This week in Jerusalem: Back in the pool

A weekly round-up of city affairs.

 SWIMMERS, REJOICE: The Jerusalem Pool is back (Illustrative). (photo credit: Raphael Biscaldi/Unsplash)
SWIMMERS, REJOICE: The Jerusalem Pool is back (Illustrative).
(photo credit: Raphael Biscaldi/Unsplash)

Back in the pool

The Jerusalem Pool will reopen in September, following six years of closure and 14 years of public struggle. The residents’ struggle and the intervention of the municipality enabled the developer to obtain concessions regarding its construction, in exchange for returning part of the area to the residents. The new pool complex will include a communal gym and sports center.

Neighborhood representatives pulled out of an agreement with the municipality in 1980, in which it was stipulated that the pool area would be transferred to the ownership of the municipality, which in turn would lease the part of the pool back to the developers on a 49-year lease. At the end of the lease, the plan was to extend it for another 49 years, but joint owners Ella Brothers and Moshav Shoresh claimed that the pool had become a nonprofit, since at the time it was the only pool in Jerusalem, whereas today there are quite a few public pools in the capital.

The owners also claimed that the high property tax that they had to pay to the municipality, as well as the lack of parking spaces in the area, would incur severe losses. At the end of a hearing held at the Magistrate’s Court, Judge Tamar Ben Asher ruled: “In light of the language of the 1980 agreement and in light of its purpose, the obvious conclusion is that the agreement is valid and exists, according to which the defendants must fulfill their obligations under it and continue to operate the Jerusalem Pool in the format in which it has been operated until today and the repairs and renovations that will enable its proper operation.”

The Supreme Court referred the parties to mediation, and finally a new agreement was signed between the owners of the pool and the municipality. Among other things, it was determined that part of the land belonging to the owners could be used for residential purposes, with the rest being used for the new pool complex, operated by the community administration.

Noise pollution solution 

Important news for those who live next to the route of the upcoming light rail Blue Line on Emek Refaim. The Moriah company is planning to install soundproof windows in homes along the route to reduce the noise for residents in the German Colony caused by the construction of the tracks over the next two years.

 LESS BREAD for Ramat Shlomo residents? (credit: FLASH90)
LESS BREAD for Ramat Shlomo residents? (credit: FLASH90)

Moriah representatives have already started meeting residents in the area in order to compile a list of all the windows facing Emek Refaim Street. Upon completion of the report, it will become clear if additional shielding will be required.

Topnotch education  

Jerusalem-based institutions won four prizes awarded to outstanding educational institutions and groundbreaking principals, Education Minister Yoav Kisch announced last Tuesday. Above all, for the Jerusalem Municipality it attests to the strength and quality of the Jerusalem education system.

The winners included Menashe Eliashar School, where the classrooms were improved beyond recognition and new teaching methods were adopted; and Bnot Yerushalaim School, the first school established within the ultra-Orthodox state education system, acknowledging its high level of education.

Bakery boycott heats up

By the end of the month, one branch of the Angel Bakery chain in the haredi Ramot Shlomo neighborhood is expected to close. Officially, the branch was earmarked for closure even before the recent events took place, but for some of the residents this could be the first casualty of the haredi boycott of the renowned local bakery.

The haredi boycott of Angel Bakery started two weeks ago. It followed an incident during which the chairman of Angel Bakery and former public security minister Omer Bar-Lev protested outside the home of Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, the venerated head of Ponevezh Yeshiva. The act was viewed as a direct insult to the rabbi and a desecration of the Torah.

The branch currently operates in a small commercial center in the neighborhood, and so far no official announcement has been made. But among the haredi leadership in the city, many believe that Angel Bakery will soon be forced to close more stores in distinctly haredi areas.

The Temple as a topic

Our Jerusalem Boys is a program designed to encourage boys who study in religious schools to take part in the Persist in Studying program established by council member Rabbi David Blumenstock. At a gathering held last week for the coordinators of the program, a special topic on the “King’s Temple,” dealing with the sacrifices and duties of the Temple, was added.

The new topic was added with the blessing of the president of the organization, the rosh yeshiva of Hebron Yeshiva, Rabbi David Cohen. Thousands of students who participated received learning booklets and an audio CD, as well as a daily trivia quiz on Temple matters.

