This week in Jerusalem: Happy house

A weekly round-up of city affairs.

 WILL TALBIYEH'S verdant Rose Garden be the site of a cafe? (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
WILL TALBIYEH'S verdant Rose Garden be the site of a cafe?
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Happy house

Are Jerusalemites going to gain some advantage in the long and costly process of acquiring an apartment in the Holy City? It seems the Construction and Housing Ministry and the Israel Land Authority are aware of that urgent need and have launched a project in that direction. An apartment plan – of 30,000 housing units offered at significant discounts for young and homeless couples – will be offered to eligible people in the coming year, as part of various affordable housing programs. In the first round, about 10,000 housing units are expected to be advertised, and the first lotteries are expected to take place before Passover. In Jerusalem, 731 apartments will be offered in 2022, with 468 of these in the first lottery. This new project is a combination of “price per occupant,” “reduced price” and new “target price” plans. To be eligible for the project, residents have to register at the ministry site.

Shaky house

Recent data published by the Builders of the Land Association reveals that no less than 180,000 apartments in Jerusalem are unprotected from an earthquake. Considering that recently, three light and mild earthquakes occurred in the North, this information adds to the worries of many. It turns out that the number of residential apartments in Jerusalem exposed to danger in the event of a loud quake is the highest among Israeli cities. Despite the Tama38 project launched a few years ago by the government exactly for that purpose of strengthening building in the capital, only 2,338 permits have been issued for it so far. On top of it, the Tama 38 project – to strengthen buildings against earthquakes, to strengthen an existing structure or to pinui-binui (literally, evacuate-construction of a tower) – is set to end soon and so far no alternative plan has been approved.

 INSIDE THE perplexing Clal Building, with its many staircases to nowhere, 2009. (credit: Wikimedia Commons) INSIDE THE perplexing Clal Building, with its many staircases to nowhere, 2009. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Save my garden

Who needs a café in the middle of a quiet and beautiful garden in the city? The municipality wants to put such a café in the heart of the Talbiyeh neighborhood, in the Rose Garden, as part of a larger plan to install cafés in several municipal gardens. This garden – full of rosebushes as per its name – was established in the 1930s, and it is said that in the State of Israel’s early years, heads of state used to hold official ceremonies and receptions there. The Rose Garden is about .06 hectares (6 dunams), designed by architect Elimelech Admoni and renovated in 1992 by architects Deborah and Jeff Remez.

Since the municipal announcement of this plan, neighborhood residents through the Ginot Ha’ir local council are divided on the matter. The paths, benches and surrounding vegetation are reminiscent of gardens in major European cities, and it is an authentic Jerusalem bubble in which many find a soothing refuge throughout the week, argue opponents. Yet another argument of opponents is that just a few minutes walk from the garden, one can enjoy a variety of eateries either at the First Station complex or on Rehavia’s Azza Road. 

Others believe a café inside the garden could be a very nice initiative. The Ginot Ha’ir administration recently published their arguments in favor of establishing it, as part of a survey called Café in the Rose Garden – Pros and Cons. 

Light and environment

All Jerusalem lighting systems will be replaced with advanced LED lighting by decision of the municipality. This will save energy, but will it also fit the need to save the environment? As part of the plan, by 2023 – incidentally the year of the next mayoral elections – about 15,000 lighting fixtures in Jerusalem will be replaced with cost-effective LED lighting. This lighting includes a unique control and management system that will enable fast and efficient handling of faults and will even form the infrastructure for smart city technologies. 

The lighting replacement budget was approved after the preparation of a comprehensive plan presented to the various government ministries. According to Safra Square findings, this investment will streamline municipal expenditures on maintenance and electricity and reduce them by 50%-60%. 

Additional benefits to this venture are lighting quality, increased road safety and environmental protection. Mayor Moshe Lion noted that “replacing the systems will reduce municipal spending, improve the quality and safety of lighting and help us preserve the environment.”

