Jerusalem this week: Bars reopen in accordance with coronavirus guidelines

Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs

FIFTEEN LOCAL bars are back open and in business.  (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
FIFTEEN LOCAL bars are back open and in business.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Raising the bar
As part of a comprehensive municipal project to help bars and other city entertainment venues weather the corona crisis, 15 bars that remained closed for the past three months have been redefined to qualify them for permits to reopen.
The bars, which serve seated clientele and were still barred from reopening, were allowed to change their status to bars that serve food, and hence can operate under the “purple tag.” The operation led by the business permits administration made it possible within 24 hours to execute the status change, including all necessary permits and instructions to be followed, such as how many tables and chairs to install, how to display access to the food, etc. This enables them to avoid further extended closure and the inevitability of having to shut down permanently.
Other steps taken by the municipality to help eateries and small- and medium-sized businesses to survive the pandemic are full exemption from city taxes for the period they were closed; exemption from taxes for placing tables and chairs on the sidewalk, since clients are not allowed to stay inside; discounts or complete exemptions from taxes for signboards for businesses; and more.
The city is also making available at no cost a committee of lawyers, accountants and marketing experts and is launching a virtual mall (J-Mall) in which they can offer their merchandise.
Live and learn
Jerusalem students are invited to study – in groups or individually – in some of the venues the city has prepared for that purpose, all in accordance with strict Health Ministry guidelines. Venues include the Botanical Gardens, Tmol Shilshom, the Muslala Terrace and Nocturno bar. All offer students free access to Wi-Fi, coffee and more. For those who need Zoom to study together, the municipality provides free Zoom accounts from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Registration for all of the above is through the Jerusalem Students’ Association.
Keep on truckin’
A lot of goodwill plus NIS 1.6 million translates into the sound of music.
“Yerushalive” will bring music trucks to neighborhoods with music – haredi and non-haredi – adapted to the local population. The music trucks will appear every day in five neighborhoods (different neighborhoods each week) from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays throughout August.
While the initiative has won the applause of the haredi representatives at city council, Elad Malka (Hitorerut) expressed his dissatisfaction, arguing that in many neighborhoods, secular, religious and haredi people reside together, and thus the separation between the neighborhoods envisioned by this project doesn’t reflect the reality.
Museum moment
After five months of closure and two days of employee demonstrations, the Israel Museum is finally preparing to reopen. The reopening, in compliance with the Health Ministry’s purple-tag guidelines, is made possible to a large degree thanks to a generous grant collected through the Museum’ Friends in the USA, which makes it possible for the management to abandon its plan to cut the salaries of 400 employees of the venerable institution.
The lion’s share
Remember the 2002 project launched by the municipality to display lions across the city? Well, over the years, the 81 lions lost some of their glowing appearance and some even began to look neglected.
A new project launched by Jerusalem artists Gali Katz and Noga Haberman, with the backing of the city’s Arts Administration, seeks to bring together local artists to restore the beautiful look the lions debuted almost 20 years ago. All Jerusalemites, even those who are not artists, are invited to lend a hand to the project that will add some grace to their neighborhoods. The project is open to all and some nonprofit associations have already joined in. Those interested should apply though their neighborhood’s local council.
Confronting corona
Jerusalem remains a virus hotspot with more than 12,000 contaminated since March and – as of August 3 – al least 4,265 sick, the highest number in the country according to the Health Ministry.
The rate of contamination in the Arab sector is steep. Beit Hanina has 93 identified, the Muslim Quarter has 79 individuals carrying the disease and Shuafat has 74.
In the haredi neighborhoods, Romema has 113 sick residents, Ramot Polin has 73, Ramat Shlomo has 72, Kiryat Belze has 54 and Mea She’arim 17.
On the hospital front, Hadassah University Medical Center at Ein Kerem is operating at 168% capacity, Sha’arei Zedek is at 122% – and the forecast offers little hope for improvement in the short term.
The Health Ministry reports that things are improving in terms of mask usage and removal of carriers to corona hotels. Corona czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu has delineated neighborhoods into green (low contamination) yellow (mild) and red (very high) areas and haredi city council representatives are concerned that the recent closure of Romema, which angered residents, will be implemented again. Many argue that as long as the massive demonstrations are permitted, haredi neighborhoods should not face closure.
One of the municipality’s proposed solutions is to expand to additional neighborhoods “Operation Pinhas,” which was launched two weeks ago in Romema to address key aspects of prevention, testing and evacuation of carriers.
We’ll meet in court
The Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance has appealed to the District Court against the municipality and Mayor Moshe Lion to end the discrimination against the capital’s LBGTQ community by not approving the NIS 1.2 million to which they are entitled. The JOH argues that this discrimination harms the 100,000 LGBTQ community members in the city who are equal and deserving of the same rights as other residents. In 2010, the JOH obtained a High Court ruling that entitles them to a budget from the municipality – like any other community center that provides social services to residents.
No-phone zone
Mayor Lion has ordered the removal of all of Jerusalem’s 360 public payphones. The phones look bad, are not maintained and in many cases become the target of vandalism.
Some in the haredi sector view this as a victory of sorts, as they were the first to request their removal – feeling, according to one source, that the phones were used for “bad things that are not adequate for a haredi way of life and caused many youth to roll down to places and things forbidden.”
Traffic troubles
Residents of Kiryat Shmuel, a small and prestigious neighborhood between Talbyeh and Old Katamon, face overwhelming parking and traffic problems exacerbated by their proximity to the Jerusalem Theater. Streets around the theater such as Chopin, Palmah and Gdud Ha’Ivri have become a battlefield between local activists and the municipality, with the Ginot Ha’Ir local council in the middle.
Three years ago, it was hoped that these problems were well on their way to being solved with the large Hassid brothers housing and hotel project facing the theater. The project erased a part of the verdant “moon grove” but promised to solve the parking problems of residents and the theatergoers. However, residents say the traffic arrangement decided on by the municipality is making things worse. For example, drivers exiting the parking facility will have to use some of the smallest and quietest streets around, making them noisy and congested. Additionally, these proposed traffic changes endanger the many pupils who cross the streets of Gdud Ha’Ivri and Cheskin for the local school.
The municipal project manager is endeavoring to find solutions agreeable to the residents.
Nobody knows what the small and tranquil neighborhood will look like once all of the plans are implemented, but for now, a group of residents is adamant about at least preventing the opening of both sides of Gdud Ha’Ivri.
Friends in high places
A delegation of Rehavia residents who live near the Prime Minister’s Residence on Balfour Street met with Mayor Lion on Tuesday in his Safra Square office. The residents complained about the noise and dirt caused by the demonstrations there over the past few weeks and asked to him to intervene. Lion explained that while he understands and feels sorry for them, it is not his prerogative to prevent demonstrations. However, the mayor set another meeting with the residents, this time including the police, to find solutions to ease their suffering. As for the garbage the residents in the streets around Balfour, Lion promised that as soon as the police decide to evacuate the demonstrators, municipal teams will immediately be dispatched to clean up the area.
Off the books
The coronavirus crisis is also having an impact on our cultural heritage. The National Library has put some 300 employees on halat (forced vacation) and is closing down the libraries to the public until further notice. This is due to lack of donations from abroad following the crisis that led to budget cuts. The ministers of education and the Treasury have been asked to find solutions to prevent further deterioration of the situation, but until then, the National Library is closed.