Grapevine: Building craze

Movers and shakers in Israeli society

An Egged bus in front of the Jerusalem Central Bus Station (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
An Egged bus in front of the Jerusalem Central Bus Station
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

JERUSALEM-BASED photographer Sharon Marks Altshul usually walks to many of the places that are on her list of assignments, and in the process adds to her online collection of what she calls The Real Jerusalem Streets. Sometimes, when traveling by car, she photographs scenes from the highway and posts them on Facebook.

Last Saturday night, she posted on the snail-pace journey of people driving cars from the North to the South. Among the comments she received was one from someone who reported that the journey from Sha’ar Hagai to Shoresh had taken 52 minutes, with Waze staying at 52 minutes all the way.

But it’s not only highway drivers that are caught in the chaos of traffic congestion. All over Jerusalem there is roadwork in progress, and/or construction sites that stretch onto the pavement, forcing pedestrians to walk in the road in the face of oncoming traffic. For residents of Chopin Street and the immediate surrounds, parking was promised, but not delivered.

Roadwork in Hapalmah Street temporarily suspended stops of the No. 13 bus in Hanassi and Hapalmah streets, making life extremely difficult for the residents of the retirement facility adjacent to the Islamic Museum. Earlier this year, the No. 13 bus route was temporarily suspended for several days and, for a much longer period, was changed, so that it ceased to run in Agron and King David streets.

To make matters worse, Mayor Moshe Lion has been advertising the October 29 Jerusalem Marathon on radio, and there is a video on the municipality’s Facebook account which shows him running through the city. Admittedly, it’s for a good cause, and participants get a lot of pleasure, but thousands of people are inconvenienced because the marathon takes place on a Friday, when people shop for Shabbat or the weekend, and those who shop in the market have difficulty in getting there unless they live close by. Regardless of where anyone shops, if one has to cross the road, anywhere along the route of the marathon, it’s problematic because marathon staff won’t allow nonparticipants to pose any kind of obstacle to the runners, and large sections of the route are roped off. Moreover, anyone who parks their car in streets along the route must do so on Thursday night.

Jerusalem decided yesterday to postpone the 2020 Jerusalem Marathon – which was to have been held on March 20 – until October due to concerns over coronavirus (credit: REUTERS)Jerusalem decided yesterday to postpone the 2020 Jerusalem Marathon – which was to have been held on March 20 – until October due to concerns over coronavirus (credit: REUTERS)

There are plenty of nonresidential areas in which the marathon could be held, or neighborhoods with wide roads, where buses run in the middle, and runners could use the side sections usually designated for private vehicles. So long as there is some form of public transport, fewer people will be inconvenienced, and those who usually travel by car would at least have the alternative by way of a bus.

But if there must be a marathon on a Friday, one should be grateful that it is taking place this week instead of next week, after the clocks have been turned back, and daylight saving time for 2021 is over.

Political pundits say that the reason that so much infrastructural work is being conducted in such a frenzy is that municipal elections are only two years away and Lion wants to tote up what he has done to improve the city.

On the other hand, there are veteran residents who feel that Lion, with his almost obsessive focus on urban renewal, has ruined the character of the city.

■ INASMUCH AS Lion calls on the general public to visit Jerusalem, he spent last weekend in the Galilee with his coalition partners, staying at the Kinar Hotel in Tiberias, which advertises itself as “the hotel on the Sea of Galilee for the Orthodox community,” and offers “a kosher l’mehadrin vacation.” As the overwhelming majority of Lion’s coalition members are haredi, the choice of hotel was obviously made to please not only their souls but also their palates.

■ CLINICAL PSYCHOTHERAPIST Miriam Adahan, who has written from time to time in Jerusalem Post publications, says that, as an inveterate recycler, she is astounded to see that all the recycling bins have disappeared from Ramot!

“Even if the big bottles will soon be worth a bit of money, what do we do with all the bleach and detergent bottles and personal care products?” she queries. “The government constantly complains about too much garbage, but here we are with no way to do our little bit.”

She is not alone in her complaint. Dumpsters have also disappeared in some neighborhoods.

Other than what’s disappeared, what has been absent for far too long is a problem that does not appear to be remedied. With all the construction and roadwork that’s going on, there’s no sign of an increase in public toilets other than the mobile ones that are placed on building sites and at outdoor mega events. The reason given for the tall towers that are increasingly dominating the Jerusalem skyline is that Jerusalem has the largest population in the country, and it’s growing at a rapid pace. All the residents of Jerusalem have calls of nature when away from home, and very few places in which to relieve themselves, which is why there is such a terrible stench in so many of the city’s alleyways. Don’t urban planners understand the need for public toilets? At this rate, it’s bound to get worse before it gets better.

■ FORMER PRESIDENT Reuven Rivlin, since leaving office in July, has kept a relatively low profile so as not to detract attention from President Isaac Herzog during his first 100 days as the No. 1 citizen. But after the vicious assault at Bloomfield Stadium by the criminal element of the supporters of the Beitar soccer club, Rivlin, a former chairman and manager of Beitar and an ardent supporter of the club since boyhood, could no longer remain distant or silent.

In a two-page article in Yediot Aharonot last Friday, Rivlin lamented the negative image that La Familia has given to Beitar and recalled the days when Beitar supporters were like one big family, as distinct from La Familia, which is a group of thugs.

The aggressive nationalism of La Familia captures media headlines following almost every game played by Beitar, but the Premier League match between Beitar and Hapoel Tel Aviv at the recently renovated Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv earlier this month, aroused the disgust and ire not only of sports reporters and commentators, but also of politicians, academics and men and women in the street.

Sport is considered to be an effective means of bringing diverse groups and individuals together, but La Familia is driving them apart.

The Bloomfield brawl began when fair-minded fans began cheering Yussouf Kamso Mara, a popular Muslim soccer player from Guinea whom the Beitar club’s owner, Moshe Hogeg, had signed on to the team. La Familia, which has never allowed an Arab player to join the team, and which managed to get rid of Muslim players brought in by a previous owner, Arcadi Gaydamak, were so displeased about the cheering that they mounted a physical attack against those fans who approved of Mara. The altercation resulted in several fans suffering mild to serious injuries.

“This is a time of war,” wrote Rivlin at the tail end of his article, calling on the ministers of culture and sport, justice and public security, along with the police commissioner, to take appropriate action and respond to Hogeg’s cry and that of peace-loving fans to ensure that criminal elements do not bring about the dismantling of Beitar.

Though he remains a fan, Hogeg, who has sunk more than NIS 1 million into the club, is backing out of the Beitar ownership, as have several others before him, with La Familia being largely responsible for their departure.

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