This week in Jerusalem: Victory in Kiryat Yovel – for now

A weekly round-up of city affairs.

 BIBLICAL ZOO: Facelift. (photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)
(photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)

Victory in Kiryat Yovel – for now

A dramatic overruling of the municipality’s decision and an achievement for Kiryat Yovel, as the conversion of a neighborhood secular school into a seminary for ultra-Orthodox girls will be delayed until an allocation process is drawn up. That was this week’s ruling by the Jerusalem District Court, stating that any plan the municipality has to allocate the Lady Davis building must comply with an official allocation procedure.

Deputy Mayor Yossi Havilio said in reaction: “This is an important and necessary decision as part of a persistent public struggle against an unfortunate political deal that may affect the image of the entire city and compromise the future of Kiryat Yovel as a Zionist and liberal neighborhood. We will continue to fight until we achieve a complete victory.” 

Interestingly, Safra Square told the court it never made a decision to hand over the building to the Bais Yaakov seminary group, despite the fact that the municipality had published the statement many times and done so explicitly. The court’s ruling means that before any non-municipal entity, such as Bais Yaakov, can be granted access to the facility, a formal allocation procedure must be drawn up for the school building for “any legal need or purpose.” 

The legal proceedings to stop the removal of the Lady Davis Amal technical college from Kiryat Yovel were led by councilwoman Laura Wharton and Havilio, who represent the pluralist public. This ruling will cause discomfort, to say the least, for Mayor Moshe Lion in his working relationship with Deputy Mayor Eliezer Rauchberger, chairman of Degel Hatorah, since Lion persuaded his haredi coalition to enlarge the Argentina school for the secular population in exchange for handing over the Lady Davis building to Bais Yaakov. 

Havilio and Wharton said the intention to open a Bais Yaakov school in the heart of a non-Orthodox neighborhood is a “resounding slap in the face to the general public in Kiryat Yovel and the city as a whole; and if it is carried out, it will seriously endanger the Zionist and liberal image of the neighborhood and Jerusalem.” 

 PROTESTING THE Lady Davis hand-over: Sign reads, ‘Amal school – war to save home.’  (credit: Yossi Havilio’s Office) PROTESTING THE Lady Davis hand-over: Sign reads, ‘Amal school – war to save home.’ (credit: Yossi Havilio’s Office)

When asked to comment, Rauchberger insisted, “Over 800 girls from Kiryat Yovel study in Bayit Vagan. I think that any serious, sane person would agree that they deserve a school in their own neighborhood. Since there is currently no transition in place and the building has not been put out for allocation [tender for plot or facility], and since any organization that fits the criteria [of nonprofit] can compete equally for the allocation, all talk about it is not relevant at all.”

What’s new at the zoo?

As part of the events celebrating 30 years since moving to its location on the northern slopes of Nahal Refaim, the Biblical Zoo is undergoing a significant facelift, which includes upgrading some of the public spaces and renewing a number of displays. The entrance plaza was renovated, the main square was expanded, and waiting areas were created for groups and individuals.

The new plaza was inaugurated this week in the presence of donors Lisa and Leon Myers from the US. About NIS 2 million was invested in the upgrades. Improvements to the National Hatchery Center for Birds of Prey, which rescues endangered species and restores natural habitats, are the next project. 

The elephant display will also undergo a significant change, with the elephants’ living quarters being expanded and having the option to connect or separate the males from the females, as deemed necessary by the zookeepers. In addition, the method of treating elephants will be adapted to the current practice among leading zoos – a protected contact method. There will be complete separation between the treatment teams and the animals (this method is already in place with the male elephants).

Other projects that are expected to be launched during the next two years are the redesign of the African courtyard to allow the return of hippos to the zoo. An additional pedestrian crossing will be built connecting the zoo to the aquarium. And space for more “forest classrooms” will be added to help meet demand.

The Biblical Zoo was established in 1940 by Prof. Aharon Shulov on Rabbi Kook Street. In 1941, it moved to a larger area in the neighborhood of Shmuel Hanavi, and in 1947 it moved to the grounds of the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus following the War of Independence. The zoo moved next to Yirmeyahu Street in 1950. In September 1993, the zoo was inaugurated in its current location, spanning a vast area of 160 hectares (400 acres) on the northern slopes of Nahal Refaim, near the Ein Yael and Ein Lavan springs.

Books: Take them or leave them

Five new street and park libraries will be inaugurated in the coming days in the neighborhoods of Pisgat Ze’ev, Mount Zion, Givat Mordechai, Givat Masua and Givat Canada, allowing for the free exchange of books and a place to hold various community events. Residents are invited to take books from the libraries, and there is no obligation to return them. At the same time, they are invited to bring books in good condition, of any type and in any language, such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, textbooks and reference books, and leave them there for anyone to use. 

