Grapevine: Emek oops

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

Israel Postal Company mailbox (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Israel Postal Company mailbox
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Print media journalists work in a vacuum, seldom knowing who reads what they write. It’s generally when they make a mistake or write something atrocious or obscene in reaction to which they or their editors receive corrections and/or rebukes from readers that there is a perverse sense of satisfaction.

At least someone read it and took notice.

Thus, I am indebted to those readers who pointed out that in last week’s Grapevine, I mentioned the post office on Emek Refaim Street as a possible alternative to others that have closed down. But as it happens, that office closed in November.

As someone who just goes past it but not inside, I was unaware because the postal boxes are still visible – almost like a metal fortress protecting the building.

In Rehavia, where the post office closed last week, the postal boxes, unlike Emek Refaim’s, were not accessible 24/7. They were inside an enclosure with a high, wrought iron gate, which was locked whenever the post office was closed – which was most afternoons, and of course evenings and weekends.

A woman stands at the counter inside a Israel Post office in Jerusalem (credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)A woman stands at the counter inside a Israel Post office in Jerusalem (credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

Even though most mail these days is sent electronically, there are still people who like to send greeting cards, wedding, bar mitzvah and gala event invitations by regular mail and are finding it increasingly difficult to do so.

“People are now fearful that the Tchernikovsky branch will close soon,” writes reader Jean Balcombe. “Particularly badly affected are foreign workers and Philippine caregivers, who must go [to the post office] every month to receive their payments. We will soon be a capital city with no postal services available. Even where to buy stamps is a serious question!”

Another reader, Sharon Kesselman, wrote in relation to disappearing post offices and banks: “They used to say that this would lower fees, but in fact they are even trying to charge for services that do not require a human. By the way, you forgot to mention the fees involved when credit cards are used, even when the payments are automatic and they get their money right away.

“There should be at least a couple of post offices and banks always remaining. Or they can have a stall in every supermarket.”

Charges on credit card payments are made by the credit card companies and by existing post offices and banks, whether payments are automatic or in person.

It’s not certain that supermarkets would agree to have a banking or postal stall, as some already engage in fiscal services. 

But shops that sell lottery and Toto tickets plus soft drinks, cookies and candies could probably expand their activities to include postal and limited banking services, such as deposits and withdrawals.


DESPITE ITS precarious present position, the National Library of Israel is operating under a business-as-usual policy. To those readers who may have missed the news, Education Minister Yoav Kisch, in defiance of the National Library Law of 2007, wants to deprive the National Library of its independence. Oren Weinberg, the NLI’s CEO, has published an online message of appreciation for the outpouring of support for its stance. Messages have been received from cultural organizations and individuals from Israel and abroad, and the media has also been supportive.

The position of the library’s board of directors can also be seen in an earlier online statement in which Sallai Meridor, chairman of the board of the National Library, warns that any substantial change in the 2007 law would change the library’s status from an independent entity to one whose board is subordinate to the government. In essence, this means that if Kisch’s proposed bill is passed, the current board of directors will be instantly dismissed and replaced by government loyalists.

Weinberg is optimistic that the situation can be resolved but admits that it may take time. Meanwhile, the library continues to fulfill its mission by serving the public, researchers, students and school groups with tours, literary and other cultural events and online access to a treasure trove of books, manuscripts, maps, works of art and more in numerous languages.


THE GENTRIFICATION of Agrippas Street, and other streets surrounding or near Mahaneh Yehuda, is depriving the market of much of its charm. When the muddy alleyways were paved, this was a welcome form of gentrification. But the addition of two, three and more stories to existing old buildings, which contributed to the quaintness of the market, plus the number of nearby residential towers, are rapidly turning the area into just another market instead of a specific Jerusalem landmark.

Mayor Moshe Lion’s obsession with urban renewal is going to make it tough for deceased residents of the city if and when the Messiah arrives. According to Jewish tradition, the coming of the Messiah will bring about the rising of the dead, but they will all be lost and bewildered because nearly all the familiar landmarks will have disappeared. It’s getting to be that way in the market, when the little that remains of yesteryear includes the buskers, beggars and merchants screaming out their wares.

On one side of the market, Kol Israel Haverim Street has been partially fenced off in order to be upgraded, with a new skyline that will be replete with studio apartments.


WHEN THERE are few traffic police patrolling Jerusalem, drivers of two- and four-wheeled vehicles continue to take liberties and put the lives of pedestrians at risk. 

It’s bad enough that there are bicycles, motorbikes, and scooters on the sidewalks and in pedestrian malls, often whizzing past at breakneck speed. But the new thing is for these vehicles to sneak as far across the crosswalk as possible. When the light changes, any unfortunate pedestrian who has not yet made it to the other side is in danger of getting hit. This is because in most cases there is no amber light to warn pedestrians that the light is about to change from green to red. 

Moreover, when vehicles are on the crosswalk, it’s difficult for pedestrians to see the traffic lights and are unable to see which color they are. The two-wheel riders are almost always impatient and take off as soon as the light changes.

Israel could learn a lesson from Taiwan, where amber lights for pedestrian crosswalks also indicate how much time is left before the light turns red.


WHAT INSPIRES a man to start a movement, particularly one that is not political, not national, not religious, not ethnic and not gender-oriented? Someone who is simply there to do good for others?

The answer is in the new book 90 Seconds, written by Rabbi Nachman Seltzer and published by ArtScroll. The subject is Eli Beer, founder of the Jerusalem-headquartered United Hatzalah volunteer EMS organization, which has branches all over Israel and abroad.

The book will be officially released next week. Former US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, a long-time supporter of United Hatzalah, said of the book: “This is the captivating story of one of the greatest social entrepreneurs of our generation. Eli Beer took a simple idea and turned it into a massive life-saving enterprise.”