This week in Jerusalem

The city center heats up

Followingan incredible summer of cultural events, including street parties and afew events to welcome the fall, Hitorerut was at it again with Defrost,a two-day midwinter festival of alternative culture in the city center.On Tuesday and Wednesday, Jerusalem's streets and some of its residentshosted dance, theater, sculpture, alternative paintings and craft,music and movies. "It's fringe," says Hitorerut city council memberOfer Berkovitch, "but today's fringe could be tomorrow's next bigthing, and Jerusalem is ripe for such a festival, which suits the citybecause it is not particularly mainstream." The festival, largelyadvertised on the Web site, was produced and sponsored bythe Hazira theater, the Lab, local art schools and galleries.Festivalgoers were invited by residents to share a home-cooked meal,called "guerrilla dining," inspired by a similar event born in Berlin.

Compounded problems

Last week saw several activists arrested at the Shimon Hatzadikcompound in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, to which a group of Jewsclaims ownership. It is one of 28 properties in Sheikh Jarrah that arethe subject of an ongoing legal battle between Jewish claimants and thePalestinian families who live there. For the past few months, theneighborhood has been the site of a weekly Friday protest scene. LastFriday Hagai Elad, the director of the Association for Civil Rights inIsrael, was arrested by the police, who claimed that he was violatingthe conditions of the demonstration by using a megaphone. He spentShabbat in the city lockup in the Russian Compound, together with 16other protesters.

The arrests roused the ire of human and civil rightsactivists, who fear that the police force is "threatening democracy,"as Elad put it.

"If the police think that this will intimidate us, they aregetting it all wrong," remarked Meretz city council member MeirMargalit. "This will only act as a boomerang, and one thing is sure:Next week we will be there again, probably in larger numbers."

Parting company with the EJDC

The latest casualty in Mayor Nir Barkat's plan to reorganize themunicipal daughter companies is the East Jerusalem Development Company.The company's fate was sealed by the Finance Ministry in July 2009,when it announced that it would close down or merge with publicorganizations that were not cost effective. The EJDC will not becompletely shut down but will be downgraded to a maintenance company.

Meanwhile, Barkat has almost completed his larger plan torestructure all the public and municipal-run companies functioning inthe city, aimed at reducing the number of such organizations.

According to the new plan, Moriah will be theonly organization in charge of construction projects in the city. TheEJDC will then be in charge of maintaining the tourist and historicsites in east Jerusalem and the Old City. Ultimately, all the companieswill be reunited under one general authority directly connected to themunicipality. Still to be found: a solution to the EJDC's NIS 6 milliondeficit.

A director-general steps down

Ora Ahimeir, the director-general of the Jerusalem Institute forIsrael Studies, has retired after 31 years of service. At the ceremonyto mark her retirement, guests included MK Reuven Rivlin. Ahimeir plansto write a historical novel based on the history of her family, wholived in Germany before World War II.

A general inspector steps up

City councillor Shlomo Rosenstein has already achieved a fewlocal victories. The most famous - or infamous - of these is thecreation of the segregated mehadrin bus lines. Rosenstein, who holdsthe municipal inspection portfolio, recently suggested that harediresidents should be hired to carry out inspection in the haredineighborhoods.

A man of action, Rosenstein didn't wait to see if his proposalwould be approved by the municipal human resources department butpublished an open call to his haredi peers to submit their candidaciesfor the posts of inspectors recently published by the municipality.Municipal inspectors oversee - and write tickets to - residents whobreak the law regarding construction, dirt, smoking in restricted areasor posting material illegally on notice boards.

Not everyone at Kikar Safra sounded very happy about thisinitiative. "This must be a joke," reacted a high-level official whorequested anonymity. "We all know that most of the illegal constructionin west Jerusalem happens in the haredi neighborhoods, so what is thecity council member suggesting - that they will supervise themselves?"Rosenstein, in response, mentioned that he managed, about a year ago,to convince Egged and some 50 haredim to join forces in a project tohire them as bus drivers in the haredi neighborhood, something thatsounded unreal at the time but is a fact today.

Heart and soil

The trend of organic, green and environment-friendly has reachedretirement residences as well. Neveh Amit in Ramot Eshkol, one of thefirst homes for senior citizens in Jerusalem, recently launched aprogram of raising organic vegetables. In a very short time it hasbecome a real attraction, and most of the tenants participate. Aftercucumbers and cherry tomatoes, they now plan to harvest yellow andgreen peppers. The members of the project have also decided to takeover the kitchen of the home and are engaged in a love affair withvegetables, healthy cuisine and gardening. Next on the agenda:strawberry fields.

Setting the stage

The Nissan Nativ Studio, a prestigious training school foractors and performers, finally has its own home. The ceremony to launchthe studio's new premises at Beit Elisheva on Rehov Elazar Hamoda'i inKatamon takes place on Saturday night. The guest of honor will be MayorNor Barkat, together with his deputy, culture portfolio holder PepeAlalo, and Shemi Amsalem, the recently appointed head of the culturedepartment. The studio, the only professional venue in Jerusalem thattrains young people who want to become professional actors, was almostclosed down just a year ago for lack of public support. For Barkat,this is only one of the positive results of his policy to double thebudget of cultural events since entering office.