This Week In Jerusalem

Peggy Cidor's roundup of cultural events in the capital.

In the name of the faithful wife
As of this month, streets named after significant male figures will include the names of their wives as well. As a result of this touching idea (any connection with International Women’s Day?), the Ben-Yehuda pedestrian mall will now be called Rehov Eliezer and Hemda Ben-Yehuda. Rehov Tahon in Kiryat Hayovel will be called Ya’acov and Sarah Tahon, and Rehov Pines in the Zichron Moshe neighborhood will be called Rehov Michael and Tzipora Pines.
But not all the wives have been honored. A section of the Bukharan Quarter has been renamed after renowned kabbalist Yitzhak Kaduri who, despite the fact that he was married twice, will have exclusivity when it comes to the street name.
Criticism from Left and Right
City council member Yair Gabai had a fruitful week. First, he was courted by all the media representatives (including quite a few from the foreign press) following the mayor’s press conference on the Gan Hamelech project. Journalists surrounded him right after Mayor Nir Barkat left, eager to hear his position regarding the plan (he is fiercely against it) and what its chances of success are (none at all). Gabai, who was once a member of the National Religious Party but refused to admit the changes that occurred in the party (including the change of its name to Habayit Hayehudi), is still a member of the coalition, sitting as the third representative of that party (no matter what we call it) but insists that he does not represent it and has nothing to do with the religious Zionist party. Gabai is opposed to the mayor’s plan in Silwan because, he says, “This is a prize to the law breakers among the Arab population and is therefore unacceptable.”
What is interesting to note is that on the same day, at the same time and just a few steps from Gabai stood Deputy Mayor Pepe Alalu of Meretz, who also tried to convince the media representatives that the mayor’s plan had no chance at all – but obviously for different reasons. Alalu firmly believes that the city should be divided into two capitals, and thus no plans whatsoever should be implemented in east Jerusalem. What is the most amazing is that only one journalist – a foreign one at that – had the most logical reaction after listening to both: “Then what are you doing in the mayor’s coalition?” Good question. No need to spoil it with an answer.
The right to protest
Following the decision of the High Court of Justice, the police allowed left-wing activists to demonstrate on Saturday evening against the presence of Jewish residents in Sheikh Jarrah. According to the organizers and the media present, some 3,000 people showed up carrying placards calling for the Jewish residents to leave. The demonstrators, many of them using whistles, shouted, “There is no sanctity in occupation.”
Considering the recent articles in the press and public declarations that mourned the disappearance of the Israeli Left, the number of participants was impressive, though it did include a large number of foreign left-wing activists, not only locals. Facing them, the Jewish residents – including haredim who had come to pray at the Shimon Hatzadik grave nearby and are not part of the project to install Jewish residents in the neighborhood – numbered only about 100, who stood in support of the Jewish presence in the largely Arab neighborhood.
For the past two months or so, the demonstrators had been relegated to the other side of Road No. 1 and were not allowed to enter the neighborhood. Following a decision of the planning committee at the municipality to evacuate the tents of some of the evicted Arab families to build a parking lot, the Left representatives asked to be allowed into the neighborhood and to demonstrate on the same lot.
“It is clear now that the police were wrong and that we have the right to express our positions,” stated Deputy Mayor Pepe Alalu, a regular participant in the weekly demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah.
Saturday night fervor
Tomorrow night, a demonstration will be held in opposition to the gender segregation on Egged buses. A large ad hoc coalition of grassroots groups and organizations has been formed to march against what they regard as “the caving in of the government – particularly the Transportation Ministry – to the haredi hegemony.”
The activists, led by the Yerushalmim party (represented on the city council), Meretz (also on the city council) and the Israel Religious Action Center, will lead the protest march.
According to the organizers, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and secular residents want to say loud and clear that the gender separation on the buses, which they consider to be an extreme segregation, in addition to haredi attempts to force their view, is not compatible with democracy.
The march will set out at 7:30 p.m. from Kikar Paris and proceed to the city center. Recently, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz proposed to permit gender segregation on buses “on a voluntary basis,” but his proposal was rejected by the movements that will lead the march tomorrow night.
Hot topic: Hot meals
Earlier this week, the Knesset debated a new bill aiming to ensure a hot meal in schools as a response to food insecurity. The law, once it is approved, will apply to all needy children up to 10th grade. But the awareness of food insecurity experienced by a large number of citizens began in Jerusalem. In the fall of 2002, a forum was formed by three women: Cherry Fox, Laurie Heller and Batya Kallus, respectively a representative of a family foundation and fund-raisers for philanthropy. The forum extended to about 30 foundations. Tamara Gottstein, representative of the Rochlin Foundation, soon joined the forum.
At no time did the forum become a structured organization and remained an ad hoc group of volunteers, but the change they effected in Israeli society and in Jerusalem – the poorest city in the country – is difficult to fathom.
The first step was to call for a report on the matter from theBrookdale institute. The report – “Food Insecurity in Israel and ItsImplication for a Pattern of Nutrition” – revealed that 22% of thepopulation suffered from food insecurity.
The report was leaked to the press and caused a burst of anger by thenprime minister Ariel Sharon, who refused to admit that there werehungry Israelis and forbade his ministers to collaborate with the JointDistribution Committee and the Jewish Agency on this matter, arguingthat it was not their job.
Upon entering office, prime minister Ehud Olmert decided to take thereport more seriously and appointed the Itzkovitch committee, whichissued a new report in 2008. The new law, proposing one hot meal toevery needy child is, according to Gottstein and Kallus, to beconsidered as a result of the awareness raised by the creation of theforum in 2002, though the two admit there is still a long way to gotoward establishing food security.