Corridors of Power: Ghost capital

As far as President George W. Bush and a host of foreign journalists are concerned, Jerusalem has no residents.

jerusalem good thumb 88 (photo credit: )
jerusalem good thumb 88
(photo credit: )
The sight of the sixth floor at Kikar Safra, the day after US President George W. Bush's departure, was the closest thing to a virtual hangover. The hundreds of journalists - mostly from the Far East - who camped in the communication center in City Hall during the visit, left behind the usual debris: assorted papers, newspapers in a variety of languages - and a sophisticated media installation that within minutes appeared completely useless. But they departed a satisfied bunch. The staff of the municipal Spokesman's and Information Department were also pleased, despite the long hours of extra work, sometimes under harsh conditions, leading up to and during Bush's visit. After all, it is not every day that our city spokesman shakes the US president's hand or that his assistants find themselves photographed by the world's leading media outlets. But that was nothing compared to the opening of the media center, when Spokesman's and Information Department head Gil Sheffer explained that the municipality, out of concern for Bush, shut off the decorative (green) lights around the Old City walls, so that the US president could enjoy the sunrise au naturel. What an attentive touch, especially when one recalls that Bush came here to urge the government to discuss, among other issues, the partition of the city. Perhaps on his next visit it will be the Palestinian municipality tending to his artistic sensibilities? But I digress. The municipality managed to convince the Government Press Office to install - and more importantly to pay for - the media center at Kikar Safra and not in some remote hotel lobby, an impressive achievement in itself. In return, hundreds of journalists around the world now know that anything happening in the city has an address: Kikar Safra 1. This includes being the address for claims such as why other streets of the city (those Bush and his staff didn't use) are still so dirty? Imagine a letter posted from say, South Korea's largest media network, addressed to the Spokesman's and Information Department: Dear Sir, I had the opportunity to enjoy last week the high level of services of your administration regarding the media coverage of President Bush's visit. I really want to thank you for the sophisticated media center installed for our use. But on the other hand, I would like to express my surprise at the dirt and neglect that I found when I wandered out of the media center and into the streets of Jerusalem in search of people I could ask about their feelings regarding their life here in Jerusalem. By the way, there was no one to ask. Could you please forward me some kind of explanation as to why Israel refuses to split the city when I didn't come across any actual Israeli citizens wandering its streets? The above is, by the way, a faithful rendition of what a South Korean journalist told me a few hours before he left the city. And of course, how can we end this edition of Corridors of Power on Bush's visit without mentioning the biggest success of Operation Clear Skies, namely Mayor Uri Lupolianski's introduction to the most sterile compound of the year: Bush's suite at the King David Hotel. While it is still not clear if the US president realized who this smiling, bearded man dressed in black was, one thing is for sure: he must have a good sense of humor. Otherwise, how might the so-called leader of the free world interpret Lupolianski's gift: a map of the world with Jerusalem at its center. Could it be that we, Israelis, are a bit provincial? Oh yes, last but not least , the entire mess of an operation cost the taxpayers about NIS 2 million. Not bad for a ghost town.