Grapevine: Wow, Jerusalem!

Teddy Kollek could never have imagined that Jerusalem would now hold more than 900,000 residents, and be approaching one million.

PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN enjoys a takeaway iced coffee while visiting the Jerusalem Business Center with Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion. (photo credit: NOAM MORANO)
PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN enjoys a takeaway iced coffee while visiting the Jerusalem Business Center with Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion.
(photo credit: NOAM MORANO)
When Teddy Kollek was mayor of Jerusalem and the annual statistical data indicated yet further population growth, Kollek was delighted. But even Kollek, who had done so much to develop the city, could not imagine the day when Jerusalem would have almost a million inhabitants. It is fast approaching that number, as indicated in the 2020 Statistical Yearbook which was presented to President Reuven Rivlin on Monday by Dan Halperin, the chairman of the Jerusalem Institute for Public Policy. Today, the total population of Jerusalem is in excess of 900,000.
The growth rate is astounding, taking into account that in 1948, when the State of Israel was proclaimed, the total population of Jerusalem prior to the division of the city was 164,000 residents, of whom 25,000 were Christians, 40,000 Muslims and 100,000 Jews. In 1967, following the reunification of Jerusalem, there were 14,000 Christians, 121,000 Muslims and 340,000 Jews. Today, there are more than half a million Jews.
Rivlin, a multigenerational Jerusalemite, was eight-and-a-half years old when the state was declared. By the time his grandchildren are his present age, the Jewish population of Jerusalem will probably be a million or more, and the total population of the capital close to two million.

■ RIVLIN, WHO is concerned about his city’s economic recovery, visited Jerusalem’s new business support center in the First Station compound. The center is a joint initiative of the Jerusalem Affairs Ministry, the Jerusalem Municipality and the Jerusalem Development Authority. Rivlin and Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion spoke to a number of businesspeople who have gone through a very difficult period during the coronavirus lockdown.
As a former accountant, said Lion, he could understand what Jerusalem businesspeople and cultural organizations and institutions were going through. For this reason, the municipality will permit tables and chairs to be placed on sidewalks without additional charges, and several streets will be turned into pedestrian malls. The municipality will also fund cultural activities so as to draw audiences out of their homes.

■ THERE WAS speculation in this column, prior to the swearing-in ceremony of the government, as to whether its members could subsequently gather at the President’s Residence for the traditional photograph of the new ministers with the president of the state. On Sunday night an announcement from the President’s Office indicated that the photograph was on hold. According to the announcement: “Following inquiries on the matter, the photograph of the new government at the President’s Residence will be taken in accordance with the instructions of the Health Ministry when possible.” Yediot Aharonot decided not to wait and superimposed the heads of the new members of government on a photo of Rivlin with the previous government.
On Sunday, Rivlin posted on Twitter and on his Facebook page about the creation of the government, following a prolonged crisis, wished it well, referred to the challenges it will face and concluded with the words: “The entire people is looking to you,” which is not exactly true, bearing in mind the number of protests against the Netanyahu-Gantz alliance, coupled with newspaper articles and letters to the editor. The posts provoked a barrage of aggressive comments, most of them critical of the government, but some directly aimed at Rivlin himself. They were rude and insulting, and there were even suggestions that the presidency is a waste of time and money.

■ EVEN BEFORE moving from the Health Ministry to his new role as construction and housing minister, Ya’acov Litzman was given a gift by the High Court of Justice, which rejected a petition submitted by the Mateh Yehuda Regional Council, some of whose land southwest of Jerusalem is being transferred to the Jerusalem Municipality to facilitate the construction of 5,250 housing units. Also objecting to the housing plan, which would result in the removal of large tracts of forest, are the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and other environmental organizations, along with numerous public figures.
Lion, conscious of the rapid population growth in his city, says that the project is essential, and that it will also help to deter those Jerusalemites who want to move elsewhere. It’s difficult to know at this stage whether Gila Gamliel, the new environmental protection minister, will become involved in trying to save the forests. Presumably, part of the project will be earmarked for ultra-Orthodox residents, whose numbers are growing faster than any other sector of the population.

