This week in Jerusalem: Let’s build

A weekly round-up of city affairs.

 JERUSALEM SUMMER school is in session.  (photo credit: Anton Sukhinov/Unsplash)
JERUSALEM SUMMER school is in session.
(photo credit: Anton Sukhinov/Unsplash)

Let’s build

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, some 204 housing units began to be built in residential towers of 16-22 stories in Jerusalem in the first quarter of 2022, compared to 157 such apartments in the corresponding period of 2021. There has been an annual jump in housing construction projects in the capital, the CBS report says. 

For the last few years, there have been many “evacuation/ construction” projects (city renewal – “pinui v’binui” in Hebrew). Many such complexes stand at various stages, where existing buildings are demolished and towers of 20 stories or more are planned to rise in their stead – in Kiryat Yovel, Holyland, Arnona and other places in the city, as the municipality’s trend is toward towers instead of low-rise construction.

Building for whom?

Next week, on Monday, July 25, the Jerusalem District Planning Committee is set to discuss the advancement of 1,938 housing units for two new neighborhoods located in east Jerusalem: Givat Hashaked and the Lower Aqueduct plans. The area designated for Givat Hashaked (Almond Hill) is situated on the northwest edge of Beit Safafa, while the land marked for the Lower Aqueduct plan straddles the Green Line, sandwiched between Har Homa, Givat Hamatos and Ramat Rachel. 

Both plans were originally scheduled to be discussed by the committee a week earlier on July 18. However, following publication of the committee’s agenda just 48 hours before US President Joe Biden’s arrival to the region on July 13, the Prime Minister’s Office reportedly ordered the plans removed from the agenda. 

But Interior Minister Ayalet Shaked, whose office presides over the District Planning Committee, refused to remove them, and instructed that the entire discussion simply be postponed for a week. Hence, the two plans are now scheduled to be discussed, with allowance for objections, on July 25, moving them one step closer to full approval.

Ayelet Shaked at a Knesset cabinet meeting on July 10th 2022. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)Ayelet Shaked at a Knesset cabinet meeting on July 10th 2022. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Requests by the Beit Safafa Community Council to designate the plan for the development needs of the neighborhood were rejected. In the absence of zoning plans, it is impossible to procure building permits, forcing many Palestinians to build without them, which subjects their homes to the threat of demolition. Since the start of 2022, there have been 94 demolitions across east Jerusalem, 49 of which were residential units.

Holy City Summer school

The Jerusalem Summer School program kicked off this week, where children will learn English in an experiential way and practice the language, taught by teachers from abroad who came to Israel specifically for this purpose. This is the seventh year that the program is operating in Jerusalem, and will take place in 48 classrooms in the various schools in all sectors. As part of the program, about 300 English teachers from all over the world landed in Israel: from the United States, Australia, Canada and more, for TALMA: The Israel Program For Excellence in English.

The summer program will allow hundreds of students from the capital to have an equal opportunity to acquire the English language. The purpose of the “Summer School” is to enable students to advance their English studies significantly and professionally, with experienced teachers from abroad, graduates with academic degrees and teaching certificates who will work together with teachers from Israeli schools.

Warburg is in our hands

The Warburg complex in Kiryat Yovel will become an open, well-kept cultural hall and public leisure space, according to a Jerusalem Municipality press release. The decision, promoted through the local planning and construction committee last week, recommends the deposit of a plan complex. 

The area under consideration, a little more than half a hectare, is currently designated for a public building. The new plan proposes dividing the complex between space and public buildings – which will be used to build a culture house and auditorium, including ancillary spaces – that will serve the neighborhood and its residents, becoming a cultural anchor and an intensive open space that will be used for leisure activities. 

In the first phase, the plan includes the establishment of a cultural center and auditorium of approximately 2,400 square meters and then another 1,200 sq. m. in the second phase. The open area next to the culture hall will be  used by the residents of the neighborhood for leisure activities, thus supporting the building and allowing non-neighborhood events. 

