This week in Jerusalem: Tempest in a coffee cup

A weekly round-up of city affairs.

 ‘YES TO coffee, no to coercion’ in Talbiyeh (Illustrative). (photo credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90)
‘YES TO coffee, no to coercion’ in Talbiyeh (Illustrative).
(photo credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90)

Tempest in a coffee cup 

Residents of the Talbiyeh neighborhood, near the Rose Garden, objected to the demonstrations organized by the Hitorerut movement against the municipality’s demands to force a local coffee shop to close on Shabbat. Residents said they had only agreed to it opening there because they were promised that it would close on Shabbat. According to Hitorerut, the municipality misled the residents by not mentioning the possibility of the cafe being open on Shabbat.

“Yes to coffee, no to coercion,” dozens of Jerusalemites chanted at the demonstration, stressing that this was an unprecedented demand by the municipality which contradicted municipal law.

Hitorerut also petitioned the court, which in turn issued a restraining order against the municipality. Just one day later, however, residents in the area held a referendum in which it was decided – by a majority of 64.2% – to agree to the cafe continuing to operate there on the basis that it would be closed on Shabbat. 

Slam dunk for Jerusalem 

The women’s basketball team Hapoel Lev Jerusalem advanced to the Premier League after beating Hapoel Kfar Saba 58 to 38 on Friday in the second game of the playoff final. Hapoel Lev Jerusalem, which had already won the League Cup, now won the championship and was crowned the women’s national league champion.

Neta Abugov, chairman of the Hapoel Lev Jerusalem group, said: “We made history. Jerusalem has been promoted to the Premier League. I am very excited. We are already waiting for next season. Come on, Hapoel Lev Jerusalem!”

 CITY ARNONA coffers: West side pays more?  (credit: eskay lim/Unsplash)
CITY ARNONA coffers: West side pays more? (credit: eskay lim/Unsplash)

Hapoel Lev Jerusalem was established in 2021. Within a short space of time, it has become the biggest club in Jerusalem. The club was founded with the aim of giving women from every part of the capital, regardless of race or religion, the chance to experience empowerment and excellence through sport.

Can we get married?

Councilor Yonatan Yosef requested permission to hold a wedding in his office for a couple in need, similar to the group weddings held last Thursday by Deputy Mayor Yosi Havilio for couples from the gay community. However, legal adviser to the municipality Eli Malka refused his request, saying it was an improper use of the municipality’s resources during the election period.

According to Malka, the weddings of six gay couples took place because Havilio did not seek permission beforehand. Instead, the ceremonies simply went ahead last Thursday, the day of the Pride Parade in Jerusalem.

The idea of holding gay weddings in the municipality was initiated by Havilio in response to threats by the Lahava organization to disrupt the parade, as well as homophobic statements made recently by two members of the city council.

The weddings included short ceremonies and the signing of affidavits. When Havilio was a legal adviser to the municipality 21 years ago under mayor Uri Lupolianski, he published a paper stating that the gay community should be allowed to walk freely in the streets of the capital. This was accepted by the Supreme Court and has since been used as the legal anchor for holding the Pride Parade every year in Jerusalem.

Don’t take the blue train

Following four years of protests by a group of haredim who oppose the route of the light rail’s Blue Line, it is now clear that the completion of the line will be delayed. The question is for how long?

The violent opposition to the route began in June 2019, with severe vandalism that has continued to this day. Even last week, expensive excavation equipment was set alight.

The municipality blames the police, who claim that they are doing their best. The Fire and Rescue Authority said that had the fire spread to one of the nearby buildings, the incident could have ended with loss of life.

Haredi rabbis were horrified to hear that the train was supposed to pass through their neighborhood, and printed a poster titled “Resist With Force.” The senior rabbis among them warned that these plans would lead to the destruction and devastation of ultra-Orthodox Judaism, with residents being exposed to unimaginable harm and corruption. This led to more posters titled “Hell Tunnel,” stating that the purpose of the Blue Line is to “spoil the ultra-Orthodox community and turn the old ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods into centers of debauchery and entertainment.” 

We are the champions

Unistream held the Championship of Innovation competition earlier this week at Binyenei Ha’uma. This competition was the culmination of the organization’s annual Start-Up Now program. During the competition, over 90 projects were presented by young men and women from all sectors of society and areas of the country, including east Jerusalem.

Unistream promotes business and social entrepreneurship among young men and women who have been marginalized in society, and provides them with advanced employment skills.

Start-Up Now is a one-year program run in collaboration with the Education Ministry, the Innovation Authority and others. Youths from all over the country of various backgrounds, beliefs and cultures participated in the program. The competition was judged by hundreds of senior businessmen and women, as well as the general public.

One entry in the competition was by youngsters from east Jerusalem. They presented a project in which food boxes for street cats had been developed for distribution in areas where there is a large concentration of cats in order to feed them with good, uncontaminated food.

Another project from east Jerusalem was an app that helps high school students choose the right university/college for them.

Alone together 

An exhibition by photographer Alex Levac will open at the Van Leer Institute on Sunday, June 11. The exhibition aims to show what the separation fence looks like through a camera lens. Commentaries are also provided by the general public and intellectual figures from both sides of the divide – Israelis, Palestinians and Jerusalemites.

The decision to build the separation fence 20 years ago resulted in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict becoming a problem that no longer dominated the headlines and thoughts of the public in general.

However, as Levac aims to show through his lens, for Palestinian residents of the West Bank and east Jerusalem, the fence is a reality that negatively affects almost every aspect of their lives. 

The exhibition is open to the public free of charge.

Musica Aeterna at Ratisbonne

For the first time, the Jerusalem Musica Aeterna choir will perform a concert at the Ratisbonne Monastery in the center of the city. After lengthy negotiations, the management of the monastery, which has wonderful acoustics, agreed to the concert. Owing to the monastery’s kind offer to use their organ, the concert will open with Bach’s Prelude and Fugue.

The choir was founded in 1996 by Ilya Plotkin, who made aliyah in the 1990s from Russia with his family. Plotkin, who has conducted the choir since it was formed, was assisted by former mayor of Jerusalem Teddy Kollek. The distinctive sound of the Russian choir has been perfected by Musica Aeterna, which started as a women’s choir, with male singers being added over the years.

Plotkin and his wife, Eleonora, the director of the choir, have arranged recitals in various monasteries and churches throughout the city, which until then had refused to allow public performances.

Concerts have been held in The Holy Trinity Cathedral in the Russian Compound, Sergei’s Courtyard, and the Monastery of the Cross.

The program, comprised of a series of three concerts, includes works by Gounod, Bruckner, Rachmaninoff, Rimsky-Korsakov and more.

The first concert will be held on June 22 at 7:30 p.m.. For details and tickets, call 054-474-4799.

Whose tax is it?

Who pays the most property tax in Jerusalem? According to city council member Yosef Speizer (Hitorerut), property tax collection from residents of the Arab neighborhoods in east Jerusalem is relatively low (71%) compared to the Jewish neighborhoods in the west part of the city (91%). Speizer has appealed to Interior Minister Moshe Arbel to address this issue.

Interestingly, for years, residents in east Jerusalem paid more property tax than residents in other parts of the city, following a ruling by Eli Yishai, interior minister in the 1990s. The ruling said that failure to pay property tax may lead to the revocation of residency, something which Arab residents of the city were particularly afraid of. ❖