economic Development Company, will entitle cardholders to a 50% discount from the list price on the purchase of an annual/three-month subscription, as well as a gift voucher for a 30-minute introductory ride at no cost on a manual or electric bicycle. As part of the benefit, the cost of the annual subscription will be just NIS 180, while the three-month subscription will cost NIS 66 – as compared to the full price of NIS 360 for an annual subscription and NIS 132 for a three-month subscription. 

It should be noted that Jerusalem Card holders already enjoy a 25% discount on the price of various subscriptions. Launched last July, thousands of trips have been made each month. Today, 200 bicycles are deployed at 25 docking stations, and more stations are expected to be set up throughout the city in the coming year. For more details: jerufun.co.il/yerushalmicardholders/

Remembering

A memorial hall on Mount Herzl for the victims of hostilities will be built within two years, pledged Welfare Minister MK Meir Cohen last week at a meeting of the Labor and Welfare Committee, which discussed the commemoration of the victims of hostilities and the treatment of their families. Cohen explained there was a difficult struggle in establishing the memorial site on Mount Herzl, since the Defense Ministry insisted that access to the site not pass through the military cemetery. 

The estimated cost of the site will be NIS 1–2 million per year, with Finance Ministry approval already been guaranteed. It will be operated by the National Insurance Institute and will serve as the resting place on Mount Herzl for 4,160 victims, as well as a center for commemoration and publicity.

Save my hill

This past Tuesday more than 170 objections, filed to the District Committee against the construction of a police compound on verdant Lupine Hill, overlooking East Talpiot, were debated. Hundreds of residents and environmental activists joined together to prevent the project. Later on the Local Planning and Construction Committee – backed by a change in the mayor’s position – which originally decided to reject most of the objections, finally adopted a reduced scope of the construction. The planned police station will have three separate buildings on close to 0.5 hectares (1.2 acres). 

Meanwhile, and despite a large coalition of opponents, the construction plan for the Carmit complex in Ein Kerem was approved last week. The District Committee presented the decision to approve the project as a “balanced project as required between construction and the green lung of Jerusalem.” The project will allow another 1,000 housing units to be built in the city. 

Coronavirus report

The number of coronavirus patients in Jerusalem is climbing, and in just over a day more than 4,000 new patients were infected throughout the city. The percentage of positive tests stands at 16% (for the past week) significantly higher than the national figure of 7%. As of Monday morning, there are 18,672 Jerusalemites with coronavirus. All hospitals in the western part of the city have reported an increase in the number of patients and the number of patients in critical condition. 

At Hadassah University Medical Center, Ein Kerem 52 patients are hospitalized in the two coronavirus wards, which have reached full occupancy. Among them there are four patients in critical condition and 15 in severe condition. At Herzog Medical Center, 43 patients are hospitalized in two coronavirus wards; 15 of them are defined as in severe condition.

The road and the tunnel

Good news for residents of Gush Etzion and the surrounding area: on the night between Monday and Tuesday earlier this week, the large tunnel on Tunnels Road was breached by the Moriah Company, representing an important milestone toward ending the traffic jams. The road between Gush Etzion and Jerusalem currently has only one lane per side with no shoulders, causing huge traffic jams throughout most of the day. This road currently serves all residents of Gush Etzion, Betar Illit, Efrat, Kiryat Arba, Hebron, Tzur Hadassah, Mevo Betar and Mateh Yehuda, who travel to and from Jerusalem.