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

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

PUTTING UP sukkot in Mea She'arim on October 2.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
PUTTING UP sukkot in Mea She'arim on October 2.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
Student housing
The Azrieli College of Engineering in Jerusalem recently inaugurated a new dorm for its students. Fourteen floors out of the 24 in the new tower built on the college campus in Ramat Beit Hakerem will host students in fully equipped rooms and apartments – 250 in total, of different sizes. There will be apartments for student couples, for individuals and for up to two roommates. The cost of the new structure stands at NIS 105 million, and is one of the first of such residential compounds for students in the city.
There are about 1,500 students in the college, and though due to the coronavirus it is still unclear when the academic year will kick off, the students already know one thing: the rent will be among the lowest in the city for students.
Additional housing projects for students are on their way, to be completed in various places in the capital, but for now it seems there are no such projects looming on the horizon to answer the high demand expected soon. In the coming two years, a few academic institutions are planning to move to the city center – Bezalel, Nissan Nativ and Sam Spiegel, among a few others, but so far no housing projects for students are ready to be promoted.
No elections now
The elections to the boards of local councils have been postponed to an unknown time, at least until the corona outlook is better. The deadline for submitting candidacy has been extended to October 15. Har Homa, Ginot Ha’ir, Baka, Beit Safafa, Gonenim and Pisgat Ze’ev (with its two separate councils) will have to wait until the coronavirus is under control.
From red to green
For those who feel concerned by the “red” label given to the city of Jerusalem due to high COVID levels, here is an interesting initiative. A call to take personal responsibility to turn Jerusalem into a “green” city – this time not connected to any environmental issues – has been issued on social media to women from all city sectors, providing “ten commandments” on how to save us from the pandemic, or at least reduce its dangers. These include avoiding going out unless absolutely necessary; wearing masks; holding meetings and observing holidays only within the nuclear family; keeping social distance; buying from local businesses; and paying attention to the seniors around us. Women are invited to sign the call and circulate it further.
Efrat Shoham Hildesheimer’s viral social media call, initially issued to both sexes, urges fellow Jerusalemites to share selfies of themselves wearing gloves and forming a heart with their fingers, pledging to take upon themselves the responsibility to fight the contagion here.
Connecting wall
Aleh Jerusalem is a medical and supportive care institution caring for children and young adults who have complex disabilities and require intensive support to perform daily activities such as eating and maintaining personal hygiene. They face a variety of medical issues including epilepsy, breathing difficulties and serious physical handicaps, and are cared for by a staff of 315 devoted professionals and caregivers.
Now that the coronavirus poses a direct threat to their health and life, Aleh Jerusalem has decided to ban all family visits, but the staff has found a way to alleviate the anguish this separation causes patients. The families are invited to send letters, poems, photos and personal messages, which are all posted on a wall at the entrance to the institution’s main building. These messages remind the youth inside that they are not forgotten, enabling them to maintain a different but still warm connection with their families in these difficult times.
Market streets
These may not be Mahaneh Yehuda’s best days, but the initiative to display street names is nevertheless a good one. For many years the names of the shuk’s streets, whether inside the covered part or along the open streets and alleys, were known only to a few. Most of the older merchants and owners of the stalls, or the old-time customers, recognized places by memory, and newcomers or visitors were often at a loss to find a specific shop or restaurant.
So while the market’s bars and eateries are closed in this second lockdown, some cleaning and improvement work is being undertaken, and the first project is the street names now displayed in most of the alleys in the covered part.
Bigger is better
The local planning and construction committee has approved expansion of the Mt. Scopus Hadassah Medical Center campus. The project will include a large new emergency room, including a helicopter landing pad; operating rooms; a 17-story tower for inpatient wards; 700 beds; and a large outpatient ward. The committee recommends enhancing relevant public transportation capabilities. The project now goes to the district committee for final approval.
Bigger isn’t better
Opposition leader Ofer Berkovitch (Hitorerut) urged Mayor Moshe Lion not to allow haredim to build large sukkot that could increase infection in the city. Berkovitch sent a letter calling for Lion to immediately dismantle large sukkot, built mostly in the Mea She’arim neighborhood. Berkovitch first turned to the city’s supervisors and enforcement administration, then to the Jerusalem police. Upon seeing that nothing was done, he turned to Lion.
“Large sukkot violating Health Ministry restrictions undermine the public’s trust in the authorities,” wrote Berkovitch.
Some large gatherings of haredim in sukkot ended up in clashes with the police and 18 people were arrested. Sizable gatherings also took place in Sanhedria and Romema, neighborhoods suffering from a high infection rate. Officially, the municipality maintains that no forbidden activities were conducted in such sukkot.