This week in Jerusalem, October 23, 2020: Not in my neighborhood

Peggy Cidor's round-up of city affairs.

The light rail's blue line will run down Emek Refaim Street.  (photo credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90)
The light rail's blue line will run down Emek Refaim Street.
(photo credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90)
Not in my neighborhood
A yeshiva will have to evacuate a private building in the Baka neighborhood following strong opposition from local residents. Last week the Local Affairs Court ruled that the New Hebron Yeshiva didn’t have the right to use the premises on Gad Street, as the neighborhood plan does not include a yeshiva for that structure. 
As published here a few weeks ago, Baka residents were surprised to discover one morning that during the night, dozens of yeshiva students moved in without any coordination with the neighborhood’s local council. Any institution that does not directly serve residents of a neighborhood must coordinate its activities with the local council. The private building belongs to the Hassid Bros. Construction Company.  
Baka is a pluralistic neighborhood, where ultra-Orthodox, religious and secular residents live together. Opponents expressed concern that the fragile balance between the different communities might be broken. Mayor Moshe Lion expressed surprise at the yeshiva’s move and told residents it had not been coordinated with him. Sources close to the yeshiva say there will be an appeal submitted to the Local Affairs Court. 
King of the councils
Following the municipality’s decision in September to postpone elections scheduled for this month due to COVID-19, a new date of December 22 has been set. Deputy Mayor Arieh King, who holds the local councils portfolio, convened the local councils and community centers committee to decide the date. As a result, there is also a new deadline of November 17 to submit candidacies. The first round of elections will take place in Beit Safafa, Har Homa, Ginot Ha’ir, Bayit Vagan, Baka, Pisgat Ze’ev, Ramat Eshkol and Gonenim. The second round will take place in 2021. Jerusalem has 30 local councils, five of them in Arab neighborhoods. 
Corona for the east 
After two drive-in coronavirus testing centers were established for Arab neighborhoods, the municipality and Health Ministry have agreed to establish a new coronavirus ward. Prof. Roni Gamzu initiated the project as part of a plan to alleviate pressure on hospitals on the west side, with an eye toward flu in the winter. The cost of the project, which includes 25 beds, is NIS 1.6 million, a sum the municipality will have to find, as only part of it will come from the Health Ministry. 
The 25 beds will be installed in Saint Joseph Hospital, a private facility caring mainly for maternity patients, run by the Sisters of Saint Joseph Order on Nashashibi Street in east Jerusalem. 
Be quiet
Cracks in the walls, noise, dust and an impaired quality of life led dozens of Yefeh Nof residents to declare they simply couldn’t take it anymore. On Sunday, they protested in front of Mayor Lion’s home, giving him a small taste of how noise can disrupt lives. Signs called on the mayor to stop heavy roadwork at night, and to investigate cracks in the neighborhood’s buildings. 
This is not the first time Yefeh Nof residents have called on Lion to alleviate the damage caused by work on the Road 16 project, which aims to open an additional gateway to the city. A first protest on the matter took place three months ago at Safra Square. Since nothing has really changed since then, the residents turned to city councilman Ofer Berkovitch (Hitorerut) and invited him, as leader of the opposition, to support their struggle. 
So far, Berkovitch has managed to obtain, through urgent letters to the Environmental Protection Ministry, a promise that roadwork will end at 11 p.m. While Lion has announced he is working to reduce the damage and the project’s working hours, Berkovitch claims the mayor faces a conflict of interest with the company that is doing the work, and shouldn’t be involved with the project on any level. 
Full steam ahead
It’s final: the controversial section of light rail’s Blue Line will run along the German Colony's Emek Refaim Street.
Numerous area residents preferring alternative solutions fought this route for two years, but earlier this week (Sunday morning) the district committee, after a long debate, approved the project definitively – with a strong recommendation to hasten the long-delayed work. The local and district committees investigated possible alternatives to the Emek Refaim path, but determined this is the best solution to ease traffic congestion and facilitate efficient public transportation. 
Mordechai Avraham, a leading activist in the residents association opposed to the Emek Refaim path, reacted: “We are determined to continue to oppose this decision, using all available legal measures.”
Names to remember 
IDF soldiers Hadar Cohen and Hadas Malka, murdered by Palestinians terrorists in two different events (in February 2016 and June 2017, respectively) on the stairs leading to the Damascus Gate to the Old City, will be newly honored. Earlier this week, the committee that decides the names of Jerusalem streets, squares and more voted unanimously to change the official name of the stairs from “Shechem Stairs” to Ma’alot Hadar ve'Hadas (The Hadar and Hadas Stairs).
Dig it
The extensive Baka area roadwork over the past few weeks is part of a project promoted by the mayor to renovate sidewalks throughout the city and add parking spots. 
However, local residents have remarked that after the work was completed in some areas, another team of workers came the following week and began to dig again in the same places. Apparently, during the first round of work, Hagihon (the Jerusalem water utility company) laid pipes and after a full complement of noise, dust and inconvenience for residents and drivers, particularly on Bethlehem Road, everything looked nice and clean. 
Disturbingly, then the next team began digging again. Amidst the renewed noise, dust and traffic snarls, all the nice new pavements were removed and then replaced after additional pipes were laid. Evidently, coordination was lacking between different teams. 
Please come in
Tali Friedman, the recently elected president of the Mahaneh Yehuda merchants’ association, is trying to understand the rationale behind the Health Ministry’s decision to, during the recent lockdown, permit the fruit and vegetable vendors to sell their merchandise only from inside their shops. As infection risk is lower outdoors, Friedman says the ruling flies in the face of logic. It was not easy to secure approval to keep the “authentic” part of the shuk open during this lockdown, but the regulation to sell only from inside aroused merchant anger and frustration. 
Customers are wary of coming to the shuk in any case; when they are required to enter little shops instead of shopping from outside the stalls, potential buyers are even more reluctant, explained Friedman.