This week in Jerusalem - A round-up of city affairs: Mikveh maneuver

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

GETTING VACCINATED at the Meuhedet city vaccination center on December 21. (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
GETTING VACCINATED at the Meuhedet city vaccination center on December 21.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Mikveh maneuver
Secular residents of Givat Masua, part of the Ganim Local Council, emerged victorious in their struggle against building a new mikveh (ritual bath) for men in their neighborhood. They feared that such a mikveh would serve primarily ultra-Orthodox men, and hence could be used to attract a haredi population to move into the predominantly secular neighborhood.
The agreement obtained through the local council provides a budget of NIS 1 million to renovate the old men’s mikveh located in the nearby Kiryat Menachem neighborhood, which is also included in the same council.
A ritual bath for women, something commonly used by both haredi and non-haredi women, is planned for the neighborhood and will be constructed in the near future.
Growth pains
The past decade has seen significant growth of the haredi community in Gilo. Kindergartens have been built to meet the needs of this expanding population, but the demand outstrips the supply.
Until recently, the only solution proposed by the municipality was to offer the children places in kindergartens in other neighborhoods, a solution that many parents were reluctant or unable to adopt. More recently, another solution was suggested – use a space located in the Up-Town Mall project in the center of the neighborhood.
This location, relatively distant from haredi concentrations, concerned secular neighborhood activists who feared this might be a part of a plan to attract haredi families to additional parts of the neighborhood. Opposition was raised in the local council.
Earlier this school year, due to the crowding in Gilo’s haredi kindergartens, the parents opened a pirate kindergarten at Safra Square, forcing the municipality and the education administration to find a solution. Even though the municipality says that the use of the Up-Town space is temporary, opponents are adamant that since most of the haredi residents live in the Gilo Aleph part of the neighborhood, any solution should be located there.
Begin work begins
Roadwork on the Begin Highway will cause traffic changes in the coming weeks. Most of the work will be done during nighttime hours.
The southbound segment from the Ben Zion interchange to the Yigal Yadin junction will be closed for traffic from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. The northbound lanes will remain open. Signboards along the road will provide updated information regarding changes.
Vaccination arena
The Payis Arena has been prepared as a key vaccination site for the Jerusalem population. The large location will function in addition to the city’s two large hospitals – Shaare Zedek and Hadassah.
The first to be vaccinated (on December 20) were health workers. Next in line are those over 60 and others at high risk. Each health fund will have their own area, though some will also administer the vaccine in their own branches. For example, Meuhedet enables its members to get the vaccine at its main branch, located on Haturim Street near Mahaneh Yehuda. The first to get the vaccine there was Minister Aryeh Deri on Sunday.
From Paris to Jerusalem
The ninth annual photo competition of the Romain Gary French Institute, a joint project with the French Press Agency, kicks off this month. The theme: “Interiors.”
Each autumn since 2012, the Institute and the Agence France-Presse have jointly conducted a digital photography contest, “Itinerary from Paris to Jerusalem,” to bring together regional amateur and professional photographers. The submission deadline is February 13.
Photographs must evoke Jerusalem, Paris or both cities and must have been taken between March 15, 2020 and February 13, 2021 in France, Jerusalem, Israel or the Palestinian Territories.
Jerusalem Post photographer Marc Israel Sellem is a member of the jury, which will grant a number of prizes.
Info: (scroll down for English).
Taking care of business
The first national conference for social and community businesses was launched by the municipality this week. For the first time in Israel and in the capital, special attention was given to the existence of many – 55 to be precise – such businesses here as part of a larger trend developing in the world. The number of such businesses in Jerusalem far outnumbers those in the rest of the country.
A social business strives to make a profit, but without disregarding the needs and character of the community in which it operates. It can be a cooperative, or a local small business, but it takes into account the surrounding community's needs and its environment's social components, including them in its business program.
The two-day Zoom conference was open for anyone after registration and presented many such businesses around the world, mostly in Europe and many of them founded and run by Israeli expats. Examples include:
• Haboydem: An enterprise that sells used clothing and accessories via employment of women struggling with mental problems;
• Imra: A business that gives at-risk young women a framework to make a living through sewing;
• Sofi: A software development firm aimed at community needs, built to be as user-friendly as possible.
Social businesses can be a neighborhood coffee shop or pub – a place that offers a community meeting spot without disregarding the need of the owners to make a living through it. A few of these initiatives exist in the haredi sector and the organizers hope to see such initiatives also coming from the Arab sector. For now, only one shared by Jews and Arabs exists: Inballah, a coffee shop and small community center not far from Jaffa Gate.
The municipality offers a platform for these initiatives through the business promotion administration. The conference is a joint initiative of the municipality and the Jerusalem Foundation, and three prizes (NIS 15,000, NIS 10,000 and NIS 5,000) will be awarded to the best of these business at the end of the conference.
Post-Hanukkah grant
It was an unexpected but greatly welcomed gift from Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Minister Rafi Peretz to the capital. On Tuesday, a grant of NIS 240 million was approved to be distributed among projects in the city's eastern and western sides.
The allocation was made possible after the national government approved increased monetary assistance to Peretz’s ministry, as part of additional aid provided for most ministerial offices facing financial issues caused by coronavirus. However, any money not used by the end of the calendar year must be returned by the various ministries to the Treasury.
To avoid losing the money, Peretz opted to transfer the funds to the Jerusalem Municipality. NIS 200 million has been earmarked for the Jerusalem Development Authority, most of it for an upgrade and construction in the Mt. of Olives cemetery, and part of it for the already-approved project of developing a commercial area around Damascus Gate. A smaller sum is to go to the city's hotel industry, which has been seriously hit by the coronavirus crisis.