Grapevine: Unwillingly moving – after 30 years

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 CONSTRUCTION AT the entrance to Jerusalem is a project that will prove itself in time.  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
CONSTRUCTION AT the entrance to Jerusalem is a project that will prove itself in time.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Shavuot, more than any other religious Jewish festival, is the time for what is known outside of Israel as shul-hopping – namely going from synagogue to synagogue, not only in search of relatives and friends, but also to listen to lectures by iconic rabbis and orators. In Israel, it has an additional measure in that immigrants, even when their Hebrew is fluent, prefer to listen to lectures in the languages most familiar to them.

In the past, English speakers have been particularly fortunate in places like Raanana, Herzliya, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Efrat. A regular speaker at Beit Avi Chai in Jerusalem is the highly respected Avivah Zornberg who has a gift for mixing religious topics with classical literature and various periods of history. She will again be among speakers at Beit Avi Chai this year, but as always, the majority of speakers will be lecturing in Hebrew.

Most synagogue officials have been slow this year in publishing the list of speakers and topics, though undoubtedly they will appear on billboards and in most weekend newspapers. But for those who want to listen to lectures in English, the OU Center is probably one of the best bets, as is the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies.

Some of the residents of Ganei Zion, in collaboration with Beit Hoffman and the Ganei Zion Regional Council, have organized three English speakers – Benjamin Wald, Dafna Siegman and Rabbi Prof. Daniel Sinclair to speak on a variety of topics from 10:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. The address is Eliezer Hagadol 4 in Katamon.

Jerusalem Day

■ NO ONE who wanted to celebrate Jerusalem Day was left out, including people with special needs. Residents of AKIM, Israel’s national organization for people with intellectual disabilities and their families, led a festive ceremony that was attended by a number of dignitaries including Social Services Minister Meir Cohen and AKIM Jerusalem CEO Nir Levi. A giant flag was raised, sewn by Naomi and Leah who have long shared an AKIM apartment, and they and their fellow residents led the celebrations.

 WELFARE AND Social Services Minister Meir Cohen (left) and National Insurance Institute director-general Meir Spiegler display the 2020 poverty report at a ceremony in Jerusalem. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) WELFARE AND Social Services Minister Meir Cohen (left) and National Insurance Institute director-general Meir Spiegler display the 2020 poverty report at a ceremony in Jerusalem. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Real estate

■ BEDOUIN ARE not the only ones being moved from homes in which they have lived for years. It’s happening to Jews, too, when greedy real estate developers don’t take into consideration the emotional upheaval experienced by people deprived of the familiarity of their homes, when developers decide to demolish existing properties and build high-rise residential or multi-purpose complexes in their place. 

That’s the plan for the seven-story residential complex on the corner of Agron and King George streets, which is destined for demolition some time within the next 12 months. 

Senior citizens Rabbi Paul and Nina Freedman have lived in their very large apartment in that building for more than 30 years. A revolutionary concept when designed some 60 years ago by architect David Resnick, it has become somewhat of an architectural eyesore. But for the Freedmans, and some other residents who are senior citizens, this is where they want to spend their twilight years. 

Various developers have been talking to them for the past 12 years, but the current developer made it plain that he means business. The deal is that the developer will pay for the moving costs and for the rental of another apartment. 

But the Freedmans, who often host as many as 60 young people on Shabbat, have to find an alternate apartment themselves. Obviously they would want it to be more or less the same size and in the same area, but rents in Rehavia and Talbiya have skyrocketed. It’s doubtful that the seemingly generous developer would be willing to pay the astronomical rent. 

On the other hand, rules have changed. Not so many years ago, if only one apartment owner in a complex refused to agree to have the building torn down and another one built in its place, that was enough to stop the project. But not any more. Apparently, if two-thirds of owner-occupiers agree, that’s good enough.

The Freedmans have to contend with absentee landlords who come to Israel once or twice a year to spend a week or two in their apartments, so they don’t care if the apartment is demolished and the complex is replaced by a taller, more modern structure. 

Another hassle is that many developers don’t return apartment owners to the floors where they had lived, if those floors prove to be more lucrative on the market. Some developers go bankrupt, and not only do the rental payments stop, but so does the construction work, and people can wait for years to return to their homes – if at all.

Even if the couple succeed in finding another large apartment for which the developer would be willing to pay the rent, it would not be as convenient as the one they live in now. 

Although they are Orthodox, Rabbi Freedman is a past international president and the international director of USY – United Synagogue Youth – which is the junior arm of the Conservative Movement.

Jerusalem’s main Conservative synagogue housed in the Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center, is directly across the road from his apartment building, which makes it easy for him to meet the young people coming to Israel through USY, and makes it easy for them to come and spend part of Shabbat and Jewish festivals in the Freedman apartment. The Freedmans can’t imagine something other than this close geographic arrangement that they’ve had for so long. 

But aside from that, it’s a frightening thought that anyone who may have put their life savings into buying and renovating an apartment, cannot regard it as their permanent home, because some developer has his eye on the site, and wants to demolish an existing building to build a taller one. There’s a lot of talk these days about food and nutrition security. How about home security?

Dog park

■  AS HAS been previously mentioned in this column, Sokolov Park has a fenced-off section reserved for dogs where the canine creatures can frolic freely without frightening or upsetting people in the park, and where their owners can either put their pets through paces or leave them temporarily to their own devices.

Not so in the revamped Paris Square, where ample provision has been made for people who want to sit in the sun and read or chat. The renovated site includes a large grassy area to which several locals bring their dogs.

Shifra Glickman, one of those who frequents the square, and who lives nearby, writes that there is a lovely grassy knoll over which children love to roll down.

What bothers her is that grass on which people walk their dogs and allow them to defecate, is also the grass on which the children play and roll in. The dog’s poop is seldom cleaned up by the owners, and of course there’s no one on duty from City Hall to impose rules and fine them for negligence.

Glickman cringes whenever she sees children rolling in dog poop, but beyond asking individual dog owners to clean up after their pets, there’s not much she can do. Most would of course ignore her. It’s not that difficult to carry a supply of paper towels to pick up the poop and deposit it in a garbage receptacle, of which there are many, all over Jerusalem.

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