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

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

AZZA ROAD on a stormy night (photo credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)
AZZA ROAD on a stormy night
(photo credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)
White Ridge, green lung
Officially, last week’s decision by the appeals committee at the district planning committee to approve the construction of thousands of housing units on Reches Lavan (White Ridge), just outside of southwest Jerusalem in the area of the Jerusalem Zoo, Kiryat Hayovel and Moshav Ora, means the deed is done. Yet Naomi Tsur, founder and chairwoman of the Jerusalem Green Fund and a prominent opponent to the project, says the game is far from over.
Tsur will appeal to the High Court of Justice against the plan, which will ruin – or at least significantly reduce – one of the most important green lungs in the Jerusalem region and surroundings. Simultaneously, Tsur and several environmental associations, including the Society for Protection of Nature, are advancing their alternative project for that area – a national park that, if approved by the district committee, will prevent the implementation of the construction project there.
One of the main objections to the construction, which is actively promoted by the municipality, is that contrary to the promoters’ declaration, it will destroy a large part of the natural resources in that area, which are a public asset for leisure and nature and need to be saved from destruction by this project, which includes some 5,000 units in several 12- to 15-story towers.
For now, a committee that will include representatives from the district committee and the city engineer will supervise the plans to minimize damage, but members of the city council, from both the mayor’s coalition and the opposition, are skeptical about their ability to protect the area.  
Expansive maneuver
The culture wars continue, this time in Rehavia. The iconic – and non-kosher – Cafe Yehoshua on Azza Road is trying to expand, but haredi representatives at city council see this as an alarming threat to Shabbat.
Cafe Yehoshua is closed on Shabbat, but some fear the next step after the enlargement would be to change that. As a result, the city’s planning and construction committee rejected the request to expand the coffee shop’s space beyond the current wall. Neighbors in the same building oppose the project, arguing it would change the atmosphere of the small, quiet street (Radak) on the corner.
City councilwoman and coalition member Laura Wharton expressed frustration, saying that in light of the severe damage to Jerusalem’s economic life and restaurant businesses caused by corona, this is a foolish decision.
Garbage in, garbage out
It is bad enough that protesters in Mea She’arim have burnt garbage bins during demonstrations in the past few weeks, scattering trash on the ground, but beyond that were  the unprecedented physical attacks on city sanition employees.
In response to the vandalism and violence, the municipality halted all area cleaning services including garbage disposal for three days, as a warning before complete suspension of city cleaning services for the long term.
Can I give you a lift?
Yohanan Weitzman – a Gur Hassid and United Torah Judaism member who wanted to shut down the First Station on Shabbat, and is considered one of the most prominent city council members striving to prevent any breach in Jerusalem's Shabbat status quo – is working to convince the haredi sector's highest rabbinical authorities to approve the use of Shabbat elevators.
If he succeeds, the end of haredi opposition to moving to towers will open the door to more construction in their neighborhoods, which could reduce the pace of “haredization” of non-haredi neighborhoods. Until now, one of the main motivators for haredim to move to secular neighborhoods was the lack of available housing in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods.
Weitzman is promoting a project of two tall towers with Shabbat elevators in Sanhedria – pending the approval of the rabbis. This precedent will pave the way for more towers to be built there, which would reduce the number of haredim seeking to move to neighborhoods like Kiryat Hayovel.
Per the vision for the Sanhedria construction, the highest stories of these towers would be used for businesses, which will be closed on Shabbat anyway, and the other floors will be residential – with Shabbat elevators.