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

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

LARGER WASTE receptacles will help eliminate the trash accumulating on the tayelet (photo credit: YAAKOV KATZ)
LARGER WASTE receptacles will help eliminate the trash accumulating on the tayelet
(photo credit: YAAKOV KATZ)
Corona-coping kudos
The Social Affairs Ministry has awarded first prize to the Jerusalem Municipality for its successful efforts to identify and help families and individuals across the city during the coronavirus period.
Families who caught the virus and were stuck at home in isolation, senior citizens who had to remain home for their safety, children and adults with special needs and mobile disabilities – all were taken care of by 84 special coordinators on duty through the social affairs administration at Safra Square and the community centers. Hot meals, medication and supermarket shopping from were among the necessities met by this network, in addition to the need for the elderly and parents of special-needs children to talk to someone during the isolation period.
To ensure specialized coordinators would be equipped to establish effective contact with all residents regardless of cultural differences, the municipality hired people sensitive to cultural differences who could speak Yiddish, Arabic and some of the other languages spoken by olim.
Getting hi (-tech)
Last week this column spotlighted new sanitation and vaccination activities being implemented in parts of east Jerusalem; this week we note the inauguration of a youth center in Shuafat.
An abandoned building was renovated and dedicated to the needs of neighborhood youth. Its offerings include leisure-time classes, counseling, academic guidance for education, continuing education and more.
Operated by Safra Square departments such as social work, youth administration and the department for east Jerusalem affairs, the center’s services particularly target the needs and interests of youths aged 18 to 30. One specialty of the new center is hi-tech training and career opportunities.  
This is the third youth center operating on the Arab side of the city.
Getting hi (-rise)
Another large construction project in the city center is about to begin. The few old structures at the intersection of Jaffa Road and Agrippas Street, near the old Shaare Zedek building, will soon be replaced by a 12-story tower with 70 modern housing units (instead of the 22 old ones) with easy access to the light rail.
The local planning and construction committee and district planning committee have given a green light for the construction of towers near stations along the light rail path – and this project, named “Agrippas 92,” fits in with that model.
The five shops located under the present structure will also be demolished to make way for the new hi-rise.
The Czechs check in
A branch of the Czech Republic Embassy is about to open its doors in Jerusalem, to be located near the YMCA and the legendary King David Hotel. Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, in charge of the city’s international relations, has been busy these past few weeks organizing the Czech diplomatic move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – with this being the first European country to open or move all or part of its embassy to the capital.
Kosovo’s Embassy is scheduled to be the next to stake a foothold in the capital, perhaps to be followed shortly afterward by the Hungarian Embassy.
In addition to the American Embassy, which is already (famously) here, Honduras has moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, specifically Malha. It is the second country from Central America to make the move, as Guatemala had been operating in Jerusalem for more than a year.
Also moving to Jerusalem
Another historic moment: the Israeli Student Association has moved its headquarters to the capital, and opened the national home for students in the government plaza in the Givat Ram neighborhood. The decision was taken after a year of the corona crisis, during which most of the association’s activities involved interacting with city governmental offices.
Mayor Moshe Lion expressed his clear satisfaction with the association’s decision, saying Jerusalem is the best place in the country for students to house their activities. He pledged that as long as he is mayor, the municipality will do its utmost to create the right environment for them. At a ceremony to inaugurate the new student home, association president Shlomi Yechiav said the move would have a great impact on students in Israel, in that their voice and needs will be heard in the plaza where decisions are taken.
Never walk alone
International Women’s Day was marked in the Holy City on Monday with a call for unity on behalf of the cause, and in general among Israelis, during this time of the ongoing pandemic. A delegation of women joined by several men marched from Zion Square to nearby Zahal Square facing city hall, in a show of support for the need to come together. Arriving at mid-afternoon, the participants carried placards which relayed the message of the day amid a pleasant backdrop of mild weather and the opening of eateries as the national government entered a new phase of easing anti-corona restrictions.
Breathing on a spring’s weekend
Ariela Cherny is a 30-year-old artist who moved here from Boston in 2014. In her art, she seeks to study and express the harmonies and energies of nature, while taking action to protect nature through the artwork. Her paintings often include animals, and revenue she earns is donated to conservation efforts. Cherny also creates “zero-waste” art comprised of discarded clothing fabrics as a way to reduce her own waste and raise awareness about our waste epidemic. The work is on display at Emek Arazim, Sacher Park and the Valley of the Cross on Fridays during March.
The makeshift exhibits are aimed at allowing families to take in nature and art and enjoy some leisure time while learning more about protecting nature via waste reduction. The happenings also create income opportunities for the various artists who show off their work on location. With her own artwork, Cherny promotes the cause of pangolins, the most illegally trafficked mammal in the world. The illicit pangolin trade has been linked to the spread of COVID-19 to humans.
 Building a case
Fed up with his inability to obtain responses to multiple requests for information, Kfar David resident Solomon Balas this week submitted an appeal against the municipality to the District Court of Justice.
Balas says that over the decade that he has been living there he has discovered multiple significant illegal construction anomalies but so far hasn’t managed to obtain the information he needs to advance his enquiry. For years he has struggled to get the relevant plans and details from the planning and construction committee at Safra Square through the Freedom of Information Act, but without success.
This week he decided that it was time to escalate his struggle to the Court. Balas says that he wants to fight against the corruption he has discovered in more than one case in the compound where he has lived since he made aliyah from Great Britain. He accuses the municipality of willfully turning a blind eye from illegally constructed building additions.
Tone down tayelet trash
Ever wondered why the garbage bins along the Haas Promenade in East Talpiot are often overflowing, becoming a second home for scavenging birds? It turns out the ugly sight is the result of too-small bins that cannot contain the volume of trash generated by the public enjoying the tayelet.
With Jerusalemites coming to the promenade in ever-increasing numbers during the pandemic, a municipality spokeswoman admitted earlier this week that the receptacles are indeed too small to contain all the garbage – especially on Shabbat, when more residents take strolls there. As of next month, the municipality is planning to replace all of the city’s more miniature receptacles, including those at the tayelet, with larger ones – making overflowing bins on Sundays mornings a thing of the past.