But the plan has already raised harsh opposition among activists in the neighborhood, led by Adv. Yossi Havilio, deputy mayor and member of Mayor Moshe Lion’s coalition. The opponents argue that this plan fails to ensure the needs of the pluralist residents of the neighborhood, who feel threatened by a growing number of haredim (ultra-Orthodox) moving into Kiryat Yovel and changing its character.

Time travelers in Jerusalem

If you have ever fantasized about traveling back in time, visiting Jerusalem in its glorious days and seeing for yourselves the buildings, streets and monuments of the eternal city, you might soon see your dream come true. A new program takes visitors, for the first time ever, on a tour of Jerusalem during the Second Temple period, the Temple Mount in the 19th century and to Byzantine Jerusalem. 

This will be enabled through fascinating models built by scholars based on eyewitnesses who depicted the cityscapes in their works of art. Visitors will explore some of the models built by Conrad Schick, on display at the Immanuel Compound near Jaffa Gate; a model of Jerusalem at St. Peter in Gallicantu (outside Zion Gate); and the models built by Meir Rozin, now on display at the Old Yishuv Court Museum in the Jewish Quarter.

Guards for my City

Following terrorist acts throughout the country – and as part of the lessons learned from Operation Guardian of the Walls in May 2021 – the Jerusalem Municipality, in cooperation with the Netzah Israel Association, the Ministry of Internal Security and the Israel Police, has initiated the establishment of the “Magen” project.

As part of the project, which will begin next week, on-call groups will be established in Jerusalem, in order to be readily available to respond to terrorist incidents and emergencies. They will be staffed by volunteers who will undergo dedicated training and courses under the guidance of the Israel Police. A preliminary pilot program will be launched, in which the volunteers will go through the process of being issued a firearms permit. 

The goal of Magen is to establish stand-by units of skilled civilians to protect people in the city, who will arrive quickly to terrorist incidents and other emergencies, create a sense of security and expand security circles by integrating other volunteers. In addition to a wide range of actions initiated and led by the municipality, such as the deployment of about 3,000 cameras throughout the city with observers, Magen will provide more security and a sense of security among residents and visitors.

Ice for my city

The Jerusalem Municipality and the municipal company “Ariel” are cooling off the summer with an ice skating rink at the Pais Arena, for the whole family during the summer holiday, running (or skating) from July 27 to August 31. The complex will operate on Sundays through Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 21 p.m. and on Fridays until 4 p.m. Entry is allowed for anyone five years old and up. 

The ice rink in the arena, which was specially brought from Austria to international standards, offers a professional and enjoyable skating experience. The ice complex is now hosting the 21st Maccabiah Ice Hockey Games and will be open to the general public at the end of July. Skates are available as well as skating aids for children with figures of seals and bears. A medical team will also be present. Skaters are advised to arrive at the complex with warm clothing. 

Tickets are NIS 65, or NIS 39 for holders of a Jerusalem Card (which can be obtained for no extra charge at www.my.jerusalem.muni.il) Tickets can be ordered on the website at tickchak.co.il and by phone at *6565.

Peace after May 2021

“Challenges in Peacebuilding after May 2021” is at the center of the next Webinar run by the Rossing Center for Education and Dialogue, which will take place by Zoom. How have the events of May 2021 affected peacebuilding efforts? How has the field coped with those challenges? What can we learn from these events to work more strategically and more successfully? Are there new opportunities that have arisen? All of these questions and more will be raised and debated by speakers at the webinar.

Participating are Dr. Ron Kuttner, Professor of Peace and Conflict Management at Haifa University; Prof. Mohammad Dajani, founder and director of Wasatia; Hela Lahar, CEO of Tech2Peace; and Sulaiman Khatib, co-founder and international relations director at Combatants for Peace, with Rossing Center staff member Federica Sasso moderating. 

Wednesday, July 27, at 8 p.m. 

Puppets in the Holy City

The International Puppet Show Festival produced by the Train Theater is back, with its 31st annual edition running from August 14 to 18. The festival will include an interdisciplinary opening event at the Skatepark, three international productions, and thirty five new productions for children and adults, a multidisciplinary outdoor complex, a digital theater tour, circus and clown shows, an illustration workshop, an original cabaret show and much more. Details at [email protected]