This week in Jerusalem: Cherchez la femme

A weekly round-up of city affairs.

 ‘DON’T DELETE me’: Stop the vandalism of female images.  (photo credit: Ujesh Krishnan/Unsplash)
‘DON’T DELETE me’: Stop the vandalism of female images.
(photo credit: Ujesh Krishnan/Unsplash)

Cherchez la femme

Anonymous vandalized ads have spread across the city in response to the vandalism of female figures in the public sphere. While the campaign for the municipal elections is still waiting to rev up, it seems that vandalism on signboards is in high gear. Content from “Don’t delete me,” a campaign featuring pictures of female activists and candidates, were vandalized last week. This campaign arose after the defacement of photos of Deputy Mayor Hagit Moshe. In response, pictures of women with the slogan “Don’t erase me” were hung at the vandalism site and in many other areas in Jerusalem, spiking media interest. 

Although the municipality is attempting to combat the phenomenon and has established a 20-person operational task force to curb it, the next case of vandalism may be just a matter of time.

Coffee and sympathy 

The Jerusalem pilot project to make menus accessible to the blind and visually impaired has expanded all over the country. The Equal Coffee project, which aims at bringing about a positive change in public space accessibility, was developed by the students of the Blind Education School, in cooperation with the municipality. The project raises awareness about the need to facilitate access to this population. 

Four restaurants and cafés in the city are currently participating in the project, and more are interested. The innovation allows blind and visually impaired people to access the menu without the need for assistance from a waiter. This is another step in making the public space accessible for populations with disabilities.

Rooftop culture 

In order to increase awareness about the possible uses of private and public roofs, as of next week exhibitions, live performances, workshops, a Roof Pioneers conference, film screenings, and more will take place on central roofs in Jerusalem. From September 12-14, central rooftops will take part in the third Gag-Eden festival, encouraging cultural and community activities as possible uses for private and public rooftops. 

 THE MUSLALA rooftop garden on top of the Clal Building. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)
THE MUSLALA rooftop garden on top of the Clal Building. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

For three days and nights, a variety of experiences will take place on roofs, this year with the participation of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, and the Jerusalem Sam Spiegel Film School. An exhibition by photographer Adi Segal documenting the “honey women” raising bees on the rooftops of east Jerusalem will be launched, in addition to a pop-up shop selling honey and bee products. There will be a lecture by Nir Barak on the Viennese-Jewish artist and architect pioneer of green roofs, Friedensreich Hundertwasser; architecture and AI workshops will take place at the new Bezalel campus, led by architects from MVRDV-NEXT; and a meeting with Ben Flanner, founder of The Brooklyn Grange, the largest agricultural roof farm in the United States, will be held on the green rooftop of the Clal Center. 

Let us breathe

A new municipal law that went into effect on September 1 prohibits the operation or placement of polluting mechanical engineering equipment at construction sites unless a particle filter has been installed. Deputy Mayor Arieh King, holder of the environmental portfolio, said this will significantly improve the air quality in the city, reducing air pollution, which is particularly important these days with works being carried out in almost every corner – whether for construction or light rail infrastructure. The plan, carried out with Environmental Protection Ministry cooperation and funding, is a follow-up of the 2016 plan to reduce air pollution from transportation in Jerusalem by disallowing diesel vehicles in Jerusalem. Following the publication of this municipal law, a registered letter was sent to all owners of polluting vehicles in Israel, informing them and explaining the possibilities of receiving a substantial subsidy for a limited time from the Environmental Protection Ministry and the Jerusalem Municipality for the installation of a particle filter to reduce air pollution in selected garages.

Take care of my baby 

The municipal Education Administration (Manhi) has established a unit to supervise city kindergarten and daycare staff. It is the first of its kind in the country. The goal is to provide educational guidance and to combat caregiver violence, as well as identify developmental delays in children as early as possible. Safra Square is also promoting the construction of over a hundred new daycare centers in Jerusalem. The therapeutic educational continuum of children from birth to 18 will allow staff to look at children and their emotional, therapeutic, cognitive, pedagogical, and developmental needs from birth to kindergarten, elementary school, and beyond. 

Since supervision for children from birth up to age three was transferred from the Labor Ministry to the Education Ministry, the state had begun to regulate it, requesting that facilities with more than seven children operate under supervision, and with a license from the Education Ministry in order to be a recognized institution and receive pedagogical guidance. The supervision law requires that cameras be installed in settings with seven or more children.

