This week in Jerusalem: Keep up the good work

A weekly round-up of city affairs.

 WITH 11,000 employees, the Jerusalem Municipality is the capital’s beating heart. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
WITH 11,000 employees, the Jerusalem Municipality is the capital’s beating heart.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Keep up the good work

Though still not officially announced, senior sources inside the Jerusalem and Heritage Ministry confirmed this week that its budget has been approved for the second phase of the East City Infrastructure Improvement Program. The first plan – Project 3970, approved three-and-a-half years ago – amounted to NIS 2.5 billion and provided for extensive infrastructure work on sidewalks, outdoor lighting, public gardens, welfare and employment projects, and above all, intensive cleaning and accessibility for the disabled. 

Now, it's been decided to increase the budget for the second phase to NIS 4 billion. This time the intention is to focus on east Jerusalem's education system, and as the senior source stated: “At the end of the next five years of the program, there will be no public school in the east of the city that will not adopt the Israeli curriculum, including increased Hebrew studies and Israeli matriculation exams.”

As in past years, the official announcement will be released at the festive government meeting held in one of the capital's historical sites on Jerusalem Day, which marks the reunification of the city after the Six Day War.

See you in court

It was a matter of time: about a week after the municipality announced that elections in the Ramot local council will be conducted separately for the pluralist and the haredi branches, the haredi community administration has petitioned the court to stop the elections. By the end of last week, the court issued an interim order at the request of the Ma’aleh Ramot haredi administration, taking the some 45,000 residents of the neighborhood back to square one.

 RAMOT MALL: The Haredi presence has changed the neighborhood's character (credit: OLIVER FITOUSSI/FLASH90) RAMOT MALL: The Haredi presence has changed the neighborhood's character (credit: OLIVER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Last November, it seemed that a solution was finally found, as after lengthy negotiations, the municipality decided to adhere to a special outline for elections for the different communities in order to maintain the neighborhood status quo. Safra Square ruled that instead of residents voting, a special committee composed of municipal and neighborhood representatives would elect the community administration chairman.

But Yehuda Spitzer, chairman of Ma’aleh Ramot, declared that the outline was in fact forced on the haredi community with an unclear procedure in which not all residents can participate, in opposition to what democracy requires. 

Safra Square said the issue is being discussed in court. 

Thank you for calling

In the year 2021, the municipality’s 106 call center received about 740,000 inquiries from residents (compared with 600,000 in 2020), an increase of about 35% – pointing, according to the municipality, to growing trust in its administration. 

Referrals to the center were received through various channels such as inspectors’ reports, phone calls and digital inquiries, on a variety of issues, such as: reporting dangerous structures, parking on the sidewalk, overflowing garbage bins, lack of sanitation in public spaces and safety hazards. There has been a 40% increase in parking enforcement inquiries, due to the municipal police taking over responsibility for enforcing such offenses, and a significant increase (20%) in inquiries regarding environmental issues. Further rises were recorded in orders of enforcement and cleanliness (25%) as well as an increase of about 20% in inquiries about dangerous structures. 

In parallel, there was a decrease in the number of referrals to the Welfare Department, with 2,270 applications in 2021, compared with 15,000 applications the year prior. Safra Square explains that this is due to the coronavirus crisis, during which extensive assistance was provided. Along with this decrease, there has been a significant spike compared with 2020 in inquiries about the Safe at Home project and the demand to take part in the project, in which a set of products to prevent falls is installed in senior residents’ homes. 

LBGT and employment

LGBTech has announced the expansion of its activities to promote LGBT employment in Jerusalem in 2022, as part of a joint project with Jerusalem Open House and the Social Equality Ministry. With the ministry's support, the organization will enable employers in the Jerusalem area to learn how to support female and male employees in ways that will serve the employer and their business needs. The organization points out that this is not only the right thing to do but the right economic thing to do.

Take a ride with us 

Public transport continues to improve in the city. As of this week, Line 78 will now be operated by Superbus, and together with Line 74 will operate until 2 a.m. As part of the company winning transportation tenders, it identified the need to extend the service even after midnight, and hence will run until this late hour. The big news is that this is only the harbinger, as more lines will eventually be running later as well. 

Another change is the cancellation of Line 78A, with Line 91 taking its place – running from East Talpiot to Givat Shaul via the city center. 

Meanwhile, Superbus launched a new high-frequency tourist line on a circular route (Line 2) to tourist sites in the Old City area and the Western Wall, Line 504 from Har Homa and the city’s new express line, 531, which travels from Gilo via the Begin on a fast track to the International Convention Center. During the coming year, Superbus will increase the frequencies of the lines by 40%, and will operate a total of 22 new lines, including direct lines to employment areas and city entrances. 

Youth for the elderly

The municipality, the Hoffman Center and day centers for the elderly have initiated a unique project – Hamal Youth (Youth Operations Room) – which will assist and address the various needs of Jerusalem's senior residents. As part of the project, the youth team received a list of about 300 seniors living in the city who are dealing with loneliness. A WhatsApp group was also established to provide them with assistance, including distribution of heaters, clothing, blankets, hot food and hot-water bottles as well as doing their shopping, including food and medicine. 

The project’s initiators sought to provide a solution for the elderly who need assistance, support and somebody who will listen to them. Most of the capital's youth movements already are in regular weekly contact with the elderly, to alleviate their loneliness and provide need-based solutions. 

Putin out

“We do not want any connection with the occupier,” declared the owners of a popular and veteran pub in the city center, as they removed its name. The now former Putin Pub, which was established by immigrants from Russia and has become one of the Russian community’s most popular entertainment hubs in the capital, is looking for another name. “We do not want contact with an occupying person. We condemn the war and support Ukraine and its inhabitants. We’ve never been involved in politics, we did not want politics in the bar, but what has happened in recent days has made us feel we have to say our part,” explained one of the bar’s owners on Saturday night. 

Save our garbage 

The municipality, through the Sanitation Department and with the assistance of the Environmental Protection Ministry, has placed its fourth large trash bin/compactor in the city. The partially buried receptacle was placed at the Hanevi’im shopping center, in front of Damascus Gate.

This move, the municipality believes, will lead to a reduction in the number of garbage removals during daytime, as placing these large bins, which have a compressor inside, is another step in improving Jerusalem's visibility and upgrading commercial areas on its eastern side.

Other city bins/compressors are located in in Mahaneh Yehuda, Valero Square and Histadrut Street. The municipality will install four more along Agrippas Street and another one on Lunz Street, as part of the cleanliness revolution the city is undergoing in accordance with the mayor’s policy, the city’s spokesman said.