■ AT The swearing-in ceremony, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin paid tribute to their wives and children for their support. Netanyahu also mentioned his parents individually and by name and his late brother, Yoni. Sarah Netanyahu was later seen in friendly conversation with Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh.
MK Mickey Levy, former Jerusalem Police chief, gave the impression that he was about to suffer a heart attack, when venting his anger at Benny Gantz and berating him, to the extent that he had to be escorted out of the Knesset, but when the two were alone in a private room, he told Gantz that unity was a good thing.
Agriculture Minister Alon Shuster, a Negev farmer and the former head of the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, has called for a political ceasefire. Unlike most of the other neophyte ministers, he comes to his new position with considerable knowledge about what Israeli farmers want and need. He is also full of praise for his predecessor in office Tzachi Hanegbi, who he says did a good job and was attentive to what farmers asked of him.
For some years now, Shuster and other heads of southern regional and municipal councils have been lobbying for Gazan agricultural workers to be given permits to work in Israel. This would be beneficial to the farmers in the western Negev, and it would also help relieve the Gazan humanitarian crisis, he argued, because people without income would be able to earn enough in Israel to support their families. If Shuster is willing to look with humanitarian eyes at citizens of Gaza, it hardly comes as a surprise that he wants to do away with the malice that exists between different political factions in Israel.

■ IF THE swearing-in had taken place last week as previously planned, it would have been by way of a birthday present for Omer Yankelevich, the new Diaspora affairs minister, who got her first name because she was born on Lag Ba’omer. An attorney, educator and social activist, she is also ultra-Orthodox, but does not belong to an ultra-Orthodox party, because as yet the ultra-Orthodox do not allow women to represent them in the Knesset. Yankelevich is a member of Blue and White. She is not the first ultra-Orthodox woman legislator. She was preceded a decade ago by Tzvia Greenfield, who, in contrast to the ultra-Orthodox leadership, was an ardent peace activist, and as such was a member of Meretz. Yankelevich’s appointment was warmly welcomed by Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog and by Eric S. Goldstein, the CEO of the UJA Federation of New York.

■ ONCE THE darling of the media, Orly Levy-Abecassis, the newly appointed community empowerment and advancement minister, is gradually becoming the most reviled of ministers for her political flip-flops. No one believes her anymore, after she accepted a ministerial position that was specially created for her from a prime minister with whom she swore she would never sit. It should not be forgotten that although her political sympathies were always on the Right, she joined Labor, because on her own she would never have passed the threshold.
Her ministry will involve a lot of needless expenditure on the part of the government. If she had to have a tailor-made ministry, why did she not suggest in her conversations with Netanyahu that her ministry be called the Ministry to Reduce Domestic Violence and to Protect Women and Children?

■ WHENEVER A soldier or a civilian is killed by a terrorist or even by a rock-throwing Palestinian teenager who may have meant to maim rather than to kill, there are hundreds if not thousands of people at the funeral. Public statements of condolence and condemnation are issued by the president and the prime minister, and at least one of them, if not both, pay condolence calls on the bereaved family, taking with them a Government Press Office photographer to record the visit for publication and posterity.
But when a woman is killed by her husband or boyfriend, it’s just a regular funeral with a few mourners. The president and the prime minister might issue statements to the effect that such violence has to stop, but they don’t pay a condolence call with a photographer in tow.
The media may play up the murder for a day or two, especially if women’s organizations mount protest demonstrations. But then the victims are forgotten till the next time, when they are remembered as part of a disturbing and ever-increasing statistic.
For the record, terrorism is terrorism is terrorism, whether carried out by Palestinians who consider themselves to be freedom fighters, or by Israeli men who often use the excuse that they had a psychological aberration, which upon investigation and examination, more often than not, proves to be part of a behavioral pattern of violence culminating in murder.
If Levy-Abecassis wants to regain her credibility, she should ask Netanyahu to change the name of her ministry, and she should then try to find out what happened to the NIS 250 million previously allocated for combating domestic violence and never used.
There are precedents for changing the names of ministries. The Communications Ministry used to be the Ministry for Posts; the ministries of Labor and Social Welfare were sometimes separate and sometimes combined and sometimes went through a name change such as the Ministry for Social Security, then Welfare and Social Services; and most recently Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services. The Public Security Ministry was originally the Police Ministry; and the Economy Ministry has previously been known as the Ministry for Industry Trade and Labor and the Ministry for Commerce and Industry, and the Ministry for Trade and Industry. When Gamliel inherited the Senior Citizens Ministry, she changed the name to the Social Equality Ministry, so Levy-Abecassis should have no problem in changing the name of her ministry, which might gain her the support of women’s movements around the country.