Your time has passed

Beit Gesher hostel and center – adjacent to the back of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel – is being demolished, after 30 years of activities. Members of the Site Preservation Council checked that the demolitions were indeed in accordance with the plan and will only include the newer parts of the building that were added during its restoration some 30 years ago. While the sections of the original building on both sides will be preserved, including the water cistern, the new construction will add another two floors, bringing the total to six. 

Beit Gesher had a study center with a lecture hall, seminar rooms, and offices, alongside boarding school rooms, and for many years was used as the Gesher center, which moved to an alternative location a few years ago. The property was purchased three years later by Laurent Levy.

A name for each street 

Last week, the municipality’s Street Naming Committee approved the naming of a street after Rabbi Shimon Gershon Rosenberg (Shagar), 1949–2007, a leading Religious Zionist scholar and teacher, founder of Efrat’s hesder yeshiva and kollel, Yeshivat Siach-Yitzhak. He grew up in Jerusalem, studying at the hesder Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh and Yeshivat Ha-Kotel. Later in life, he delved deeply into Kabbalah and Hassidism, as he sought to combine all aspects of the Torah in an authentic, interdisciplinary approach. 

The decision to name a street after Israel Prize laureate Prof. Reuven Feuerstein, founder of the Feuerstein Institute for the promotion of learning ability in special education and formal general education, has raised some outrage among Sephardi activists due to a study Feuerstein published in the 1960s stating that immigrants born in Morocco had a brain structure that indicates inherent retardation. 

Another of the streets will be named after Rabbi Avraham Yeshayahu Haber, founder of the Matnat Haim kidney donor association; and yet another, after Rabbi Adin Even Israel Steinzaltz, for his translation of the Babylonian Talmud into modern Hebrew, English, and French, with some volumes already completed in Russian and Spanish. The committee also approved naming a square in Ramat Motza after Mordechai Ra’anan, who commanded the Irgun bombing of the British administrative headquarters in the southern wing of the King David Hotel on July 22, 1946. No women have been included on the list. 

Save a life 

The fifth conference of the Jerusalem “Words that make a difference” organization, dedicated to preventing suicide among teens, will take place under the patronage of first lady Michal Herzog on Sunday, September 12. According to the organization, some 100 teenagers and young adults take their own lives every year in Israel. Using innovative methods, including a groundbreaking model, special approaches, and methods of treatment offered by the Masha organization, many suicides have been prevented in recent years. During the conference, renowned experts from all over the country will discuss various topics, such as why teenagers are a distinct risk group; what happens to teenagers in body, mind, and spirit; and under what conditions the environment enables or prevents suicide.

A meeting of opponents

On Monday evening, an unusual group gathered in the large hall of the Ginot Ha’ir local council on Emek Refaim Street. It was composed of opponents to the Blue Line light rail route; opponents to the high-rise construction spreading in the city as part of the urban renewal boom; and – perhaps the most intriguing participants – representatives of ultra-Orthodox residents from the north of the city who oppose the light rail route on Bar-Ilan Street. These are known for their protesting, which has often turned violent. 

Most of the complaints were addressed to the municipality and especially to Mayor Moshe Leon, with the main argument being that decisions with weighty consequences for the lives of the residents are taken without input from the residents. 

“Every once in a while you see an ad hanging that no one understands and no one grasps its meaning and implications,” said lawyer Yedidiah Wolf, who is coordinating the struggle, “but most of us don’t understand what it means, and then we suddenly find out that an old building is being demolished and that a tower of 30 or more stories is being erected in its place – without any preparation for infrastructure.”

Prof. Mickey Ehrlich, one of the organizers of the evening and the leader of the local protest, explained – with the aid of photos and examples from other places in the country and abroad – the significance of operating the light rail in the city, with an emphasis on the investment of billions of public funds for a mass transportation system that will not really reduce congestion and help the residents. 

Shraga Brandt, a resident of the Bukharim neighborhood and active part of the protest against the light rail path in Bar-Ilan attended the meeting and explained his participation following the municipality’s lack of responsiveness to the demands of the ultra-Orthodox residents. 

“There are large buses that serve our neighborhoods and the area and they do well, the light rail will transport residents from one end of the city to the other and as we are in the middle, this disrupts our way of life and we are against that.” 

Brandt admitted that his sector has a serious problem with acts of vandalism committed in their name against the heavy equipment of the works, emphasizing that the vandals were a minority that the police needed to deal with. 

All participants said that the plans are being forced on them and will change the character of the city. According to the organizers, opposition to the mayor’s plans is wide and should be taken into consideration.