Grapevine: Givat Shaul ‘Gehinnom’

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

THE CLOSED-OFF entrance to Balfour Street in Jerusalem. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
THE CLOSED-OFF entrance to Balfour Street in Jerusalem.

VETERAN JERUSALEMITE Kuti Fundaminski, who writes on real estate for the Bonus section of Yediot Yerushalayim, reports that the price tag on an apartment in a residential complex at 35 Gaza Road is in excess of NIS 5 million. This despite the fact that Gaza Road is a busy thoroughfare for cars and buses. The penthouse apartment in the complex belongs to opposition leader and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a snob value factor, which may account for the steep price. 

The Netanyahu family prefers to live in Caesarea, and if they return to Jerusalem, they are unlikely to move into the penthouse. Their preference is for the house on the corner of Smolenskin and Balfour, whose rundown condition they complained about when they were living there. But it is the Prime Minister’s Residence, and that’s where they want to be. 

The house has been unoccupied for the past 15 months, and the adjacent area has been woefully neglected.

■ MANY OF us are familiar with the parable about the man who complained because he had no shoes until he met a man who had no feet. At some stage or another, everyone who lives in a big city suffers from faulty infrastructure, the noise from construction projects, potholes, roadblocks and so on. Although we take them in our stride, we complain. The traffic situation in Rehavia-Talbiyeh, coupled with the noise from construction projects, is often unbearable, but is paradise compared to what is happening in Givat Shaul.

After not having been there for some time, I had reason to visit Cellcom in order to have my cellphone repaired. In the past, one had to take a number, then sit and wait for at least half an hour – and usually much longer because the place was crowded, and the staff of 20 plus people was overloaded with work.

Shadowy figure uses cell phone (illustrative) (credit: INGIMAGE)Shadowy figure uses cell phone (illustrative) (credit: INGIMAGE)

This time, there was one other person ahead of me and three Arab technicians on duty.

“What happened?” I asked the pleasant young man who fixed my phone.

“The noise,” he replied as the sound of drilling all but drowned out his voice. 

Kanfei Nesharim, the main street of Givat Shaul, has been designated for a light rail route. Preparation of the infrastructure has resulted in large sections of pavement being sealed off and a wide swath of road being dug up. The noise goes on all day, every day. There is dirt and dust everywhere. Shops and residences have been seriously affected – and it will take months before the nightmare is over.

Because my local supermarket and several others in my part of town had run out of individual salmon pieces, once my phone was fixed I crossed Kanfei Nesharim to a very large supermarket to see if there was salmon there. This is a huge supermarket, which used to have such a large clientele that every aisle had been filled with shoppers. Not this time. There was hardly anyone in the store. But a large freezer with a wide selection of fish had the salmon I was looking for – well, not exactly. It was a different brand, but the fish was superior in quality and taste. 

A few days before Rosh Hashanah, my local supermarket was still waiting for its salmon supply and was also lacking in other fish, so I went back to Givat Shaul, where the street situation was as dire as during my previous visit, and I was able to get a lot of shopping done in record time.

Going home, I took a different bus route that passed a residential section of apartment complexes in a section where the whole area had been dug up, and a very deep ditch was edged with rubble.

People should not have to live this way, but they have been for months and will continue to do so for many months ahead.

■ WHEN HE was recently in Jerusalem, James Snyder, executive chairman of The Jerusalem Foundation Inc., was very impressed with a group of haredi (ultra-Orthodox) women who were undertaking a guidance and mentoring course so that they could advise young ultra-Orthodox adults how to wisely manage the economic affairs of their families.

Snyder returned to New York to enthusiastically tell Jerusalem Foundation donors about this group.

In Jerusalem, Shai Doron, the president of the Jerusalem Foundation, was equally impressed, especially with Esti Hess, whom he met at the closing ceremony for the course.

He now sings her praises at every opportunity. 

The Smart Home Economics Management program for haredim in Jerusalem is a partnership between the Jerusalem Foundation and the Tvuna organization.

A graduate of the first such training course, Hess and her co-graduates are guiding and mentoring young haredi women about basic financial principles and concepts and how to manage their household finances wisely and responsibly.

The key principle behind this financial literacy program is to cultivate young people with leadership potential from within the ultra-Orthodox community and train them as financial mentors and guides for haredi young adults. Currently, some people growing up in the ultra-Orthodox world lack knowledge of basic home economics and smart financial management.

Rather than rely on external intervention, Tvuna is developing leadership that springs from within its own community, which can bring about change within this community by taking initiative and acting responsibly. This concept simplifies and facilitates the training process, as the haredim recognize and appreciate the “in-house” aspect of the program.

Beyond the significance of sound financial guidance and mentorship, Doron and others at the Jerusalem Foundation view this Tvuna program as an integral part of the Jerusalem Foundation’s nurturing of future leaders in Jerusalem who are committed to the city, as well as to their own communities.

Doron heard Hess speak at the closing ceremony when gave an address as the representative of the first training course for women. Out of all the speakers, he thought that she stood out with her quiet authority and inner strength as a role model about to lead an important process, which she might have once thought of as overwhelming but was now prepared to take on the challenge. 

“She and the other alumni of this first leadership course are true trailblazers,” says Doron. When it was his turn to mount the stage to give a speech, he discarded his notes and spoke from the heart. He firmly believes that something much bigger than sound financial guidance is happening. For the time being, this mentoring and guidance program is being regarded as a pilot program, though since the graduation ceremony, Hess has already led several workshops.

Based on the success of the initial training course for Tvuna, the Jerusalem Foundation decided to launch a second training program for haredi women and a training program for men.

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