Jerusalem affairs: Peggy Cidor’s round-up

A group of residents from Pisgat Ze’ev strongly opposes the municipality’s plan to build a home for the elderly to their neighborhood.

Pisgat Zeev residents: not in favor of home for aged (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA)
Pisgat Zeev residents: not in favor of home for aged
(photo credit: WIKIMEDIA)
A group of residents from Pisgat Ze’ev strongly opposes the municipality’s plan to build a home for the elderly to their neighborhood. Some 423 senior residents, most of them originally from the former Soviet Union, need to move from what has been their home for the past 25 years at the Diplomat Hotel in Arnona neighborhood.
The Diplomat building has been acquired by the American Embassy, and the residents, who have no families in the country, have to be moved to another place. The municipality has recently approved a special budget of NIS 800,000 for the welfare and care of these residents, 40% of whom are over 80 years old, and at least 170 are handicapped to some degree and in need of special daily care.
However, the time remaining for them to stay in the Diplomat is reaching an end, and according to sources at the Absorption Authority at Safra Square, it is unlikely the move will happen. One problem has been finding a solution that will work for the entire group of residents, in order to reduce as much as possible the trauma of moving to a new place at such an advanced age. For now, three Russian-speaking social workers have been hired by the municipality to help with the psychological aspects of the expected move.
At least 60 of the residents are suffering from psychological disorders that require, from time to time, hospitalization in psychiatric institutions. Recently, the Israel Land Administration approved a plot in Pisgat Ze’ev to serve as a location for a new venue for the residents, and plans for a building have already been approved at all stages. However, earlier this week, a group of neighborhood residents wrote to the ILA director expressing their strong opposition to the plan, arguing that moving the residents close to a school is a great danger for children and therefore should not be accepted.
Mayor Moshe Lion was sure it would be an easy task: Rename the Har Nof haredi (ultra-Orthodox) neighborhood after the late chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who lived on Hakablan Street, one of the neighborhood’s major thoroughfares. Lion was sure the renaming would be immediately accepted, and was very surprised to face strong opposition from residents. At first, the plan was to change only the name of the street, from Hakablan (“the entrepreneur” in Hebrew) to the name of the late spiritual leader of the Shas movement, close to the fourth anniversary of his death.
But the decision was revoked, since a change in the street name would force all its residents to change their address – including on their ID cards – and Lion wanted to avoid such a burden. For now, the move has been stopped, until further talks with the residents may provide a compromise. Lion’s friend, Shas leader MK Arye Deri, was apparently behind the idea, as was the large family of Rabbi Ovadia, most of whom still live in the neighborhood. Despite the deep respect residents have toward Yosef, the initiative, for now, has been stopped.
No bus tonight
After five years of service, the Shabus initiative – private transportation on Fridays nights from distant neighborhoods to the city center – is stopping its services. Officially, the decision is linked to necessary changes in the system’s operating system, but it is not clear if the system will resume next spring.
Shabus, operated through a non-profit association, was the only possible way to obtain easy, safe transportation to city center and entertainment venues open on Friday nights, at a reasonable price. City Council member Laura Wharton (Meretz), a leading proponent of the transportation initiative, explained that after a successful summer, Shabus was reorganizing with an eye toward next season, to answer the needs of residents for public transportation on Shabbat, since there is no chance that Jerusalem will accede to public transportation then, as has been planned and approved in Tel Aviv and elsewhere.
Even a project approved by the Transportation Ministry, to enable local taxi service along fixed routes in the city on Shabbat that would not be part of an official company, is not happening for the moment, and therefore Shabus, in some form or another, will remain the only option for Jerusalemites who do not own a private car and wish to reach city center on Fridays nights.
A new pearl for Jerusalem
Seventeen years of abandonment are coming to an end, with the decision of the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee to approve the demolition and rebuilding of a new hotel in place of the Pninat Dan (Dan Pearl) Hotel, facing the Jaffa Gate. The hotel was closed and the building had become a center of neglect in one of the most prestigious tourist spots in the city.
The new hotel, which will be called Pninat Yerushalayim (Pearl of Jerusalem) will have 150 rooms, plus 20 hotel apartments. The plan is part of a new approach led by the Tourism Ministry to provide additional economic support for the city’s hotel industry. By encouraging hotels to allocate space for private apartments (luxury apartments, it goes without saying), these hotels obtain additional assets that could help them maintain revenues in cases of a drop in tourism, following security alerts, for example.
The building will also have space for businesses. The building is expected to add a lot to the hotel and tourism economy in the city, especially considering its very special location, overlooking the Old City and close to Mamilla Mall and a Light Rail stop.
Alarm in the capital
On Tuesday morning, with half of the country, including the Center and Tel Aviv, suddenly on the front of Palestinian Islamic Jihad rockets, Mayor Moshe Lion and municipality staff didn’t take any chances. At an emergency meeting directed by Lion, which included all of the different administrations of the city and security representatives, he prepared the city for the risk of rockets. In the past, during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, two rockets reached the city and one reached  the moshavim nearby.
While the risks are not considered high for now, the city is getting ready for any eventuality. At this stage, it was mostly to refresh existing orders and rules, but all aspects were checked, from caring for elderly and handicapped persons, to preparing educational  institutions, especially kindergartens, and mapping public shelters. On top of these, Lion announced that the municipality would provide shelter, a wide range of activities for children and residents of the regions under fire.