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

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

THE FRENCH Hill neighborhood (awash in snow): Home of the Flintstones? (photo credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90)
THE FRENCH Hill neighborhood (awash in snow): Home of the Flintstones?
(photo credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90)
 The municipal library in Beit Ha’Am (the Gerard Behar Center) is moving to a new location near Mahaneh Yehuda, close to the city center and light rail.
The move is part of the Menorah project, which aims to move three of the capital’s leading arts schools to the city center, including affordable student housing.
In its new quarters (due to open in about three years), the library will have more floor space (1,200 square meters), modern Web-connected facilities, dedicated spaces for children and teenagers, and access to millions of ebooks for the reading public in multiple languages.
Yabba dabba doo
A one-of-a-kind archaeological site in French Hill that has been identified as a fortress constructed to protect the Temple on Mt. Moriah – and the only one in that area made of flint stones – has fallen into neglect. Despite its historical significance, the site has become a garbage dump and the area is considered unsafe for residents at night. 
It is unclear who is responsible for the site’s maintenance. While the Israel Antiquities Authority identified the historical site, its location inside a local council – the city of Jerusalem – seemingly makes the municipality the responsible body. The French Hill local council has neither the expertise nor resources to take charge.
Changes in the east
For about two decades, three Jerusalem neighborhoods situated beyond the fence – Kafr Aqab, Shuafat and a smaller one known as Semiramis – have been considered potential “candidates” to be removed from the jurisdiction of the city, a step that some politicians regard as a good way to keep Jerusalem’s demographic balance (between Arabs and Jews) under control. 
The PA has refused thus far – but not officially – to receive these neighborhoods in its jurisdiction, leaving them in limbo. They do not get most municipal services and no one enforces even the minimum of construction supervision to ensure the safety of the large and overcrowded buildings.
Mayor Moshe Lion last week issued a press release describing his unexpected official visit to Kafr Aqab, where he presented his plan for the improvement of these localities. According to the official announcement, the municipality will upgrade the sanitation there, build the first football field and upgrade Internet access. 
Kafr Aqab has about 100,000 residents; the three neighborhoods together have about 120,000 Palestinians – an estimated 25,000 of whom have obtained Israeli citizenship. During the 2018 mayoral campaign, former minister and candidate Ze’ev Elkin said he believes that eventually most Arab residents of the city will request and obtain citizenship. 
Corona in Jerusalem 
Jerusalem is getting vaccinated. As of February 28, about one-third of the capital’s residents had received both vaccinations, with approximately 215,000 having received the first. The weekly rate of vaccinations in the city still remains relatively slow, though, with around 30,000 residents taking the vaccine during the last week of February (including Purim). By the end of that week, a total of just over 50,000 Jerusalem residents had tested positive for the virus, with 348 new cases identified on the last day of the month. 
The number of infections varied according to the different parts of the city: 190 in the Arab sector, 104 in the general population and, surprise, surprise... only 35 among haredim. The remainder of cases were outside those three areas. Of the capital’s 16 red neighborhoods, other than Gonenim, 15 were in the Arab sector. 
One of them, Kafr Aqab, which last week hosted Mayor Lion for an official visit, obtained a new drive-in testing station, along with a strong recommendation that residents get both tested and vaccinated. Meanwhile, the municipality is trying to bring younger residents in to be vaccinated. A special “vaccine happening” took place on Wednesday, March 3, at the Payis Arena, with quizzes, prizes and special events. Additional information on the city’s efforts to end the pandemic can be found on the municipality’s special coronavirus site at
Healthy Jerusalem 
The capital has a new medical center, with the opening of Assuta Jerusalem in the Shaare Ha’ir building at the city entrance. With a NIS 18 million investment, the 1,000-sq. meter facility benefits from innovative technological equipment and rapid appointment availability, helping more residents access services without having to leave the city; the center accepts members of all health funds. 
Medical services at Assuta Jerusalem will include a gastroenterology department, an institute promoting breast health awareness – offering mammographies and breast biopsies – ultrasound services, cardiological care, a vision center and more. The move is seen as filling the void left by the closure of Bikur Holim Hospital in the city center.
Females and faith 
A discussion on women in inter-religious dialogue will be conducted by the Rossing Center for Education and Dialogue in Jerusalem to mark International Women’s Day (on March 8). The meeting, via Zoom, will take place on March 15 at 8 p.m. 
Is there a problem regarding the involvement of women in inter-religious dialogue? What is unique about women participating in it? Given the patriarchal structure of many religious leadership hierarchies, should women seek to establish separate frameworks for women’s dialogue – or fight to be included in mainstream initiatives? Do women bring singular perspectives and specific values to the subject?
Participants will include Elisabeth Harris-Sawczenko, director of the Good Faith Partnership; Dr. Katarzyna Kowalska of Notre Dame de Sion; as well as Samira I. Ibrahim of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and the Technical University in Delft. The moderator will be Dr. Sarah Bernstein, director of the Rossing Center. Registration is required before the event at: