This week in Jerusalem: War on Azza

A weekly round-up of city affairs.

 ‘THE POWER of Words’: On show at FOZ. (Illustrative) (photo credit: GLEN CARRIE/UNSPLASH)
‘THE POWER of Words’: On show at FOZ. (Illustrative)
(photo credit: GLEN CARRIE/UNSPLASH)

War on Azza

Residents and business owners on Azza Road are protesting against the ongoing demonstrations that have been taking place for weeks in front of building number 35, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence.

Shop owners have submitted objections to the security measures which have been put in place in front of the building, arguing that they are driving customers away, even when the demonstrations are not taking place. As a result, they are suffering losses in the region of hundreds of thousands of shekels per month.

The police have announced that they have tried to resolve this problem, but so far, nothing has changed. Locals are particularly incensed by the district committee’s intention to upgrade the security system by replacing the temporary barriers on the street with more rigid structures on both sides of the street.

Business owners have stressed that police roadblocks used to control the demonstrations are harming their businesses. Many customers no longer shop there, not even for takeaway – even Wolt has stopped their delivery service in the area. Moreover, when protestors leave the area, people still experience difficulties in accessing the various businesses.

And to add insult to injury, every time the prime minister exits and enters his home, the street is blocked for 10 minutes.

 The new security measures outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's home on Azza Street in Jerusalem. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The new security measures outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's home on Azza Street in Jerusalem. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

People of the Books 1

Residents of Rassco and Beit Hakerem who donated books to their local street libraries recently discovered that someone had systematically emptied the shelves. It turned out that this also happened in several other neighborhoods.

The municipality, alerted by residents, has promised to investigate the matter and install additional cameras and increase police patrols in the area, while urging residents to continue using and enjoying the street libraries.

One Rassco resident said that less than two hours after he had left some books, they had disappeared. On another occasion, he actually saw someone filling bags with books from the street library.

People of the Books 2

In preparation for Hebrew Book Week launched on Wednesday this week, the Jerusalem Municipality published data from the municipal libraries, detailing their activities throughout the city. 

Currently, there are 23 public libraries in Jerusalem, with another due to open toward the end of the month in the French Hill neighborhood. Additionally, plans are afoot to open two more libraries by the end of 2023 in the east of the city.

The goal is to encourage reading among schoolchildren in the Arab sector. Until the new libraries are up and running in the east of the city, the municipality will operate a mobile library in some of these neighborhoods, thus making it easier for residents and children to borrow books.

As for the figures on reading among Jerusalemites – in 2022, 1,914,140 books were borrowed – an increase of about 10% on the previous year. In addition, during the last year, 65,110 books were borrowed from the Israeli Digital Library, which is an increase of 13% on the previous year. A further 9,200 codes for digital books were borrowed from the e-vrit website – up around 15% compared to 2022.

Over the past year, 9,950 new subscribers also registered in the municipal libraries in the city – an increase of 25% on the previous year. On the digital side, 1,457 new subscribers signed up this year, an increase of 15%.

The leading neighborhoods for borrowing books are Beit Hakerem, Ramot and Beit Ha’am where the central library is located.

More towers in the city

Plans for two new construction sites were approved last week by the local planning and construction committee in Safra Square. They comprise a mixed-use complex in Har Homa and another urban renewal complex in Kiryat Hayovel. Both projects include dozens of housing units, commercial spaces, public buildings and more.

Some 4.6 acres of vacant land will be used for new construction projects in the Har Homa neighborhood. The plans are for a mixed-use complex that includes two residential buildings – one 21-story building and another 11-story building, both with underground parking. In addition, the plans include the allocation of around 1.5 acres for buildings and public institutions, as well as a new traffic circle.

In Kiryat Hayovel, the approved plan for urban renewal is located between 25, 27 and 29 Guatemala Street and Bolivia Street. The plans span approximately 4.8 acres, and include the demolition of three residential buildings comprising 85 units, and the construction of two 27-story residential towers – with 320 units and large open spaces. Care will be taken to keep the path connecting Bolivia and Guatemala streets. 

Historic farm

Tur Sinai Farm in Emek Arazim will benefit from an investment of approximately NIS 15 million for development in the coming year. This development project will see the construction of 20 new housing units (zimmers), a spa and health center, an indoor pool, a restaurant and a cafe.

Organic crop growing in the area is not expected to be affected during the ongoing planned works and natural stone will be used to build the 35, 40 and 60 square meter accommodation units.

Following a huge fire in the region in 2016, an emergency services bay will be constructed at the entrance to the farm, where the fire brigade will have access to water piping systems.

The project is the brainchild of Masa Israeli, (a national educational program) which purchased the farm through a donor. The farm, which was originally owned by the Tur Sinai family has an organic orchard with about 2,500 fruit trees, that is open to the general public by appointment. More than 200 different varieties of fruits are grown there using organic cultivation methods.

There is also a center for professional conferences and health workshops on the farm.

The power of words

A new, enchanting exhibition, The Power of Words is open until the end of June at the entrance to the Friends of Zion Museum (FOZ) in the city center. The exhibition is part of a project involving Holocaust survivors called “Dolls and Dreams.”

Over the years, curator Michal Fundaminski collated various words and sentences that helped survivors both during and after the war: “I gathered together all the words and phrases and published them in a creative and powerful book in which the graphic editing was done by Gabi Wechsler-Kazan. The Holocaust survivors who told their stories were photographed for the book by Naomi Zeidman,” says Fundaminski.

The book, which is full of empowering words and sentences, has been created as a gift to be passed on to future generations.

The exhibition is a private initiative; for the first time, a book has been produced which shines a light on survivors of the Holocaust as they discover how much of an inspiration they are, explains Fundaminski. The exhibition also includes a wall of lights and blessings.

Volunteers, mostly from Enosh (The Israeli Mental Health Association), have been accompanying and supporting the group for two years. Some also gave the survivors knitted gifts that they had made for them.

Entry is free. 

Ministerial rebellion

Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel refuses to move her office and its 90 employees to the capital. Despite the government’s decision and a time extension, Gamliel is demanding another two years in Tel Aviv, despite a decision by the former government, that obligates all ministries and additional official units to move to the capital. The Jerusalem Municipality claims the Intelligence Ministry is once again dragging its feet since the government housing administration has already allocated an area in Mount Hotzvim, for which the state is paying rent. 

Rural students

A new student village is to be inaugurated next year in Kiryat Menachem. The Bnei Akiva and Horev institutions’ Jerusalem alumni movements have opened registration for the village. This initiative by Horev in Jerusalem, in honor of its 90th anniversary, will look after students by establishing a framework that provide scholarships and rent assistance. The village is to operate in the spirit of Torah combined with derech eretz. It is promoted by the deputy mayor in charge of the education portfolio, Hagit Moshe, who expects the student village will assist in providing education and continuity during academic studies. It is expected to become a leading institution and its students will join the 1,500 young people in student villages throughout the country.

Mystic trees

The National Library recently acquired a rare and important collection of kabbalistic manuscripts and illustrations. The “Ilanot” collection includes 36 parchment and paper scrolls – some of which are the longest of their kind (up to 11 meters long) – presenting kabbalistic symbols via complex tree-like diagrams that include various figures and illustrations. These scrolls joins 25 kabbalistic scrolls already in the National Library’s Kabbalah collection.

The library now houses the world’s largest collection of kabbalistic verses, with over 60 scrolls dating from 1660 to 1920, created in Diaspora communities from Eastern and Western Europe to Yemen, Kurdistan, Morocco, Iraq and more. ❖