This week in Jerusalem: Farewell to two giants

Your weekly roundup of city affairs.

 MIRIAM NAOR at the helm of the Meron Disaster Inquiry Committee, in Jerusalem on August 30.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
MIRIAM NAOR at the helm of the Meron Disaster Inquiry Committee, in Jerusalem on August 30.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Jerusalem recently bid farewell to two icons: Eliezer Schweid and Miriam Naor. Schweid was a scholar, writer and professor of Jewish philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He was also a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. 

Schweid, who was awarded the Israel Prize in Jewish thought in 1994, died on January 18 at age 92. He recalled that as a soldier during the War of Independence he was shocked at the sight of Arab civilians being deported from Lod and several other localities, but said he could understand why Israel must remain the nation-state of the Jewish people. 

Naor was president of the Supreme Court from January 2015 to October 2017, retiring upon reaching the mandatory judicial retirement age of 70. On Monday, she died at age 74. She was in the midst of an investigation into the Meron disaster and chaired the state commission of inquiry where, one day before her death, she still sat on the interrogator’s chair and listened to the evidence. But according to those there, she looked particularly weak.

Earlier this week, Naor was notified by Mayor Moshe Lion that she had been chosen to receive, on Jerusalem Day, the prestigious Yakirat Yerushalayim (Worthy Citizen of Jerusalem) award. Her family will receive the distinction in her name.

For our youth

The Finance Committee at City Council has approved the establishment of a youth club in Ma’aleh Hazeitim, a Jewish neighborhood on the Mount of Olives. At first sight, this might sound like the best way to invest taxpayers’ money; however, the fact that Deputy Mayor Arieh King lives there has roused the suspicion of Councilwoman Laura Wharton, who demanded to check how and why the project was approved there, while several other neighborhoods haven’t obtained the same so far. 

The budget approved for this club is NIS 4 million, which is not a big sum for the city’s nearly NIS 13 billion budget, but the issue raised by Wharton is the priority given to the relatively small Jewish neighborhood.

“The parents should think of such things before they settle in a place foreign to them,” said Wharton. “They should consider whether it is right for 100 families to move to a neighborhood of 30,000 [Arab] residents, with a severe shortage of classrooms and kindergartens, without a community center or even a playground, of course without youth clubs or senior centers – and require a closed club for their children only. This is insolence and malice, suitable for those who believe in a higher race.” 

King responded: “In the Ras al-Amud neighborhood, there is a club for Arab youth about 200 meters from the place designated for a community building and a youth club for Jewish residents in the Mount of Olives area. The distress in which the Jewish youth find themselves is a result of Muslim violence and terror directed against them by their neighbors, and this prevents them from moving freely and safely to the Jewish Quarter, where there are services that suit them.

“In addition, as the holder of the Community Administration portfolio, I promoted a plan to build a 5,000-sq.m. complex in Ras al-Amud, for the benefit of residents, a community center that includes a youth club, schools and youth activities in the afternoons and evenings.”

Hold the line

Not specifically for Jerusalemites, but still an important thing to know: The exemption from waiting in line has been extended by a government decision, which means that about 480,000 more people are now entitled to it. The new regulation includes those with a mental disability, autism, the blind, Holocaust survivors, victims of hostilities, those receiving a nursing benefit and mobility-disabled children. Stay safe and keep a distance. 

Where are the children?

Forty years after its opening, is one of the city’s most established educational institutions closing? At least based on the last requirement of the Education Administration at Safra Square (Manhi), this is what awaits the Givat Gonen Elementary School. 

According to parents of students there, Manhi has told them to look for at least 21 new first-grade students to ensure the continuation of the school. The time given to find these new students is only 10 days – making the whole move even less realistic, complain the parents. Without new student registrations, the school that has been operating in the Katamonim neighborhood for four decades will simply close down. 

The lack of new students registering for first grade is not a new issue there – it already happened last year, when not a single child from the neighborhood registered, and though low registration at public secular schools is not a new issue in the city, in this case there is more.

Two years ago, Manhi decided to open another school in Gonenim, one with a totally different educational style, and officially, the administration declared they wanted to give an opportunity to the new Ya’ar School, hence encouraging registration first to the new school.

While officially it was clarified that Ya’ar would operate next to the old school and not in its place, parents of students registered at Gonenim feel they have been misled, as their school is now threatened with closure while the new institution is open to children from outside the neighborhood. 

Get some help

Are you or a family member caring for a parent or elderly spouse and facing difficulties? According to a Central Bureau of Statistics survey, more than one million people are caring for one or more senior relatives. For those people, the municipality has an answer. 

Carers face a multitude of different tasks and roles, most of which combine caring for their aging parents, their children and sometimes even their grandchildren, and their work and other obligations. The burden placed on them in routine and emergency situations creates stressful situations that affect many aspects of their lives: health, emotional, family, social and economic. 

Thus the municipality decided to develop some innovative and groundbreaking solutions. These services include: Providing preliminary and relevant information to carers; personal and family support provided through social workers; joint work with the Rights Center to find out what is available, since so often persons are not aware of their rights, which operate on behalf of the municipality; workshops for carers to prevent burnout and find meaning in treatment, to provide tools for better communication among family members, to impart skills that can help family members caring for dementia patients and more; and support groups, which enable a dialogue about struggles that arise during treatment. The various services are available throughout the city, open to the general public and are free. 

For more details and to receive information and updates, contact the municipal service for family members caring for veteran residents at [email protected] or via WhatsApp at 053-763-9620.

Renovating Herzl

The municipality’s Local Planning and Construction Committee has granted initial approval a plan for the construction of a new entrance complex at the Mount Herzl national site, located beside the historic seven gates and north of the existing Herzl Museum building. The renovation will include a new entrance complex, while preserving and integrating into the historic gate structure. In addition, about 2,100 sq.m. will be used as a visitor center, classrooms, an auditorium, exhibition space and offices. The plan is based on a winning bid in a public architectural competition to design the entrance plaza. As the Mount Herzl site is located near the light rail line, at the municipality there is expectation that the renovated complex will allow easy access for visitors.