This week in Jerusalem: Yemenite protest

A weekly round-up of city affairs.

 ‘ASBESTOS VALLEY’ origins: A family of new immigrants move into one of the huts at a Ma’abara, near Tel Aviv.  (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
‘ASBESTOS VALLEY’ origins: A family of new immigrants move into one of the huts at a Ma’abara, near Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Yemenite protest

Residents of the old area in Ein Kerem known as the Yemenite Valley demonstrated last week at Safra Square against a construction plan they fear will lead to their homes being demolished. According to protesters, a District Committee plan (approved in 1985) erroneously determined the area of their homes as an open space to the public. 

The protesting residents, among whom are families who say their children were abducted in the early 1950s, carried signs that read, “Crime after crime, first our children were abducted from their parents and now we are being abducted from our homes.” 

The residents asked Mayor Moshe Lion (whose father was born in Yemen) to intervene in their favor and called for regulating their status. These residents have lived there since 1949 but the planning error prevents them from purchasing their homes or from going abroad for fear they will lose their rights on their houses, key money, or to take out a mortgage. 

The Yemenite Valley was inhabited as early as 1949 by the Jewish Agency for 120 residents in homes that have suffered from severe neglect over the years. Some have not yet been connected to sewers, and for about 40 years the neighborhood has not been accessible by car. 

SAFRA SQUARE has become the headquarters of Jerusalem’s battle against the virus. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)SAFRA SQUARE has become the headquarters of Jerusalem’s battle against the virus. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

According to this new plan currently being submitted for objections – some of the plots on which the protesters’ houses are located will be considered public areas, and could cause them to be evicted. 

At Safra Square there is an attempt to ease tensions, pointing out that the complex will be divided into plots, as well as construction areas, with a definite number of housing units per lot, as well as environmental guidelines for the development of the complex and conservation guidelines.

Kiryat Hayovel protest #1

Kiryat Hayovel residents are suing the municipality for more than NIS 1 billion, in opposition to the municipal plan to develop a park in an area known as “Asbestos Valley,” which once housed a ma’abara (transit camp for new immigrants). Residents say City Hall did not properly handle the asbestos removal, causing a more serious hazard when it released asbestos particles into the open air. 

The residents’ request is to clean the area from asbestos and cover it all with a layer of soil, as well to prevent any construction from taking place in the area, which could lead to more asbestos exposure in the future. Last week, the district court rejected the claim, and the municipality’s plan to develop a green park there is continuing. 

Riding to university

The new 517 bus line, operated by Superbus, started operating Sunday, running from Kiryat Menachem through the city center and Rehavia to the Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus. This new line is warmly welcomed by the Hebrew Students’ Association, which had asked for it for a long time. It replaced Egged line 19, whose path didn’t serve students’ needs. 

Line 517 is an express line, connecting neighborhoods where plenty of students live, like Kiryat Menachem, through some central neighborhoods, like Pat junction, Gaza and Mamilla streets and Bar Lev Boulevard up to the campus. Incidentally, the new line began two weeks late due to the municipality failing to provide restrooms for the drivers at the end points of the line, as required by law. As of this week, the drivers also have a drivers’ rooms, a kitchen and a seating area at the bus terminal in Givat Masua.

Kiryat Hayovel protest #2

Kiryat Hayovel residents, with the support of local council members and a few environmental organizations, held a demonstration last week against the construction plan for Wadi Carmit, a plan approved and promoted by the city engineer and the local planning and construction committee. Opponents point out that this project will add thousands of housing units to the neighborhood in the coming years without a real solution to the issues of infrastructure, overcrowding and transportation, in addition to harming nature. A private developer is promoting the project, which has been delayed for a few years, and has now reappeared on the local committee desk. 

Follow me on the rail

An app-based digital-theatrical-artistic tour, the first of its kind, will take place on Jaffa Road on both sides of the light rail. Along the tour, actors will reenact historical events and local personalities will open their homes. Visitors will tour the Art Shelter Gallery, deep in the haredi Makor Baruch neighborhood, the old Shaare Zedek building (today the New Spirit House) and an ancient cistern, meeting along the way a Sephardi-Jerusalem musician and a recycling artist decorating the picturesque alleys of the Beit Ya’acov neighborhood. The tour will also include a meeting with resistance fighters from the Independence War at the Achdut Israel Synagogue, and will end with an encounter with the Jerusalem Theater Group at Beit Mazia Theater. 

On either side of the light rail there are entire communities that do not come in contact with each other, certainly not on the artistic-theatrical axis, explains Osnat Gispan, director of the Jerusalem Theater Group, adding that they all see in this project a great opportunity to be exposed to the multicultural human wealth of Jerusalem. The guided tour is offered through the Dguide independent-tour app and with the support of the Jerusalem Foundation. Price is NIS 79, suitable for the whole family from age seven. 

Save a civil park

Local green activists have launched a project to protect the Jerusalem Hills through civic involvement. The launch of their “civic national park” will take place on Friday, April 8, and activists are calling on Mayor Lion to attend and add his personal presence and prestige to the project. The Jerusalem Hills Lobby was already launched earlier this week under the slogan “Keep the lungs green.” 

To encourage as many Jerusalemites as possible to take part in the effort, the lobby opened a photo competition, in part to document the area’s landscapes, people, springs and heritage sites. The photos with the highest number of likes on Facebook and Instagram will advance to the final, and from them, the three winners will be selected by judges. There will be two tiers to the competition – one for professional photographers and one for amateurs. The photos can be sent in until April 21. 

The amateur competition winner will get a NIS 1,000 voucher for a hiking equipment store. Second and third place will be offered photography workshops; fourth and fifth place finishers will get a NIS 50 voucher at a hiking equipment store.

Photos can be uploaded to @savethehillsofjerusalem on Instagram.