One bridge too far

The Bridge of Strings keeps providing us with hot news and some of it sounds weird, or perhaps cynical.

jerusalem bridge 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolismski)
jerusalem bridge 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolismski)
The Bridge of Strings keeps providing us with hot news. Some of it sounds weird or perhaps cynical, such as the following: Last week a local Hebrew magazine published the cancellation of Jewish Australian millionaire John Gandel's $10 million donation for the bridge because the municipality wouldn't - even for that price - name it after him. The impression was that the bridge wouldn't be completed without this money. However, according to vice mayor Rabbi Eliezer Simhayoff (Shas), there is no emergency at all. The money needed for the completion of the works has been found, and Gandel's money - or whoever will come instead - is part of the municipality's long-range saving plans. Says Simhayoff, "We don't need that money now. But what could be a better occasion than the inauguration of the bridge, scheduled for June 25, to raise extra funds? We will certainly find another donor - I truly believe that $10 million for a bridge at the entrance of Jerusalem is a good bargain, but we will only need the money nine years from now for bridge maintenance. Meanwhile, it will earn produce interest, to be used for other projects in the city." Simhayoff didn't sound particularly concerned about the issue that prevented Gandel from donating his $10 million: "I'm sure we will find a way to convince [architect Diego] Calatrava to accept a compromise over the issue of naming the bridge after a donor." And how did the municipality solve the problem of the increase in the bridge's budget published here a few weeks ago? Very simple: The city council's Finance Committee (headed by Simhayoff) reached an agreement with the Finance Ministry. The ministry lent the money (NIS 17 million) to the municipality, and the auxiliary society Moriah will reimburse the loan over a period of 10 years. Those of you who think that since it was Moriah's responsibility not to exceed its initial budget they should bear the consequences of doing so, should also hear Simhayoff's reply: "We can't punish such an important society as Moriah for that - they still have projects to execute here." Let's just hope that in these next projects, Moriah will be more careful. We are all familiar with the saying of our sages that "the work of tzadikim (the righteous) is done by others." Unless there has been a new edition of this saying, MANHI, the municipality's Education Department, is the newly elected "tzadik" of the year. The Tali Bayit Vagan school, identified with the Reform movement, has always been a thorn in the side of the ultra-Orthodox in the city council. Despite its popularity, the school never obtained a larger building and, as a result, couldn't grow the way it should have. Two years ago, the Education Department proposed that Tali merge with the Stone School in Kiryat Yovel, where the decreasing registration numbers threatened its closure. Manhi wanted to solve both problems: Tali's needs, and the prevention of closing another secular school and handing it over to a haredi one. While most of the parents on both sides accepted the proposition, two families from Stone and a small group of parents from Tali opposed it. Those in Kiryat Yovel refused to be "taken over by the Anglo snobs." According to a source inside Manhi, the opposition from Tali sounded like "the closest thing to racism." Manhi issued an official announcement saying that "the parents from both sides are not ripe for this change" and froze the project. Now Manhi is trying again - and the same opponents are still against it. "It's amazing," one Orthodox city council member said. "Davka under an ultra-Orthodox mayor, the city administration offers the Reform movement a fair and viable solution that will save this school, their most important educational and public achievement, and they can't overcome their feeling of superiority toward 'simple' people from Kiryat Yovel. Next time I hear them criticizing us about the [alleged discrimination against] Sephardi girls situation in Ashkenazi seminaries, I'll know what to answer."