Grapevine: Mood-lifter

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

Traffic is seen backed up at a checkpoint in Jerusalem, during Israel's second coronavirus lockdown, September 2020. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Traffic is seen backed up at a checkpoint in Jerusalem, during Israel's second coronavirus lockdown, September 2020.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Even if you have not been vaccinated, you can join the cast of Raise Your Spirits Theater’s Virtual Tour of Jewish Morocco, which serves as a fundraiser for the ensemble’s new Biblical musical Rebecca – Mother of Two Dynasties.
In live performances, Raise Your Spirits is a theater group of women only, who perform for women only, but on Zoom and other social media platforms, men who choose to watch are also invited. Zoom has also proved to be an important vehicle for the cast, which has used it for rehearsals, when not permitted to assemble live. Even live rehearsals have been masked and socially distanced – not an easy feat for a theater group that has been rehearsing since last August.
Members of the cast include women who are national religious, ultra-Orthodox and traditional, coming together from Gush Etzion, Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, Beersheba, Moshav Mevo Beitar and Moshav Matityahu.
The tour will be led by Cindy Kline, an international tour guide who happens to be a member of the cast. She plays Nimrod and also sings in the choir. The date of the tour is Sunday, March 14, 8 p.m. Israel time, and 1 p.m. EST, to accommodate fans and supporters in North America.
Further details and registration are at www.RaiseYourSpirits.org. Donations will also be appreciated from people who are for whatever reason unable to participate in the tour.
■ YAD SARAH founder and chairman Uri Lupolianski, who is also a former mayor of Jerusalem, aware of the traumatic effects of isolation on teenage and even younger students during the coronavirus crisis, has established a special rehabilitation clinic for them at Yad Sarah at which youngsters in need of help will have six weekly sessions with a therapist who will help them to overcome fears of inadequacy and inferiority. Many students who did well at school before the crisis, found that coping with certain subjects via Zoom was just too difficult. This showed up in their grades, as a result of which they suffered losses in self-confidence and self-esteem. Lupolianski aims to put them back on track.
■ THERE IS an obvious relationship between Peggy Cidor’s report in last week’s In Jerusalem of the projected demise of the Chessed V’Emet synagogue and community center in the German Colony, and the report by Kuti Fundaminsky in Yediot Yerushalayim about the much-needed reformation of the Municipal Committee for the Preservation of Historic Buildings.
Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum and city councilwoman Laura Wharton are involved in both issues. In the case of the synagogue, it is the last bastion in the German Colony and neighboring communities for residents of Moroccan descent. As such, it is undoubtedly historic. As for the reforming of the preservation committee, it has not been doing its job, and has allowed real estate developers to pull down old buildings that serve specific segments of the population, without providing other premises by way of compensation.
What in effect is happening, is that the history of Jerusalem is being destroyed, and not just comparatively recent history, but also ancient history. In other words, in the quest for urban renewal, both the history and the character of Jerusalem are being destroyed. If Jerusalem loses its unique characteristics, it will also cease to be a tourist attraction or a place of pilgrimage for the pious of three faiths. Worse still, there will be little physical proof that Jews lived here centuries ago.
Real estate entrepreneur Shaul Cohen, who has purchased the land on which Chessed V’Emet has stood for decades, has said that he intends to build another synagogue for the wealthy residents of the new apartments he intends to construct on the land. It’s quite possible that some of those residents will be of Moroccan background, and would have been delighted with a house of prayer reminiscent of the one they attended as children. Cohen would do well to follow the example of Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue, which in the pre-COVID era, had an Ashkenazi congregation in the main chapel, a Sephardi congregation in a beautiful small synagogue on the ground floor and a Chabad congregation in the basement study center. This separate-but-together mix epitomized the principle of kol Israel haverim (all of Israel are friends).
As for the overdue reform, there should be a rule that any real estate developer who acquires land on which there are historic buildings, should restore them, add a few modern amenities and use them as a center piece for community or commercial purposes, while other buildings of an approved project are built around them. In Rehavia, this has been partially implemented in that the facades of old buildings have been maintained, but the rest of such buildings have been gutted to make room for new structures. By contrast, the Villa Brown Hotel on Haneviim Street has been beautifully restored, with the addition of modern conveniences, but the aura is definitely historic Middle East – and visitors love it.
While there is some justification for urban renewal in that the population is growing and people must have a place to call home, the huge towers that have gone up or are in the process of construction all over the city will have multi-level underground car parks, but what will happen when even half the number of car owners drive out into the street at more or less the same time?
Jerusalem already suffers from an overdose of traffic congestion, because it was not designed for heavy traffic. The early town planners did not envisage that the day would come when the bulk of the city’s residents would own their own apartments and their own cars. When it takes less time to walk a kilometer than it takes to drive the same distance, there will be a huge exodus to the Negev and the Galilee, where there are still large tracts of virgin territory, and where town planning can take place according to logical rules, and not in the helter-skelter fashion that is so typical of Jerusalem.
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