The libraries were established by residents, the community local councils and the municipality, and will be maintained daily by volunteers who live in the respective neighborhoods. With the addition of the five new ones, there will be 27 community libraries in the city.

Demolition mission 

The Jerusalem Municipality began a broad operation this week to demolish illegal buildings in east Jerusalem. Dozens of requests for demolition orders have already been submitted and are planned to be carried out in the near future. Councilman Arieh King says there are 20,000 illegal buildings in the Arab neighborhoods, but the municipality cannot cope alone with such a number. Sources in Safra Square have indicated that the campaign is being led by National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir

Although no official announcement came from the municipality, there are now more than 30 demolition orders the municipality is planning to execute shortly, among them a building on Wadi Joz Road with an area of approximately 160 sq.m., which was built in 2002. The reason for the order now, according to sources, is the intention to establish an employment center in the area. 

The request to raze a residential building in Wadi Kadum where dozens of Arab families live, which Ben-Gvir requested to advance, turned into an international media storm and was momentarily stopped following the intervention of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who decided to postpone the order indefinitely.

Until recently, most of the demolitions carried out took place in relative silence and under heavy police security. But according to security assessments, demolishing buildings in the run-up to Ramadan may rekindle east Jerusalem and lead to violent conflicts. 

King said, however, that the municipality’s intention to demolish the Wadi Kadum building is due to the structure being dangerous. And it was built on the slopes of the Mount of Olives in an area where it is forbidden to build, on a recreational site for local residents. He concluded by saying that there will be a new record of house demolitions this year.

A rash of resignations

Merely two weeks after the retirement of the deputy director-general of Hadassah hospital, another senior official, the director of the branch in Ein Kerem, Dr. Inon Buda, is about to leave. In reaction, Director-General Prof. Yoram Weiss sent a message to the department directors, saying: “The changes in management are meant to move us forward.” 

Asked by the heads of the departments why so many people resigned recently, Weiss hastened to reassure them and promised that suitable replacements would be found. Sources at Hadassah say Buda’s place is expected to be filled by Dr. Asaf Toker, a pediatrician by training who previously served as assistant to the director of Hadassah’s Ein Kerem hospital.

Winner runs again

The 12th International Jerusalem Winner Marathon will take place on Friday, March 17, and is expected to attract 40,000 participants.

The marathon route will pass by historic landmarks in the city and offer spectacular views. It will include the Supreme Court, the Israel Museum, the President’s Residence, the Old City walls and the Armenian Quarter, the Tower of David, the Khan Theater and the Sultan’s Pool.

During the launch on Monday, Mayor Moshe Lion gave a special certificate of appreciation to Blessing Akwasi Afrifah, the 200-meter gold medalist at the World Athletics U20 Championships in 2022. Afrifah is the first Israeli to run the 200-meter race in under 20 seconds, and the fourth youth in history to do so.

The marathon will be the first of a number of significant sports events that will take place in Jerusalem this year, including the final of the State Cup in basketball and the European Championships in athletics for those under the age of 20.

Registration for the marathon is open. It includes six races: full marathon (42.2 km.); half marathon (21.1 km.); 10 km.; 5 km.; a family race (1.7 km.) and a community race (800 meters).

For more details about the routes, accommodation options and events accompanying the race:

A healing haven  

Yad Sarah recently opened a five-star hotel, offering rooms to regular guests but primarily to those recovering from major surgeries, cerebrovascular events, heart attacks, accidents and hospitalizations, who need a recovery period before intensive rehabilitation.

The hotel has all the required equipment, accessibility and amenities. The conditions are pampering, the prices are low, and the vision of Yad Sarah CEO Moshe Cohen is that even the poor will be accommodated.

The hotel has 220 suites and accommodation units that are fully equipped, luxurious and spacious. Guests will enjoy chef cuisine. On the top floor of the hotel, which offers a panoramic view of Jerusalem, guests can enjoy a health center that includes a huge pool with a hydrotherapy system, a fully equipped modern gym, a Turkish bath, a sauna and various spa treatment rooms.

The hotel has a synagogue, a floor with offices, work and meeting spaces, a variety of services for guests and businesses and more, and all fully accessible.

Convalescents after medical treatment are invited to the hotel for a relaxing vacation before the home rehabilitation period, with full paramedical service by a qualified nurse, tailored nutritional services, and the full equipment of rooms according to needs. The hotel also operates a community day-rehabilitation center. ❖