This week in Jerusalem: Born to be wild

A weekly round-up of city affairs.

 IS MYOPIA common among ultra-Orthodox students? (photo credit: Bud Helisson/Unsplash)
IS MYOPIA common among ultra-Orthodox students?
(photo credit: Bud Helisson/Unsplash)

Born to be wild

The Biblical Zoo recently released its 200th Persian fallow deer into the wild as part of its reintroduction project, in conjunction with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. After the fallow deer almost disappeared 100 years ago, there are now about 500 of them across Israel’s wildernesses. The young deer that were released – five females and five males – were born in the zoo and will now join a herd of 120 fallow deer in the Nahal Sorek Reserve. 

The 10 deer are a year and a half old, a relatively easy age for them to get used to an independent life outside the zoo. At the end of a three-week acclimatization period in a closed-off area, the deer will be able to roam freely in the reserve. Each deer will have a collar with a GPS transmitter so researchers can track their movements and study their habits in the reserve and see how well they’re adapting to their new environment.

A close look at myopia 

Haredi students are likely to develop myopia (nearsightedness), researchers in the Department of Optometry at Hadassah College in Jerusalem found. Their main conclusion is that many in the ultra-Orthodox community aren’t exposed to enough daylight due to long hours of studying. Funded by the Israel-USA Binational Research Foundation and recently published in the online journal Scientific Reports, the data explore the connection between long study hours at school and nearsightedness, indicating that little exposure to daylight leads to myopia, while another hypothesis links myopia to multiple hours of reading and writing. 

Safety steps for babies

Alarming data on infant mortality in Jerusalem: During the last two months, at least 20 infants died in their sleep. The numbers came from Hadassah and Shaare Zedek and do not include the hospitals in the eastern part of the city. Half of the deaths occurred between January and March. 

While this appears to be a high figure, during the winter there is a greater chance of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) occurring. According to a senior medical official in Jerusalem, cardiac arrest in babies also typically happens in the winter, although there have been a few cases in the summer as well. 

'Deer #42' was recently spotted, happy and healthy in the Jerusalem hills (credit: AMY KATZ)'Deer #42' was recently spotted, happy and healthy in the Jerusalem hills (credit: AMY KATZ)

Some of the babies in question were almost two years old, however, which would rule out SIDS. 

At Shaare Zedek, eight children died in the last two months, and in two or three of these cases the medical staff believed it might be SIDS. The rest died of an infection or trauma. 

The Health Ministry recommends several steps to keep babies safe in their cribs: The bed should be placed away from any electrical cables or wiring. Cover the mattress with a fitted, stretchy sheet. Avoid putting pillows, dolls, soft toys, thick blankets or other objects in the baby’s bed. The baby should be covered tightly with blankets. Keep the baby’s body warm and do not cover the face. A baby up to the age of six months should be dressed in only one extra layer compared to an adult in the same climatic conditions. The recommended temperature for the baby’s room is 22-23°. 

Concrete evidence of pollution  

The Environmental Protection Ministry issued an administrative cease and desist order to the Shapir Industries concrete plant in the area of Atarot Airport. The plant is operating without a business license and is in violation of the environmental conditions, causing massive air pollution. The plant has completely ignored the environmental standards set by the ministry, creating serious dust hazards. 

The pollutant standards are part of a series of steps taken by the ministry against businesses in the Atarot industrial area, which has seen significant air pollution. Air quality results have consistently indicated high concentrations of particulate matter exceeding the permitted values established in the Clean Air Law.

As part of a tour conducted of the Shapir factory by the ministry’s Jerusalem district at the end of January, it emerged that the business was continuing to operate without a license; doesn’t have appropriate roofing or a proper washing facility for the mixers; and was creating clouds of dust. 

Home sweet homes 

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of apartments in Jerusalem stands at about 241,000 – an addition of 40,600 apartments in a decade, or 20% since 2012. This places Jerusalem first in the country for the number of apartments. However, so far there hasn’t been any impact on lowering the prices of apartments in the capital. 

Night at the museum

Until the end of March, the Tower of David Museum is opening its ancient gates at night. Visitors can go up to the Phasael Tower and get a panoramic 360-degree view of the city under the starry Jerusalem skies, join a guided tour and learn about the Kishle excavations – where a prison was built on top of King Herod’s palace – and see what the city was like 150 years ago.

The programs include a Bird’s Eye View of Jerusalem, a guided tour starting from the Phasael Tower and continuing to the “Bird’s Eye View” model of Jerusalem in the 19th century, which sheds light on a moment in time when Jerusalem started to develop outside the Old City walls. Participants can identify the buildings that have stood for hundreds of years and see the urban development the city has undergone in just a century and a half.

Another tour is The Mystery of King Herod’s Palace and the Kishle, which also starts from the top of the Phasael Tower, which was built by Herod about 2,000 years ago. The tour continues to the moat of the citadel. From there, visitors can step back in time through the monumental steps in King Herod’s pools to the Kishle excavations, which have revealed the secrets of the city from the time of the Second Temple. 

The night tours take place from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Only the east side of the citadel will be open, which includes the moat and the Kishle excavations. Guided tours will leave at 7:00 and 8:00. Tickets are NIS 40 in advance, and NIS 20 without a guided tour.

Shabbat wars in Ramat Sharett

Shabbat wars are back, this time in Ramat Sharett, as secular residents have demanded the removal of eruv poles and wires placed by ultra-Orthodox residents without prior coordination. (An eruv eases certain Shabbat restrictions, such as allowing observant Jews to carry items or to use strollers in public.)

It turns out that several eruv columns were recently erected, such as one on David Merets Street and another between the Ramat Sharett neighborhood and Malha, along Golomb Street. 

These eruv poles and wires have to comply with safety rules, and they must be engineer-approved. Eruv poles exist across the city, but time and again ultra-Orthodox residents who don’t trust the eruv set up by the local authority place their own without coordination and authorization, causing tension with the secular residents. 

Interestingly, half a million shekels was invested in creating a map of all the eruv poles and wires to determine which are legal and which are pirated; however, the map was never prepared and, meanwhile, the budget has disappeared.

NII info for east Jerusalem youth 

National Insurance Institute (Bituah Leumi) employees led an outreach activity with high school students in the east Jerusalem neighborhoods as part of the institution’s policy to strengthen ties with the community. During the activity day, NII east Jerusalem branch employees went to schools in the area to talk about the institute and to make available information about the rights granted to residents. The students received an explanation about the Savings for Every Child program and the importance of it as a tool for the next phase of their lives as adults. After that, the speakers gave out Internet codes so the students could sign up online to be updated about everything they need to know regarding how the National Insurance Institute could assist them. ❖