This week in Jerusalem: Hands off

A weekly round-up of city affairs.

 LEHAVA CHAIRMAN Benzi Gopstein and activists protest the annual Jerusalem Pride Parade under heavy security, in 2019. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
LEHAVA CHAIRMAN Benzi Gopstein and activists protest the annual Jerusalem Pride Parade under heavy security, in 2019.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Hands off

The city’s two chief rabbis, Shlomo Amar and Aryeh Stern, have signed a joint letter to stop the controversial Lehava movement from being outlawed, after Public Security Minister Omar Bar Lev said he wanted to have it designated as a terrorist group. The far-Right organization has made headlines more than once in recent years due to its activities denouncing the LGBTQ community and mixed Jewish-Arab marriages.

Recently, the organization’s leader, Bentzi Gopstein, had his WhatsApp and Twitter accounts blocked, and in the past he has been accused of having threatened members of minorities in the city, mostly Arab residents. Lehava’s activists have been involved more than once in riots in Jerusalem, including their attempts to prevent or disrupt pride parades and joint events of Jewish and Arab activists intended to promote peace and understanding between the communities. 

The letter signed by the municipal chief rabbis and 51 additional rabbis in the city called “to allow the organization to continue its important activities,” arguing that “fighting assimilation is not racism.” The petition’s statement added that Lehava preserves Jewish identity and helps women and girls in distress, and that these activities are the foundations of the Jewish people’s sacred teachings. “It would be inconceivable to declare opposition to assimilation as racism,” the letter read. 

Corona in Jerusalem

On Tuesday, September 14, one day before Yom Kippur Eve, there were 1,091 students and teachers confirmed as having the coronavirus, according to the Health Ministry. The number of isolated students, teachers and staff stood on that day at 4,257. However, some experts claim the actual numbers are much higher, arguing that the data does not reveal the situation on the ground. They say that a student with the virus who goes into isolation causes their whole class to become isolated, yet the ministry counts only four students or staff members as going into isolation. 

According to the Health Ministry last week, the number of confirmed cases in Jerusalem was almost 6,000, which was a decrease. Yet only 53% of residents were vaccinated with the first dose, and 45% with the second dose. Among those with at least two doses, 80% had already received their third dose.

For seniors

The municipality has launched a vast operation to prevent falls among seniors. Some 5,000 fall-prevention kits have already been installed in city homes as part of this special program, at no cost for the residents. This groundbreaking initiative will allow thousands of veteran residents to enjoy a safe environment. Residents can apply for the free kit by contacting the 106 municipal hotline.

New guy at Safra Square

Yoav Zimran has been appointed chief of staff of the city’s education administration (Manhi), replacing Aviv Keinan, and will start after Sukkot. Zimran is not a new face at Safra Square and in Jerusalem education, having served in a variety of positions in the administration. Among other tasks, for several years he led the establishment and management of the Argentina Experimental School, and before that, he managed the Ein Carmit boarding school. Zimran, unlike his predecessor, is a resident of Jerusalem, and he in fact grew up in the city’s education system. Since 2014, he served as a deputy in the Education Ministry, specifically as director of pedagogy and therapy.

City under attack

Following what seems like the beginning of a new wave of terror attacks, thousands of police officers were on increased alert ahead of Yom Kippur. Since last week, following two stabbings in which three residents were lightly to moderately injured, substantial police and Border Police forces have been deployed throughout the capital. Checkpoints have been set up on the main roads, and entry to the Old City is restricted. During Yom Kippur, vehicles traveling from the Old City and between east Jerusalem neighborhoods to the north and south were also subject to additional restrictions. 

 OUTSIDE THE city but wishing you could see Jerusalem during Sukkot? Tour it online. (credit: JAMAL AWAD/FLASH90) OUTSIDE THE city but wishing you could see Jerusalem during Sukkot? Tour it online. (credit: JAMAL AWAD/FLASH90)

Take a virtual tour

Ma’aleh School of Television, Film and the Arts is offering an online film and tourism tour of Jerusalem during the holidays. Due to the pandemic, it’s clear by now that this year, once again, Sukkot won’t look the same, certainly regarding the traditional pilgrimage to the capital. Ma’aleh found a creative solution, offering an online guided tour of the most beautiful, distinctive Holy City sites, combined with three short films offering an original, creative look at the city. The guided virtual tour in English is taking place from the Jerusalem pedestrian mall, Mahaneh Yehuda, haredi neighborhoods, the Western Wall and other sites. The film is offered for purchase on the Ma’aleh website: