This week in Jerusalem: Holy pool

A weekly round-up of city affairs.

 HAR HOMA: Divided over pool. (photo credit: Joe Pizzio/Unsplash)
HAR HOMA: Divided over pool.
(photo credit: Joe Pizzio/Unsplash)

Holy pool

The new swimming pool in Har Homa, a neighborhood that has a large number of National-Religious and haredi residents, has turned into a point of contention between secular residents and the local council as to whether the pool should be open on Saturdays and holidays. The non-Orthodox residents, backed by Deputy Mayor Yossi Havilio, who is deeply involved in this issue, reached a breaking point this week, appealing to the Jerusalem District Court against the local council chairman and its entire administration, requesting to stop the pool from operating as long as no agreement is reached to have it opened on Saturdays and holidays. 

About a thousand residents signed on to the lawsuit, protesting that the pool was built with public funds and was ready to start operating several months ago but remained closed due to the religious conflict. The municipality’s position, as clarified by its legal adviser Eli Malka, is that the pool can operate on Saturdays provided that tickets are sold before Shabbat.

Noisy nights 

Life in the shadow of development plans: Sorotskin Street residents have had trouble sleeping lately due to the light rail works on Golda Meir Boulevard, which have carried into the night. The municipality has said that only in certain areas would construction take place after 11 p.m. Residents who contacted the municipal 106 hotline and even filed complaints with the police say none of their complaints were taken into consideration, even though there is an explicit need for a separate night construction permit. The residents also contacted the city’s engineering department and demanded its intervention. They said they have already been suffering for several years now from various annoyances as a result of the construction at the nearby Mobileye campus, but this time things have become unbearable. 

Shuttle is back

After two years of the pandemic, the free shuttle service to the Old City is back for the last weeks of the summer break and the Jewish holidays, the Jerusalem and Heritage Ministry and the East Jerusalem Development Company announced. The line has already begun and will close at the end of the Tishrei holidays. It will operate from Sunday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., and the shuttles will depart from the First Station’s parking lot. They depart every 20 minutes or as soon as the vehicle is full. An accessible minibus leaves every hour on the hour for the disabled. Pick-up and drop-off stations are: The First Station parking lot (parking available for a fee), Ben Hinnom Valley, the City of David and the Dung Gate (entrance to the Kotel.) 

 LOTS TO do: First Station. (credit: Wikimedia Commons) LOTS TO do: First Station. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Saved by the people

The Jerusalemites who care for nature conservation and, more specifically, the special character of this city, have won. According to the Israel Land Authority and the municipality – made public through the local planning and construction committee, but which is principally the mayor’s position – the controversial 200-villa Lifta luxury neighborhood project has been canceled. It was also agreed that Lifta’s existing houses would be preserved and that the spring in the middle of the ancient village would be renovated. The decision is a real victory for the environmental activists and the residents. The Land Authority and municipality’s decision comes on the heels of a compromise they reached for the White Ridge building plan. Mayor Moshe Lion, who toured the historical village last week, was convinced that this was not the best plan for this location and pledged to work to preserve it. 

Not all council members are happy about this change, however, with Deputy Mayor Arieh King claiming that this decision is none other than the city succumbing to a well-timed campaign by extreme left-wing organizations promoting Palestinians’ right of return (Lifta was populated mostly by Muslims from the 16th century up until 1948). He said this decision will harm the Jewish majority in Jerusalem and that he had no intention to remain silent. 

Night choo-choo

The Transportation Ministry has finally reached the conclusion that night trains from the capital to the airport should resume. It is worth noting that after the several months that the line was completely canceled at night for electrical system maintenance, the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv service was back up and running during the night, but the trains didn’t stop at the airport. Up until the outbreak of the coronavirus, trains from the North and the South stopped at the airport throughout the day, which also helped reduce road congestion and saved parking fees for airline pasengers. Although the airport operated shuttles, they were canceled after a few months with no explanation provided. The Transportation Ministry and Israel Railways management stated that on the section of the line between Ben-Gurion Airport and Jerusalem, which includes many tunnels, regular maintenance work is carried out during the night, so operational changes needed to be made to bring the service back into operation. 

The lost trench recovered

Fifty-five years after the battle on Ammunition Hill during the Six Day War, work began to uncover and restore the eastern trench on the hill, which was filled with earth and had been hidden since the end of the war. Earlier this week, excavation work began to uncover the eastern canal, from which the Jordanian soldiers floated toward Mount Scopus. In the last decades, the canal was covered with mud, soil and dust, and basically disappeared, unlike the central canal and the western canal there, which are centers of attraction for thousands of tourists and visitors. So far, there is no expected date for the work to be completed.

Garden closed

What could be more frustrating for a grandmother who takes the children to a nice playground in the neighborhood than to find that the place is locked down? That is exactly what happened to a resident of Baka last week when she took her grandchildren to the iconic Meshugabak’a playground, but had to go back home, since the entrance to the playground was locked.

According to a spokesman at Safra Square, the playground is part of the nearby school and is only open to the public until 4 p.m. But as of earlier this week, the playground will be open all day until September 30, as the school and the summer camp are over now. Too bad nobody in the municipality or the local council cared to inform the public about these rules in order to avoid such incidents.

Ein Gedi suffering

These last few weeks, the residents of the Talpiot, Arnona and Baka neighborhoods have been witnessing a delusional situation, with repeated excavations on the main street connecting these neighborhoods, Ein Gedi Street. As a result of the ongoing work, the bus lines have been moved to alternative routes, stops have been eliminated, and the public does not understand who is responsible for this situation and why.

For about six months, extensive renovation work has been done on the street, which has included new sidewalks and the placement of benches. However, the sidewalks had to be dismantled and rebuilt because the work done was careless and even dangerous in several places for pedestrians. Now it’s the turn of the road itself, which has been dug up and is undergoing a process of paving and asphalting for a second time.

The spokesperson of the municipality stated that the work was intended to improve the quality of the road, which did not meet the desired standard requirements, but it was not stated who should pay for the negligence in the execution that led, in the end, to renewed digging and a lot of suffering for the residents.