Grapevine: Eroding Jerusalem’s character

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 MASSIVE CONSTRUCTION site off Jaffa Road, not far from the city entrance (and opposite where ‘Jerusalem Post’ staff work amid the cacophany). (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
MASSIVE CONSTRUCTION site off Jaffa Road, not far from the city entrance (and opposite where ‘Jerusalem Post’ staff work amid the cacophany).
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

With very few exceptions, within 10 or 20 years, no one will remember Jerusalem as it once was – with single-story houses and shops or apartment and office complexes that rarely extended beyond four floors. The obsession that Mayor Moshe Lion has for urban renewal has gradually eroded the character of Jerusalem, turning it into the Hong Kong or Manhattan of the Middle East.

As towers 20 and more stories high begin to dominate the skyline, the views for which Jerusalem was once famous are all being blocked out.

Almost every time a new tower is constructed, it is taller than the one next door, as if there were a race to reach heaven.

Hotels are also among the new towers. After several months in which it appeared that there was little or no progress with the Intercontinental Hotel on King George Street, there was a sudden spurt of activity, and construction will probably be completed next year. The building is definitely the tallest along the length of King George and its extensions of Strauss and Keren Hayesod streets on either side.


Sukkot Storytellers Festival

■ AMONG THE native sons of Jerusalem who grew up in the city when it still had all its charm is singer, actor and television and radio host Yehoram Gaon, who will appear in the annual Sukkot Storytellers Festival in Givatayim, hosted by actor, writer and radio show host Yossi Alfi. A former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, Gaon will appear on Saturday night, October 8. Alfi usually brings a panel of several people, but in this case Gaon will be honored with a solo appearance in which he will sing songs about Jerusalem and share anecdotes about the Jerusalem of his youth.

Albert Einstein

■ THIS WILL not be the only Jerusalem-related feature in the extensive Storytellers Festival. A few months early, Alfi decided to mark the centenary of the first visit to the capital by Nobel Prize laureate Albert Einstein, who was among the founders of the Hebrew University and who visited Jerusalem in 1923, when he lectured at the university for the first time. He was a member of the university’s Board of Governors and chairman of its Academic Committee. Einstein was very active on behalf of the university, not only in helping to formulate its academic structure but also with fund-raising.

Following the death of president Chaim Weizmann, prime minister David Ben-Gurion asked Einstein to become the second president of the nascent State of Israel, but he declined. Though involved with various academic institutions in the United States, Einstein willed his personal archives and the rights to his works to the Hebrew University. The Einstein Archives are housed in the Einstein Center, which is located on the Edmond J. Safra Campus of the University. Former Hebrew University president Prof. Hanoch Guttfreund, who is the custodian of the Einstein Archives, will be among those who will be discussing the life of the great German-Jewish genius on Thursday, October 13, along with Prof. Yemima Ben Menachem, Ilan Shchori, Oren Nahari, Prof. Barak Kol and Prof. Ariel Pearlstein.

Remembering Yitzhak Navon

■ ISRAEL’S FIFTH president, Yitzhak Navon, was the first Jerusalem-born one, and the first Sabra to hold the office. Of the 11 presidents of Israel, seven were born abroad and four were Sabras, two of whom were born in Jerusalem.

Over the years, Navon frequently appeared at the Storytellers Festival, bringing a fund of tales to tell. The centenary of his birth was marked in April last year. Among other things, Navon was head of the National Authority for Ladino. The session about Navon is titled “The Ladino of My Yitzhak Navon.” The panel will include the second Jerusalem-born president of Israel Reuven Rivlin, Navon’s son Erez Navon, and Navon’s second wife, Miri Shafir-Navon. The date is Wednesday, October 12.

Jerusalem traffic crisis

■ JERUSALEM HAS a severe shortage of traffic police, and it is simply a miracle that there are not as many accidents as might be expected from the number of traffic violations. The worst are related to pedestrians, such as people wheeling baby carriages; crossing on red lights; motor cyclists on the pavement; buses stopping over the crosswalk, making it difficult for pedestrians to see the traffic lights; bicyclists and scooter riders ignoring the traffic lights altogether; and cars and buses failing to slow down when rounding a corner. 

There is nobody present to impose a fine on offenders, yet there seem to be plenty of municipal inspectors who patrol certain areas in order to impose fines on illegally parked cars. Surely the same people can be given the responsibility for fining people who are guilty of the above-mentioned violations.

Taking stock of behavior, attitudes for Tishrei

■ THE MONTH of Tishrei is a period for individuals to take stock of their attitudes and behavior.

While not all synagogue congregations have returned to indoor services, most have, though some congregants would have preferred to remain outside.

At the Great Synagogue, congregants were still compelled to wear masks, even though the Health Ministry did not issue instructions to that effect.

In a pre-Rosh Hashanah message, Marsha Wachsman, who chairs the Hazvi Yisrael congregation (generally known as Hovevei), wrote: “This is the time of year for introspection and reassessment for one and all.

“As we approach the New Year, it is my sincere hope that we all take it upon ourselves to behave towards each other with mutual respect. A good part of accomplishing that is to give each other the benefit of the doubt. We must try to remember that there are always two sides to a story. It is our responsibility as much as is possible to check out both sides before coming to conclusions. Only in this manner will we maintain our integrity and move forward as a cohesive community.

“There are always going to be people who are happy with decisions and those who aren’t. But I reiterate – make sure to hear both sides of a story from reputable sources and not through gossip and rumors. That is the way to maintain our self-respect and remain true to ourselves as a community.”

This message would be applicable to any group.