Awareness Day

Earlier this week, the National Awareness Day for the use of defibrillators was held in on 2/22/22. In Jerusalem, this was promoted by the transport company Electra Afikim to raise public awareness for the use of a defibrillator as a lifesaving device in a campaign to place defibrillators in public places and to show how simple they are to use.

Golden hands

The municipality is promoting teams of active retirees and entrepreneurs in sustainability fields such as urban agriculture, practical carpentry, food security and beekeeping; granting retirees an opportunity to acquire new skills and engage in interesting activities. The municipality promoted this project, which also helps preserve the environment and improves both the quality of life in the city and for retirees. 

The activity will take place at Muslala – a Jerusalem-based creative community located in the Clal Building (more on that below) uniting activists and entrepreneurs in the city, with each team expected to go out on a volunteer day of social action and activities appropriate to the training received, recruit additional active retirees for it and initiate projects and services for the benefit of other veteran residents. The project, which is promoted through the Welfare and Society Departments and in collaboration with Pais and Migdal, will be launched in March. 

To register, contact: Rony Spiltnik – (02) 546-8734, [email protected]; and Yonit Movshovitz – [email protected]

Here they are 

It took almost a year, but the orange bins for recycling garbage are in town. According to the agreement between the municipality and the Tamir agency, within five years, at least 90% of city households will have access to an orange bin next to a green bin. In the first phase, about 2,000 orange cans will be deployed throughout the city, which will be provided by the Tamir Corporation as an immediate response to the public in light of the removal of recycling from the public space, with the extension of the deposit law for large beverage containers. 

In parallel, information will be provided by the municipality and the Tamir Corporation to all residents, including schools, with special instructions on how to empty the containers. Mayor Lion stated, “The layout of the containers is another tool for preserving the environment and recycling packaging, along with the special Grint plant that sorts and separates all types of Jerusalem waste. The orange containers in Jerusalem will also have modern sensors that display the container’s capacity... I call on all the residents to join the global environmental revolution and influence our future.” The agreement will be submitted to city council for approval at their next meeting.

Marching with the Torah

Are we reaching a physical confrontation at the Western Wall Plaza next week? Judging by the declarations of several haredi MKs, this could happen then as a delegation of Reform rabbis coming from the US plans to march, holding Torah scrolls, to the plaza. 

A delegation of senior Reform rabbis will arrive in Jerusalem to meet with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on the issue of the Western Wall arrangement. The rabbis announced they will hold a huge march with Torah scrolls prior to the meeting, this Shabbat. MK Yitzhak Pindrus has already announced that all haredi Knesset members will come to the Western Wall to prevent them from entering the plaza with Torah scrolls. Stay tuned.

Jerusalem labyrinth

The Clal Building, in the center of Jaffa Road, includes a first-floor commercial center that was the first attempt to establish an indoor shopping center in Jerusalem, even before the concept of a mall was introduced in Israel. With its 15 floors characterized by modern architecture, located between Davidka Square and Agrippas Street, it was relatively innovative in the 1970s. Designed by architect Dan Eitan, who himself declared it one of his least successful works, the Clal Center was described by David Kroyanker – one of the most important architects and restorers of central Jerusalem – as an architectural failure. But over the years, Clal Center became famous for its labyrinth accesses, as visitors and customers couldn’t find their way between the stories of elevators which took one across winding passages to get to where they wanted to be.

As if that were not enough, visitors found out recently that with so many entrances, half-floors and hallways, now it has gotten even more complicated. “The floors have all been renumbered and a modern elevator system installed,” reported Shimshon Sam Leshinsky on the Secret Jerusalem Facebook group to much amusement, and added that overnight seven floors were added without building anything, “turning the whole thing into what could be the biggest escape room on earth.” As a result of these changes, the entrance is now the third floor. The top 14th floor is now the 21st floor. The second floor is now the ninth floor and it goes without saying, lots of people are walking around confused. 

And last but not least, Clal Building has been renamed the Clal Tower, now that seven more floors have been added, even though nothing new was built.