This week in Jerusalem; A round-up of city affairs

What has been going on in Israel's capital this week.

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion welcomes the start of a new school yer, TALI Geulim Elementary School, Jerusalem, September 1, 2020 (photo credit: HAGAY HACOHEN)
Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion welcomes the start of a new school yer, TALI Geulim Elementary School, Jerusalem, September 1, 2020
(photo credit: HAGAY HACOHEN)
Before the opening of the new school year, Mayor Moshe Lion expounded upon his vision for a better educational system in the capital. Some improvements have already been achieved. According to sources at Safra Square, these include the addition of 300 new classrooms, plus 48 new kindergartens for Arab residents, extensive renovations in 700 educational institutions across the city, and passage of a special NIS 200,000 budget for repairing physical damage in schools.
The five-year plan launched Monday at Safra Square includes a thorough improvement of all city education institutions for all sectors. Within five years, children and students in all grades will be learning in proper venues. The plan will put an end – especially in the Arab and haredi sectors – to the use of rented apartments without playgrounds – some situated among parking lots with resulting pollution and health concerns.
Kindergartens and schools serving haredi students will be renovated or built from the scratch even if they are located in primarily non-haredi neighborhoods. This might raise some concern, since the high haredi birthrate might change the demographic balance.
Go for Baroque
The Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra will return to live performances this coming week after a long period of cancellations and virtual online concerts. A new series of chamber music programs will kick off at Beit Yelin in Motza today, Friday, at noon. Prior to the concert, at 11 a.m., there will be a guided tour of the historical site.
The program, “Sweet Sighs,” will include music from 17th-century Italy along with songs about love, desire and jealousy. Performances will feature Daniela Skorka (soprano), David Shemer (harpsichord) and Ophira Zakai (theorbo, a lute-like instrument). Tickets are available at jbo.co.il.
Progress in the pandemic?
There has been a slight drop in the number of coronavirus cases in Jerusalem recently. According to Health Ministry figures, 18,872 people have been infected since the beginning of March. This past week, 2,587 people tested positive, compared to 3,214 the previous week. According to Prof. Roni Gamzu’s classification, Jerusalem is now an “orange” city, one step lower than red, the worst category. Interestingly, according to the ministry, only three cases were traced to synagogues, and two to the Western Wall. All the other cases were determined to have originated in stores and malls, with a few traced to public transportation.
Short beginning
Less than two hours after the festive opening of the school year, one city school already had to lockdown following detection of a corona-infected teacher. On Tuesday morning Bnot Yerushalayim, a haredi girls school with 300 students, was closed with all students sent home. It was not clear at press time whether all the students will have to be quarantined.
Swan song
Less than two weeks after the controversial Barbur (Hebrew for swan) Gallery closed, 30 small children began their first kindergarten day at the venue, which has been restored to the community to alleviate the shortage of educational facilities in the Lev Ha’ir/Nahlaot neighborhood. The gallery moved to a new location on Shlomo Hamelech Street, and the structure, which belongs to the municipality, has been renovated to serve as a kindergarten.

Not guilty

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court this week released a bagel seller who works at Jaffa Gate. Zaki Sabah was initially sentenced in 2013 to 10 years imprisonment for not paying municipal fines, and was later released after a public outcry. Then in 2017, a city supervisor requested that Sabah hand over his cart with all his merchandise, following a municipality decision to more vigorously prosecute vendors working without a permit.
Sabah, the father of 10 children, has for years refused to pay for a permit, arguing that the business is his only income and he cannot afford it. After accumulating a large debt to the municipality, the permit department decided to seize his cart and merchandise, and sent a city supervisor to carry out the action.
The supervisor maintains that Sabah attacked him and injured his jaw, whereas Sabah says he didn’t hit the supervisor. After three years, the court ruled this week that Sabah did in fact hit the supervisor, but that he did so because the supervisor damaged his cart.
As a result, and though the court said Sabah hit the supervisor, it ruled that he did so justifiably to protect his property. In the three intervening years, Sabah has continued to sell his bagels, using other equipment to hold his merchandise, since the cart was destroyed and is no longer usable.