■ APROPOS TERRORISM, a number of peace activists took to social media on Monday when sentence was pronounced on Amiram Ben-Uliel for setting fire to the home of Sa’ad and Risham Dawabshe and in the process killing them and their 18-month-old baby, Ali. Why it took five years from the time that the crime was committed to the passing of sentence is a blemish on the justice system. Had it been the other way around, and a Palestinian would have been the perpetrator and not the victim, it would not have taken nearly as long for the terrorist to be tried and sentenced.
What some fair-minded people want to know is whether Ben-Uliel’s home will be destroyed in the same manner that the homes of Palestinian terrorists are destroyed, and if not, why not?

■ “THE QUALITY of mercy is not strained,” says Portia in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. But apparently, in certain quarters in Israel, it is strained to the point of cruelty. Two years ago, Yasmin Vinta, a gorgeous little 14-month-old girl, died as a result of being mishandled by a kindergarten aide, who was later sentenced to 17 years imprisonment for manslaughter. Now the Population and Immigration Authority wants to deport Yasmin’s parents, Dorina and Vladimir, who are non-Jewish foreign nationals. Though no longer married to each other, the two want to stay in Israel. But the authority contends that the two have no legal right to remain in Israel, although they can reenter for hearings for their court case. Yasmin is not buried in Israel, but in Moldova, her parents’ homeland, says the authority, and therefore there is no valid reason for them to stay here and work. That they want to be close to where they last saw their daughter alive is not a matter for consideration.

■ EVERY TOWN and city suffered, and is still suffering, the economic effects of the coronavirus lockdown, but for Eilat, most of whose population depend on tourism for their livelihoods, it was worse than catastrophic. However, according to Eilat Mayor Yitzhak Halevi, things are slowly returning to normal, and approximately a dozen of the southern resort city’s hotels have reopened in response to reservations for the upcoming Shavuot festival. In addition to opening its hotel in Eilat, the Dan chain is also opening its hotel in Caesarea. All hotels that are being reopened will be sanitized in accordance with Health Ministry guidelines.

■ FORMER US ambassador Dan Shapiro, who remained here following the change of administration and the appointment of a new ambassador, has never made a secret of his political affiliations, as anyone who follows him or his wife, Julie Fisher, on Twitter and Facebook is aware. Just in case anyone didn’t know, here is one of Fisher’s recent FB posts:
“For the sake of our children, Dan and I are committed to doing everything we can to restore dignity and wisdom (also rule of law, safeguarding of democratic institutions, standing in the global world, and so much more) to our country. I’m so proud that Dan Shapiro is playing an active role to support vice president Joe Biden. If you would like to join us in supporting his campaign and/or joining an upcoming event with the American Jewish community, please contact us privately. May we all see brighter days ahead.”

■ ANOTHER FORMER US ambassador, Dan Kurtzer, last week participated in the Zoom launch of the latest issue of the Palestine-Israel Journal, the theme of which was obviously annexation of a significant part of Judea and Samaria. The erudite Kurtzer had prepared a concise PowerPoint presentation and had stuck to the rules in terms of time. He was obviously well versed in Zoom technology, and what he had to say could be heard very clearly.
Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz could also be heard quite well, but not as well as Kurtzer, and warned that annexation could be dangerous to both the Israelis and the Palestinians. Palestinian chief negotiator Dr. Saeb Erekat was having great difficulty with Zoom technology, and could not be heard at all, except by moderator Dahlia Scheindin, who strained to hear him and then repeated the gist of his remarks. That he couldn’t be heard didn’t seem to bother Erekat. He hogged the microphone and went way beyond his allotted time, ignoring Scheindin’s polite attempts to get him to stop. Waving his arms madly in the air, even though he was aware that he could not be heard, Erekat blustered on.
Among the 350-plus people who registered for the event was former British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Feedback from Israel and abroad was very positive, according to Hillel Schenker, the coeditor of the journal, though people on America’s West Coast complained about the time, because it was far too early in their day. But they can catch up with it at their leisure, since it was recorded and is accessible on the Facebook pages of the journal and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.
Not every organization or institution that features Zoom programs also has a simultaneous Facebook broadcast, in addition to which registering with Zoom is not a uniform exercise. Some of the systems are so complicated that it isn’t worth the effort. That’s where Facebook comes to the rescue – but not always.

