This week in Jerusalem: Hiding the gold

A weekly round-up of city affairs.

 JEWISH UKRAINIAN refugees arrive at an IFCJ-JDC emergency shelter in Chisinau, Moldova, March 2022. (photo credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90)
JEWISH UKRAINIAN refugees arrive at an IFCJ-JDC emergency shelter in Chisinau, Moldova, March 2022.
(photo credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90)

Hiding the gold

The golden dome on the Beit Safafa mosque’s roof was recently covered with gray fabric. According to some residents, the dome was covered as part of a compromise with the municipality, which had demanded the demolition of the structure, illegally built about three years ago. At Safra Square, where the structure is still considered illegal, no such compromise is known.

In January 2022, after inquiries by Deputy Mayor Arieh King and some right-wing organizations into the mosque’s status, the municipality submitted a request to the city’s Local Affairs Court to issue a demolition order. However, last week, with the month of Ramadan approaching, in what seems like a local initiative of residents trying to avoid the demolition of the dome, it suddenly appeared covered with gray cloth – perhaps as a local compromise. 

Christians and Jews

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) is commemorating its 40th year of operations, which have thus far brought in $1.5 billion in contributions to Jewish and Israeli causes. Among them is the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), which has been working alongside the IFCJ for the past 20 years.

The IFCJ and JDC collaboration has enabled support to be provided to approximately 80,000 Jewish seniors living in the former Soviet Union, including many Holocaust survivors. The overall goal was to assist the FSU Jewish community with their basic needs, ranging from food and clothing to heating appliances.

To date, over $200 million dollars of aid has been provided by the IFCJ in support of the JDC’s projects in this region. Cooperation between the two agencies intensifies during times of crisis, such as war or during the pandemic.

 INITIAL CONSTRUCTION of the tunnel road, Feb. 2020. (credit: GERSHON ELINSON/FLASH90) INITIAL CONSTRUCTION of the tunnel road, Feb. 2020. (credit: GERSHON ELINSON/FLASH90)

As the conflict in Ukraine has raged over the past year, support efforts have increased, with IFCJ funding exceeding $11m. to the JDC in 2022 alone. The allocated funds provided food, medicine and other emergency supplies in locally affected communities; funds also assisted individuals and families who had been forced to leave their homes in order to find secure housing in other parts of the country or across the border.

In advance of Passover, the IFCJ is planning to distribute over a ton of holiday food and matzot to Jewish refugees living in Moldova. Last week, the two organizations commemorated their ongoing partnership and marked the fourth anniversary of the passing of IFCJ founder, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, in the presence of his daughter, Yael Eckstein. 

Hit the road

Good news for residents of Jerusalem, Gush Etzion and surrounding communities: The new tunnel in the southern section of the Highway 60 project has been opened for traffic. This joint project of the Transportation Ministry and the municipality was implemented by the Moriah Company.

Route 60, also known as the Tunnel Road, has undergone an infrastructural revolution as part of one of Moriah’s flagship projects carried out on behalf of the ministry and the municipality.

The road serves as the southern entrance to Jerusalem and is a major transportation artery through which hundreds of thousands of vehicles pass every day. It was built two years ago from two narrow tunnels and one old, single-lane bridge. The Tunnel Road doubling project is now underway and stretches from the Rosemarin Intersection in Gilo to the Hussan Intersection in Gush Etzion. The total length of the project is six kilometers.

Don’t shoot, talk

With the country now in turmoil and discourse heating up, a new initiative requires  that candidates for leadership of Jerusalem behave responsibly and engage in respectful discourse during the municipal elections period and beyond. The initiative comes on the heels of meetings of the Jerusalem Council of Agreements, which operates on behalf of the Israeli Congress. It consists of representatives from various city populations who formulated the Jerusalem Treaty of Mutual Respect.

Among the participants in last week’s event were former city councilman Ofer Berkovitch (Hitorerut); MK Ze’ev Elkin (National Unity Party); Yossi Daitch; MK Moshe Tur-Paz (Yesh Atid); MK Avraham Benayahu Bezalel (Shas); Yishai Cohen (Kikar HaShabbat website); and Inbar Tweizer (News 12).

Be good

Good Deeds Day took place last week with close cooperation between the municipality and the Ruach Tova volunteer organization, which operates throughout the year to connect people who want to volunteer with the organizations that need them.

Some 50,000 volunteers took part on this day as hundreds of events and projects were held all over the city. Pianists played in different styles on three pianos in the city center, while Mayor Moshe Lion, together with the employees of Safra Square, renovated the home (and garden) for lone soldiers in Beit Hakerem, operated by the Lone Soldier Center – In Memory of Michael Levin.

The League of Champions held a major event for the disabled in Malha’s basketball court, while the municipality’s Shefa Division to improve the appearance of public spaces cleaned up Nahal Zimri and planted flowers on Gilo’s Hamor Street, also installing public toilets there. They also renovated Beit Sanhedria – a building for at-risk youth.

Meanwhile, youth from Ort Beit Arava set up a beauty salon for seniors, providing a variety of beauty treatments, while handing out smoothies, coffee and cake. The second-grade students at the David Yellin Junior Division collected equipment for cats and dogs, such as blankets, mattresses, baskets, food, and toys for animals. Some children also knitted pampering baskets for them.

Volunteers from the Municipal Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired prepared bags with mandala pages and colored pencils, which were distributed to long-term patients hospitalized at Hadassah University Medical Center on Mount Scopus.

Good Deeds Day is a global day that unites people from over 120 countries, shining a spotlight on voluntary activities and social and communal projects. On this day, everyone – regardless of age, religious observance, or political affiliation – comes together for the common goal of doing good for others and the environment. Many participants choose to continue volunteering, joining the other 100,000 residents who volunteer throughout the year.

A woman of value

Yael Berman-Domb, CEO of Tene Yerushalmi, was announced as the winner of the Jerusalem Award for Young Leadership. The prestigious $100,000 prize will be awarded this year for the first time by the Maimonides Foundation and the Jerusalem Foundation. The prize money goes toward the cultivation and promotion of the activities of the winning organization.

The award ceremony will take place on Tuesday, March 28. The award is a sign of appreciation for social entrepreneurs who, through their social work, are role models and an inspiration to others.

Tene Yerushalmi, founded by Berman-Domb, is an organization that works to raise a generation of leaders who advocate the values of democracy, Zionism and humanism while having a deep connection with and responsibility to Jerusalem and the State of Israel.

‘Time’ touts Tower

Earlier this week, Time magazine named Jerusalem as one of the World’s Greatest Places, with special mention of the recently renovated Tower of David Museum. The inclusion of the museum is particularly welcome, given that it will reopen to the public on June 1 after a three-year, $50 million renewal and conservation project that has transformed the visiting experience.

The project has included the preservation and conservation of the historic citadel and archaeological park. Two elevators have been added, as well as accessible ramps and a chairlift. The museum continues to show its spectacular night displays multiple times a week.

Time solicited nominations for the list of places – including countries, regions, cities and towns – from its international network of correspondents and contributors, with an eye toward those offering new and exciting experiences. ❖