The effort, the energy, the time and the expenditure that went into the visit of US President Joe Biden is simply mind-boggling, especially when reviewing the whole caboodle, one realizes that at best, Biden caught a fleeting glimpse of something as his car or his helicopter whizzed by, or as he walked the length of a red carpet.
While it is true that America is Israel’s strongest ally, the discomfort caused to residents by an American presidential visit is a heavy price to pay. But Jerusalemites are used to discomforts caused not only by such visits but by sports rallies, parades and Independence Day celebrations.
The key factor here is the expenditure that could have been better put to use in welfare relief.
If Jerusalem was an affluent city, the cost factor could be shrugged off. But it’s not affluent. It’s a poor city with a number of rich residents. Statistically, it has always been the home of the poor, the brave and the faithful – be they Jewish or otherwise. What if even half of the wasted money had been directed to the city’s social services. It could have been a lot more beneficial than putting on a show for POTUS.
■ THIS WEEK is a crucial week in the lives of filmmakers Shulamit Lifshitz and Oriel Berkovits, alumni of the Maaleh Film School. Their film Girl No. 60427 is a finalist in the BAFTA Students Awards, and the winners will be announced this week.
The film, which is a mix of animation and live performances, is based on a true story. Lifshitz is the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor who did not talk of her wartime experiences, but committed her memories of that horrendous period to a handwritten diary that Lifshitz found while staying with her grandparents in Tel Aviv. The story line of the film follows a similar pattern.
■ THE PARDES Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem and America will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this coming fall, and throughout the year will be highlighting 50 of its alumni, many of whom have distinguished themselves not only in various branches of Jewish study, but also in other fields as well. People familiar with Pardes alumni are asked to nominate those who they believe that a wider public should know about and recognize. For further information about Pardes, go to www.pardes.org.il
Dr. Colin Leci
■ RETIRED CORPORATE environmental engineering specialist Dr. Colin Leci is among the many Jerusalemites who have lodged complaints with the municipality over flaws in the way the city is run. Leci has been conducting repeated correspondence with the municipality and the Environmental Protection Ministry with the aim of ensuring that proper protective measures are taken with regard to adequate shielding or the use of water sprays to minimize particulate emission (dust), which affects the health of the residents in the neighborhood, not to mention their human rights.
Leci lives in Talbiyeh quite close to a construction project. The residential area in which he lives is densely populated, which means a lot of people could be adversely affected by emissions from the building site.
He is concerned about the municipality’s decision not to demand that the contractor take preventative measures to ensure the health and safety of residents and passersby.
In its response to his repeated complaints, the municipality, via the Head of the Department of Environmental Engineering and Management of the Planning Administration, has stated that the standard they are using to judge this issue relates to quarries. This leaves Leci furious and non-plussed, because quarries are not placed in high density, upmarket residential areas in the heart of Jerusalem. “Surely, there are specific environmental standards that apply to building sites under development in a residential area that create both dust and noise to ensure that such work is not offensive and harassment to the neighbors in the area?” he wrote.
Unable to receive satisfaction from the municipality he wrote to the Environmental Protection Ministry requesting a review of the decisions made by the municipality.
Here too, he came up against a brick – or should we say stone – wall.
The conclusion that he has drawn is that the municipality is more concerned about protecting the building contractors in the city and their profits, than in protecting the population against breaches of environmental legislation.
Leci is also concerned that work on the site begins as early as 8 a.m. and continues till 6 p.m., with little letup from the noise of the drill.
“It is incomprehensible why the municipality is ignoring specific environmental standards that apply to building sites under development in a residential area that create both dust and noise,” he says. “For a supposedly hi-tech country, this is no longer in order.”
With national election campaigns in full swing, and municipal election campaigns about to get underway, Leci should finally get at least a partial positive response.
Jerusalem Film Festival
■ WITH RARE exceptions, even confirmed film buffs will not recognize all the international actors, directors, producers and other foreign guests connected with filmmaking who will attend the 39th Jerusalem Film Festival opening at the Sultan’s Pool on Thursday, July 21, and will roam the corridors of the Jerusalem Cinematheque in the days that follow.
Among them will be prize-winning Swedish director Ruben Ostlund, popular French singer and actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, with her partner, director Yvan Attal, and their son, actor Ben Attal, esteemed German director Volker Schlöndorff, award-winning Cambodian director Rithy Panh, American film producer Pamela Koffler, director of the Berlin film festival Mariette Riesenbeck, Hungarian film director Laszlo Nemes, Icelandic film director Runar Runarsson, Mexican film director Michel Franco, French director Christophe Cognet, Macedonian director Teona Strugar Mitevska, Portuguese director Joao Pedro Rodrigues, Jovan Marjanovic, director of the Sarajevo Film Festival, and Polish producer Ewa Puszczynska.
The Jerusalem Film Festival is always a cultural and entertainment delight, not only for the quality of the films, but also because there are so many events at which film patrons get a chance to mingle with famous people whose work they admire, and to ask questions at Q&A sessions related to the films and to see those who produced, directed or starred in them.
It’s also a diplomatic event in that many diplomats come to Jerusalem when films from their countries are being screened at the film festival.
Because of the diversity of its presentations and its participants, the Jerusalem Film Festival gives added meaning to the concept that Jerusalem is the center of the universe.