■ AMERICA’S CURRENT ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who was the first US envoy to participate in a Jerusalem Day event, and who, because he is a kohen, is the only American ambassador to have participated in the priestly blessing at the Western Wall, and who is the only US ambassador to have hosted an American Independence Day reception in Jerusalem, will be participating in at least two Jerusalem Day events on Thursday. The first will be a Zoom event organized by the cultural committee of the Hazvi Yisrael Synagogue, where Friedman occasionally attends services, and the second will be a video broadcast across America in a Jerusalem Day program organized by the Friends of the IDF.

■ INCLUDED IN the multitude of Jerusalem Day events, which actually began earlier this week, is a Carlebach-style Zoom concert hosted by United Hatzalah, which will begin at 8 p.m. on Thursday, and will feature Naftali and Shlomo Abramson, Zusha, Chaim Dovid, Rabbi Shlomo Katz and the Portnoy Brothers. Details for registration are on the United Hatzalah Facebook page.
Carlebach melodies will also be heard on Friday morning at the special Jerusalem Day Hallel service at Beit Harav Kook, where greetings will be delivered by Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Arieh Stern, Lion, Deputy Mayor Arieh King, who holds the Heritage portfolio, and Mordechai Benita, the director-general of the Jerusalem Affairs Ministry.
Veterans of the Six Day War will share memories and sing songs that are related to that period in the nation’s history. The central event marking the 53rd anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem will be telecast at 9 p.m. on Thursday, and the traditional flag dance will be held on a much more modest scale than in the past at the Western Wall plaza on Thursday afternoon.

■ FRIENDS OF lawyer Michal Herzog who hadn’t seen her in a long time did a double take and barely recognized her in her new image. Herzog, who for most of her life swept her very long hair into a pony tail or a braid, on learning that there had been a significant falloff in the number of long-haired women and girls who donated their tresses to organization that provide support for cancer patients, decided to set an example by getting her own hair cut as soon as hairdressing salons reopened. She donated her hair to Zichron Menachem and initiated a new donors’ campaign.
Several wigmakers give their services free of charge to organizations such as Zichron Menachem to fashion wigs for cancer patients who have lost their hair while undergoing chemotherapy. Some patients, who never realized before they lost their hair how strikingly beautiful they were, have opted not to wear wigs, but others feel uncomfortable without their crowning glory.
Herzog, who is the wife of Isaac Herzog, has been involved in charitable causes and initiatives for many years. Her new bob, which frames her face, is quite becoming.

■ WIDELY KNOWN as the Book Detective, Itamar Levy, a writer in his own right, has for years been delighting Friday listeners to Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet with his ability to find books that are out of print. Better still, many of the people who phone in to ask for a particular book or books don’t always have the correct title, and are sometimes fuddled about the content. But Levy sets them straight, tells them the right name and fills them in on the plot. His range of knowledge is extraordinary.
But Levy now wants to go off and do his own thing, so he is disappearing from the spot in the program hosted at 4 p.m. on Fridays by Yaron Enosh. This coming Friday is supposedly his final broadcast, and Enosh reminded him last week that he had left before and returned. The previous time, said Levy, was because he wanted to finish writing his book, but this time it’s forever. Enosh is not so sure, subscribing to the principle of it isn’t over till it’s over. Nonetheless, he will devote a major portion of this Friday’s program to Levy.
Incidentally, people who asked Levy to find books for them and have not yet received them should not despair. He’s still looking. Levy never gives up, and sometimes it takes years before he comes across a desired book. What’s particularly interesting is the number of listeners who remember a book from childhood that made a profound impression on them, and after hunting fruitlessly in all the major bookstores turned to Levy because it was important to them to give the book to a grandchild.
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