This week in Jerusalem: Painful ceremony

A weekly round-up of city affairs.

 DID THE municipal public address systems suffer a cyber attack? (photo credit: Joshua Woroniecki/Unsplash)
DID THE municipal public address systems suffer a cyber attack?
(photo credit: Joshua Woroniecki/Unsplash)

Painful ceremony

An unusual, painful and very emotional ceremony was held on the Mount of Olives last week, as a soap that apparently was made from the bodies of Jews during World War II was buried. According to several reports, Nazis were making soap from human fat tissues, and in particular from Jews, including in a report of The New York Times on November 26, 1942, although there is no mention of this in the Yad Vashem Museum. Avigdor Sharon – whose parents were murdered in the Holocaust – came from Hungary with a soap with the letters RIF written on it, which apparently indicates that it was made from body tissues of Jews during World War II. After transferring it to the Kehilat Yerushalayim burial society, a dignified ceremony, including saying the kaddish prayer in memory of the murdered, was held at the Mount of Olives cemetery.

Cyber attack

There were suspicions of a cyber attack on the municipal public address systems in Jerusalem. Alarms activated in 10 hotspots and caused some concern among residents. The Jerusalem municipality confirmed this and the national cyber system suspected that the activated alarms in about 10 public parks in a number of neighborhoods in the city were part of a cyber attack by Iranian hackers, who are responsible for the false alarms that were heard in Jerusalem neighborhoods as well as in Eilat. Following this, the authorities were instructed to take “rapid protection of local public address systems,” as these are not Home Front Command alert systems – but municipal systems, that serve the residents.

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)
Suspects at Safra Square

The Jerusalem District Police arrested three municipal employees and a citizen on suspicion of brokering, forging and even charging fees for issuing forged documents about retirement for the purpose of withdrawing the pension money of dozens of local authority employees. Among the forged documents: Forms 106, forms of the Tax Authority and dismissal orders of the court. The investigation began last year, after the Jerusalem District Police received a complaint from the Jerusalem Municipality about the fraudulent withdrawal of pension funds and before the workers were entitled to them and while still working for the municipality. Following the complaint, an undercover investigation was opened in the Jerusalem District Police Fraud Unit together with the Jerusalem and Southern Investigation Assessing Officer. The investigation by the police and the tax authority so far shows that the suspects who were arrested, had brokered, forged and even charged fees for issuing forged documents about dismissals for the purpose of withdrawing pension money of dozens of local authority employees while still employed by misrepresenting that they had been fired from their jobs.

No choo-choo for two months

Starting this coming Wednesday and for the ensuing two months, the light rail will stop operating between the Central Station and Mount Herzl. In the Beit Hakerem and Kiryat Moshe neighborhoods, there are fears of transportation chaos and the collapse of alternatives. There will be alternative bus lines to the route of the light rail that runs between Mount Herzl and Central Station. To make it easier for public transport users – a special public transport route will be established in both directions – from Mount Herzl along Herzl Boulevard and from the central station on Herzl Boulevard, via Mordechai Ish Shalom Street – which will reduce by one lane the space for private vehicles to travel. This will probably add to the already heavy traffic. Among the Beit Hakerem and Kiryat Moshe residents, there is a high concern that since bus times are not as reliable as the light rail schedule, that they will not get a truly public transport lane dedicated to cars for too long. These infrastructure works are aimed at creating a connection between the route of the red line (existing) and the new green line of the JNET network (Jerusalem light rail network). This development began about two months ago at the intersection of Rabbi Zvi Yehuda and Sderot Herzl Streets in Kiryat Moshe and led to new traffic arrangements, including changes in route to Jerusalem.

As part of the second phase of the works, there will be a partial cessation of activity of the light rail in the section between Mount Herzl and Central Station. At that time, an alternative bus system will be operate and will be opened in both directions. It is recommended to avoid traveling in this area in a private vehicle during the work as much as possible, explained the staff of the Master Plan for Transportation, the Kfir Light Rail Company and the Jerusalem Municipality. Pedestrian crossing will be allowed as usual and access to residences, businesses and institutions will be allowed at all stages of the work. At the end of the road work, the movement of trains and cars in this area will return to normal. Bus alternatives Lines 20, 21, 23, 24, 27, 29 will be extended to Central Station, with a frequency of every 12 minutes.

Check your rights

The National Insurance Institute and nonprofit Pitchon-Lev are launching a new project to improve rights access among residents. The National Insurance Institute’s Fund for Special Programs, is partnering with Pitchon-Lev and social entrepreneur Erez Perlmuter to launch a new and innovative service, Zchut Bekalut (Rights Easily). This service, which is free of charge, will assist those applying for social and financial benefits. The service functions through a website and call center to receive applications. Every application submitted has a guaranteed review time of within 72 hours. This website will initially focus on unemployed rights and benefits. Applicants will have access to experts in unemployment benefits, labor law and others entitlements. In addition, in exceptional cases when legal representation is needed, a legal representative will be offered.

No house for you

There was a 33% drop in the number of apartments purchased in Jerusalem in the first quarter of 2022, according to Treasury reports. The chief economist’s report stated only 1,640 apartments were purchased in Jerusalem between January and March 2022, a sharper decline than the national decline in that field. This drop constituted a decrease of 9% compared to the corresponding quarter in 2021 and a 33% drop compared to the previous quarter. In comparison to the countrywide level of sales, the decline in the number of transactions in Jerusalem was sharper than the national decline in the number of apartments purchased. This indicates a severe multi-year shortage of apartments in Jerusalem. In addition, the city lacks thousands of apartments and the gap is growing every year. The Israel Lands Authority also hardly markets land in Jerusalem and the main engine for creating new apartments in the city is urban renewal. Unfortunately, the entrepreneurs association report that the licensing and bureaucracy processes are very slow.

Summertime is here

The municipality recently published the prices of summer camps for this year – NIS 1,200. City Council opposition head Ofer Berkovitch (Hitorerut) reacted, declaring that by any account this is not an affordable price, which makes the camps suitable only for the rich. August camps were initiated by Hitorerut already in 2017, when Berkovitch served as deputy mayor to Nir Barkat. The project was intended to make it easier for working parents and not burden them with expenses. The public pressure launched by Hitorerut was effective, and the municipality reduced the price of the summer camps to NIS 950, a slightly more realistic price for many families. At the next council meeting, which will be held towards the end of June, Berkovitch pledged to work on the issue of summer camps, make sure to lower the prices of summer camps in July and find solutions for the special education population, of all ages, during the summer vacation starting next month.