With a million visitors expected in the capital over the Pessah and Easter holidays, the municipality has its work cut out.
By PEGGY CIDOR
As many of us probably do, I sometimes wonder how Moses handled the huge endeavor of the Exodus. Not the encounter with Pharaoh - that was a piece of cake. I mean how did he manage to deal with our ancestors, the Israelites. Well, of course, he had Divine support; but still!
Logic demands that in our day and age, with all the sophisticated technology available, there is no reason that we shouldn't be able to pull off the same kind of feat: not the miraculous part, of course, just the logistics.
But as the following story illustrates, it doesn't always work like that.
Some one million visitors - pilgrims and tourists - were expected in Jerusalem this Pessah, including Hol Hamoed and the Easter holidays. In their preparations for the festival, it seems that every aspect was taken into consideration by the people in charge at Kikar Safra: traffic, public transportation (including shuttle services), parking (for free), tour guides, keeping the streets clean (up to twice a day where needed) - anything you could think of.
As I write these words, things seem to be going according to plan. But - and here it comes - it seems that, unlike in Moses's day, we're talking about "one-mission-at-a-time" planning.
While the municipality was busy ensuring that public transportation would be given precedence over private cars to avoid traffic jams close to the Old City, and that the streets would stay spick and span, a simple but heart-rending issue of loss and distress could not move the people in charge at Kikar Safra from their offices to look for a human solution.
Rachel (not her real name), a single mother, and her four children, the youngest under four years of age, had been evicted from their apartment and were living in a tent set up in a parking lot. Even for the Seder, the welfare department of that same, so efficient municipality, was not able to provide a solution. More than NIS 3 billion for its budget, about 7,000 employees, a new administration genuinely dedicated to the residents' needs and rights - and one small and totally deprived family still living in a plastic tent after four weeks: no home, no warm food, no friends and no help or support. For Rachel and her children, there was no Seder and no Festival of Freedom to celebrate.
How could it be that time and effort were dedicated to cleaning our city and enabling our visitors to get from one place to another with the least possible traffic congestion, but at the same time no viable solution could be found for this family?
According to sources in the welfare department, Rachel had been given NIS 2,000 with which to rent an apartment. Apart from the fact that NIS 2,000 is a totally unrealistic sum for rent, Rachel is on the street because she was fired from her job. Which means she will not have the money to pay the rent next month, even if she - miraculously - finds an apartment for that amount.
One should wonder what would have happened if this Rachel had been there, in Egypt, in those days. Would Moses and all of us who came out of Egypt have just left her alone in her distress and gone forth to enjoy our freedom?
A spokesman for the municipality said that "a long-term solution for the housing problem of the resident is in the hands of the housing minister and is not the municipality's task."
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