Art education at an early age 

Some 600 students from 40 schools in the city, including east Jerusalem, participate every year in the Artist’s Class for Excellence in Art project. Now in its 13th year, the project is led by the Jerusalem Municipality through the Education Department and the Art Education Training Center run by the Israel Museum.

The Master Class for Art Excellence program is another successful collaboration that has been held over the years for a variety of educational institutions throughout the city. This year, 40 groups of students in grades four to six participated in the program, including 10 groups from schools in east Jerusalem, as well as state schools, religious state schools, haredi schools, traditional schools, Hebrew-language, and Arabic-language  schools.

The program includes a weekly meeting conducted by the art teacher in each participating school. Each teacher is in regular contact with the Israel Museum and receives professional training and guidance. Groups of students visit the museum three times during that year for guided tours around the galleries and workshops.

Earlier this week, all 600 participants visited the museum with their parents for a day in which they celebrated art and participated in activities.

Renewal plans for Ramat Polin

Plans for urban renewal in the Ramot Polin neighborhood have been submitted to the District Planning and Construction Committee. This is not just any planning application, as it includes the demolition of Honey Bee Hive House, built more than 50 years ago.

Some 320 apartments will be demolished, making way for 1,300, three-, four-, five- and six-room apartments with sukkah balconies. Also as part of the plan, a new street will be built in the neighborhood between the rows of buildings. The committee has insisted on restricting the height of the buildings so that they fit in with the neighborhood’s character, which means no high-rises. A number of synagogues and spacious buildings for Torah Talmuds, as well as a girls’ school, kindergartens, daycare centers and more are in the planning as well.

New social activist party in town 

Although the municipal elections are not yet up and running, there are already signs of life, with a new list for the council Kodem Jerusalem (Jerusalem First). The list was established by Alon Levy, 32, a former journalist who covered the municipality for one of the local Hebrew newspapers. Its goal is to improve the quality of life of Jerusalemites.

This new list consists of social activists from Jerusalem who are not affiliated with any national parties. The members of the list intend to deal with issues of transportation, construction, urbanization, young people, and people with disabilities. They also intend to reduce the mass migration of young people and families from Jerusalem to the center of the country.

Their campaign will start with a petition requesting a dramatic reduction in the municipal tax (arnona) for residences. Around 100,000 Jerusalemites are expected to sign the petition, which will then be submitted to the Interior Ministry.

Egged – and something Extra

As of today (Friday), the operation of bus line 3 will be transferred from Egged to Extra. The line will use new articulated buses, which will allow for a greater number of passengers. Aside from a change in the operating company, nothing else will change.

The transfer of line 3 to Extra is part of an overall move to improve public transportation in Jerusalem, which includes opening new lines, increasing the number of buses on existing lines, and extending operating hours on some lines.

The replacement of the line operator was carried out in accordance with the joint policy of the Transportation Ministry, the National Authority for Public Transportation, and the Jerusalem Master Plan in order to establish Extra in the north Jerusalem cluster.

Extra began operating in Jerusalem during the past year. It operates in the city’s northern neighborhoods on various lines that serve the haredi communities and the general public. For more information, call Extra hotline *6747 or go to the Extra website

Real estate proposal 

Six months after he acquired the city plots previously owned by the Greek Orthodox Church, Jewish-American businessman Gary Barnett announced that he has no intention of evicting the existing tenants from the apartments. Rather, he proposes that the tenants pay NIS 5,000 per square meter in order to register their homes as their properties.

According to Barnett, in the free market the price per square meter of similar apartments in the same vicinity is about NIS 45,000 per square meter. Based on this proposal, while the tenants will pay some NIS 5,000 per square meter, they will own an apartment that reflects a price of approximately NIS 45,000 per square meter.

Considering the fact that Barnett intends to promote evacuation-construction projects, which require regulation of the ownership of the properties, this could be a win-win situation for all concerned. However, earlier this week, representatives of the residents of the neighborhoods of Nayot, Talbiyeh, Rehavia, Rosh Rehavia, Abu Tor and Givat Oranim planned to hold a demonstration at the entrance to the Inbal Hotel, which is located on the purchased land. The demonstration is a protest against the intention of contractors to evict them from their homes in the coming years, without the intervention of the state.❖