This week in Jerusalem: End of guard

A weekly round-up of city affairs.

 GOODBYE, BOOKSTORE: Turning the page on Hebrew U’s Akademon.  (photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)
GOODBYE, BOOKSTORE: Turning the page on Hebrew U’s Akademon.
(photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)

End of guard 

The guard post above the French Hill intersection was vacated last week, following a Facebook comment from Deputy Mayor Aryeh King (Jerusalem United) calling on Mayor Moshe Lion to vacate it. The post, run by the Border Police, was set up there during the Second Intifada, when a series of terrorist attacks took place at the site, killing civilians and soldiers alike, in June 2002 and September 2004, but it hasn’t been in use for several years.

End of quiet

Residents of Beit Hakerem’s Aharonov Street found out recently that the municipality has decided to turn their small and quiet byway into a busy transportation route. A petition signed by residents with the backing of the local council hasn’t had any effect, as Safra Square argues that most of the residents’ comments have been heard and taken into consideration. Following the increase in the number of residents and vehicles, the street became a busy transportation route, mostly due to the use of Waze. In an attempt to deal with the traffic jams, the municipality is now widening the road and adding another traffic lane. The petition addressed to the mayor states that the works do not include drainage solutions. It objects to the cutting down of trees without an adequate landscape response and to the elimination of trash bins. 

Shutdown No. 1

After decades, the student bookstore at the Hebrew University on Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus has closed. Akademon, the chain of bookstores in universities is closing its doors in the city, as last week the bookstore’s management informed its customers through a makeshift sign on the glass door that the store was shuttered. This is not the only store in the chain that closed in Jerusalem: the branch at Hadassah Ein Kerem has also ended its operations, and the one at the Hebrew University in Givat Ram is in advanced closing processes.

While many attribute the decision to the fact that the technological world eliminates the need for such brick-and-mortar bookstores, since books of any kind can be bought at discounted prices a click away, many students will miss the days they would spend hours in the bookstores. 

Shutdown No. 2

A blow to nightlife in Jerusalem: Toy Bar has closed after 16 years, with owner Adi Talmor saying that it seems Jerusalem is not built for such venues.

Gymnasia Rehavia school in Jerusalem (credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Gymnasia Rehavia school in Jerusalem (credit: Wikimedia Commons)


About 180,000 Jerusalem students went on vacation from last week, as the elementary schools and the municipal kindergartens joined some 110,000 junior school and high school students. Altogether, the city’s educational system, the largest in Israel, has over 290,000 students from all sectors (not including the haredi-hassidic independent school system).

About 8,140 boys and girls graduated from the municipal kindergartens and are expected to start first grade in the coming school year. Most of them, as well as the first-to-third grade students, will remain in school for the next three weeks in school summer camps, until mid-August, in a number of different programs, most of them offered at very low prices or free of charge during morning hours.

In the past school year, the municipality invested approximately NIS 453 million in the construction of 124 classrooms and in renovations in the city’s schools and kindergartens.

Fighting for us 

The residents’ fight against the road between Gonen and the Talpiot industrial zone that would cross Hamesila Park continues, and now the Public Council for the Prevention of Noise and Air Pollution submitted a long and detailed objection in which it points to a series of failures in the approval of the plan to build a bridge over that road. The Hitorerut movement at city council involved the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee to hold a discussion on the issue. The Jerusalem Local Planning and Building Committee approved the construction of the road and the bridge. The Public Council for the Prevention of Noise and Air Pollution raised a number of claims against the conduct of the municipality – both regarding the plan itself and regarding the method of its approval. Jerusalem City Council members Yovav Tzur and Adir Schwartz (Hitorerut), along with MK Orit Farkash-Hacohen (National Unity) and MK Tsega Melaku (Likud), initiated a discussion in the Internal Affairs Committee regarding the road and the planned bridge, as another way to put pressure on the decision-makers to reconsider.

Social and environmental activists are raising funds to hold community events in Hamesila Park with the aim of raising awareness and provoking even more determined opposition to the plan, which may cause the mayor to back down. At the same time, attempts to stop or at least delay as much as possible the approval of the final plan continue. The municipality sees no reason for new debate, since the local committee already discussed all of the objections and decided to reject them.

Entrepreneurial evacuation 

The Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee has approved the first construction-evacuation project on an entrepreneurial track to be implemented in the ultra-Orthodox part of the Ramot neighborhood. As part of the project, three eight-story buildings will be built, including about 210 apartments, on Sulam Ya’acov Street, instead of one old building with three entrances. The project, led by the Nativ Group entrepreneurs, may pave the way for the promotion of other projects with the ultra-Orthodox community. 

Ramot is one of Jerusalem’s largest neighborhoods, with approximately 56,000 residents, most of them from the haredi sector, located on the central traffic axis from northern Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. The municipality strongly supports the renewal of the neighborhood, and aims to create an urban plan with commercial areas that match the population’s specific and cultural needs. 

We demolish here

In the first half of 2023, a total of 127 demolitions were carried out in several Arab neighborhoods, 73 of which were inhabited homes, marking a record number of demolitions compared to the same in the last six years. Does the increase in demolition orders indicate a change in policy? 

This is not entirely clear, since on the one hand there was a statement by the national security minister that the demolitions would be increased as a response to terrorist acts. Yet in the city the authority to issue orders and carry out demolitions rests only with the municipality and/or the Interior Ministry.

A number of “self-demolitions” – a measure in which families are forced to demolish their own homes to avoid steep fines, imprisonment, or other penalties for unauthorized construction – were also part of this data. So far this year, self-demolitions accounted for 40 of the total structures demolished. 

According to Ir Amim, a left-wing NGO for an equitable and stable Jerusalem, the rise in self-demolitions over the years is a direct result of Amendment 116 to the Planning and Building Law (“Kaminitz Law”), which severely increased enforcement and penalization against unpermitted construction and imposed drastic limitations on judicial review of these cases. ❖