This week in Jerusalem: Choo choo is coming

A weekly round-up of city affairs.

 PREPARING FOOD baskets: Jerusalem families are struggling more than ever.  (photo credit: MICHAEL GILADI/FLASH90)
PREPARING FOOD baskets: Jerusalem families are struggling more than ever.
(photo credit: MICHAEL GILADI/FLASH90)

Choo choo is coming 

The municipality has approved a NIS 350 million budget to finance works on the light rail’s Blue Line, to be carried out through the Moriah Jerusalem Development Company, in cooperation with the Transportation Ministry and the Transportation Master Plan team. 

The Blue Line will extend for 31 kilometers through 52 stations, from Gilo in southern Jerusalem, through Ramat Eshkol to Ramot in the north. It will have two branches: one northern, from Geula to Ramat Eshkol, the other southern from the Khan Station to Malha. 

This plan, together with the Purple Line, is currently in the tendering process at the Finance Ministry. The plan incorporates a horizontal line in the city’s south that will run from the neighborhoods of Kiryat Menachem and Kiryat Hayovel through Ramat Denia, Ramat Sharett, Malha, and Katamonim to Talpiot. It will connect The Blue Line with the Red Line, by forming a continuous line between Talpiot and the Gonenim neighborhoods in the south, with Mount Scopus in the north, including Hadassah-University Medical Center, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The work is expected to begin in the coming year. 

Brother, can you spare a dime?

Aid associations throughout the city have reported an unprecedented increase in demand from struggling families. While such organizations have traditionally fielded many such requests (this was particularly severe during the pandemic), today many more families – many of them previously unknown – are in dire need. 

 CONVICTED SEX OFFENDER Eliezer Berland: Tainted ‘sukkah.’  (credit: FLASH90)
CONVICTED SEX OFFENDER Eliezer Berland: Tainted ‘sukkah.’ (credit: FLASH90)

Why? The rising cost of living and soaring interest rates (with families paying about NIS 2,000 extra per month for their mortgage). Moreover, some managers say a portion of donors are now choosing to support the protests instead of their aid organizations.

In Jerusalem, Israel’s poorest city, this has affected even middle-class families in which both parents work. 

Tehran in Jerusalem 

“We will not become Tehran,” wrote angry residents of the Har Homa neighborhood to Deputy Mayor Arieh King, who holds the Local Council portfolio. This followed King’s distribution of election flyers in mailboxes advocating for the closing of the Country Club on Shabbat. While many who reside there are religious, not all want the pool shuttered.

The ongoing struggle in Har Homa began six months ago, mirroring that of other Jerusalem neighborhoods like Kiryat Hayovel regarding Shabbat closures.

Tishrei ‘slihot’

Throughout the month of Tishrei, the municipality will host evenings of slihot prayers in the Sultan’s Pool, Safra Square, and the Kotel Plaza, as well as in 20 neighborhoods in the city. With the arrival of the month of Elul, the municipality has prepared to host hundreds of thousands of residents and visitors, as it does every year for these traditional prayer evenings. 

Special education

The education system has opened 25 classrooms at the Adi Jerusalem Center for special-needs students. The opening event was celebrated in a festive ceremony, concluding with a prayer for a year of growth and self-fulfillment. Adi Jerusalem is a unique center providing a therapeutic, rehabilitative, and educational package for hundreds of youth and adults with complex intellectual-developmental disabilities. 

Special health

An innovative LGBTQ clinic has opened in the city center: Clalit Health Services has taken the initiative to promote accessible healthcare in the LGBTQ community, tailored toward their specific needs. 

No ‘sukkah’ for criminals

The municipality refused the request of convicted sex offender and fraudster Eliezer Berland’s followers to put up a huge sukkah in a municipal parking lot near Safra Square, following Deputy Mayor Yossi Havilio’s campaign. 

Last year, the municipality and the Israel Police authorized the erection of a huge sukkah in the parking lot in the Morasha (Musrara) neighborhood. This caused severe parking, transportation, and noise problems for residents of the area and beyond – not to mention sending the unsavory message of rewarding a criminal.

‘Balagan’ at Gonenim

In the run-up to Rosh Hashanah, at the Gonenim Local Council, payments to suppliers and creditors, as well as employee wages, will not be made, following a dispute in the community administration department regarding bank signatories. 

Following the “coup” that led to local activist Yossi Saidov replacing Efrat Zocher, a petition was drawn up requesting that the bank freeze all activities in the community’s account. It was suggested by the Gonenim administration that former chairwoman Zocher would cease to serve as a signing authority, and the new chairman of the board, Saidov, would take her place as the authorized signatory.

However, most members of management present were against this change in signatory. Nevertheless, after they left the meeting, the issue was raised once again and approved by five members of the management, including Saidov. 

The question remains: Who is the authorized signatory? For the bank, there is no question – between the supporters of Saidov and his opponents, all activities are frozen until further notice. 

For the municipality, which is not well disposed toward Saidov, this is an internal dispute. However, Safra Square said that the administration must fulfill its obligations toward its suppliers and employees. Stay tuned for more.

Money, money, money for Jerusalem 

Culture and Sport Minister Miki Zohar and Mayor Moshe Lion agreed earlier this week on a significant increase in the budget of the Jerusalem Regulation (Takanat Yerushalayim) for 2023-2024. An increase of 13% in 2023, followed by 16% in 2024, has been approved. 

This decision translates into NIS 37 million for 2024, compared to NIS 34 million in 2023. This is the result of a fruitful collaboration between Lion and Zohar, with the aim of continuing to promote culture in the capital. 

As Zohar said upon announcing his decision: “The city of Jerusalem is full of talent and inspiring sites. and I believe that any addition to the cultural budget in the city will increase the city’s cultural offerings, make culture accessible to its residents, and attract more visitors from both inside and outside the country.”