Cleaning up their act

Kroitz, a haredi activist is convinced that the municipality is punishing residents by failing to clean their streets.

Street cleaner 88 (photo credit: )
Street cleaner 88
(photo credit: )
A private contract cleaner came into Mea She'arim this Tuesday. His first objective: to clean up the narrow streets behind the quarter's main thoroughfare, Rehov Mea She'arim that, according to Avraham Kroitz, haven't been cleaned since Shavuot. Kroitz, a haredi activist popularly known as the "mukhtar (chief) of Mea She'arim," is convinced that the municipality is punishing the residents. "This is collective punishment in retaliation for the burning of the garbage collection bins during the demonstrations last month," he declares. The "demonstrations" to which he refers were organized in the area after Asher Valis was arrested as a suspect in causing the death of his three-month-old son. As reported in In Jerusalem ("Until the next time," April 21), at the time, the Jerusalem municipality claimed that the riots caused NIS 140,000 in damages, including the destruction of at least 30 city garbage bins. "This is only an excuse," insists Kroitz. "The fact is that his [the mayor's] employees do not clean our neighborhood most of the time. They only clean the main street and the little side streets. The streets around the market are always full of garbage, they didn't even agree to place larger bins here, even though everybody knows that we have large families." Although complaints about city garbage collection come from many neighborhoods and municipal spokesmen have acknowledged that the city has given priority to the issue of sanitation, Kroitz contends that the use of a private contractor has much more significant implications. This could be, Kroitz says, the first step towards a "disengagement from the municipality." "This mayor is so secular that he won't do anything for our society. We can only dream that he would even give us 10 percent of the budgets and the attention he gives the secular population of the city. We and the Arab population are so discriminated against that there is no reason why we should keep on paying our taxes and accept being treated as if we do not exist." Sources in Kikar Safra said that the recent pile-up of garbage in Mea She'arim is the result of sanctions by the sanitation department's workers' committee. These sanctions were widespread throughout the city and reportedly came to an end early this week. But the source, who refused to be identified, added, "In the case of Mea She'arim - why not? Let's see if a private cleaner will work in a neighborhood where people keep burning the garbage bins again and again and spewing the garbage all over." Kroitz maintains that garbage is only one of the issues. "We feel that there is no way that we can make this mayor care about us. So we will continue to put the pressure on until he decides to resign. We will not give up."