City Front: TA gets tough with smokers

Benji’s House begins; bereaved provoked to war; national fitness event; man uses body to block buses; residents fight for old trees.

public smoking 224 88 (photo credit: Channel 10)
public smoking 224 88
(photo credit: Channel 10)
As part of a new get-tough policy, the Tel Aviv Municipality has announced it will step up enforcement of the smoking ban in public places including bars, cafes, clubs and restaurants. In January, over 200 fines were imposed for smoking in public places, generating revenue of hundreds of thousands of shekels.
Mayor Ron Huldai said that business owners who do not enforce the ban will face fines of up to NIS 4,000. He adopted a tougher stance on the issue after receiving numerous complaints from residents about lax enforcement of the ban on smoking in locations defined by the law as public places.
Benji’s House begins
Work has started on developing a site allocated by Ra’anana Municipality to pave the way for the construction of Benji’s House, a facility for lone soldiers and local youngsters aged 21 to 35. As well as hosting cultural and leisure events, the new center will provide a range of services, including advice on studies, business entrepreneurship, volunteering and contributing to the community.
The new center is named after Maj. Benji Hillman, from Ra’anana, who was killed in 2006 during the Second Lebanon War. To date, the Benji Foundation has raised close to $3 million for the project, largely in the US, and is maintaining fund-raising activities to complete the budget for the construction work.
Ra’anana Mayor Nahum Hofree expressed his full support for the project and said the new center would provide a supportive home for lone soldiers and a lively center for young people from the city.
Bereaved provoked to war
Hod Hasharon Municipality member Amir Kochavi has spoken out against what he terms “planning and enforcement ineptitude” relating to access to the Hod Hasharon Cemetery. Kochavi noted that people attending funerals often spend far longer than planned on getting to the cemetery due to the poor access.
Last week, things got out of hand on the jammed road to the cemetery when a number of drivers lost their cool and resorted to violence. The police were called in to calm things down and keep the bereaved warring factions apart.
A Hod Hasharon Municipality spokesperson said that a plan to extend the cemetery and the parking facilities has been approved, and that a tender will be issued in the coming weeks.
National fitness event
Around 500 high school students took part in the national keep-fit championships in Ramat Gan’s National Park last Thursday, the first time the event had taken place.
The event, organized by the Association of School Sports and the Sports Department of the Ramat Gan Municipality, hosted students from 22 schools across the country.
The participants went through different stations where they performed various exercises, including situps, arm pulls, carrying sandbags, obstacle course running and ball games.
Ramat Gan was represented by students from the Blich School. The overall winners of the event came from the Comprehensive Het School in Ashkelon and the Hayovel School in Herzliya.
Man uses body to block buses
People living on Rehov Ha’ari in Rishon Lezion have long suffered from the roar of buses traveling along their narrow residential thoroughfare, which is located close to the Egged bus parking lot. After the residents referred the problem to the local municipality, the municipal council banned heavy vehicles, including buses, from using the street.
Unfortunately, however, Egged drivers continued to drive through Rehov Ha’ari, regardless.
Last week, local resident Eli Greenfeld decided to take the matter into his own hands and lay down in the middle of the street, preventing buses from entering. After a short standoff, the bus drivers gave up and – at least for one day – Rehov Ha’ari remained blissfully busless.
Greenfeld said he would keep up his one-man bus obstruction efforts as long as required.
Residents fight for old trees
Rehov Azar in Holon nestles in a quiet neighborhood near the center of the city. All the buildings on the street are four stories high, except for an older single-story building with a row of old cypresses in the yard.
A few months ago, a group of entrepreneurs bought the plot and decided to put up a six-story building, which involves putting in a ramp leading down to a basement as well as felling some of the old cypresses and cutting off the branches of other trees.
Now area residents have decided to safeguard the remaining trees and are looking to invoke the Planning and Construction Law and Forestry Order, which protects old trees from felling or being replanted in other locations.
Fight against pirate taxis
For the last five years, illegal taxi services have been operating in Rehovot with no regard for the police. However, last week the police decided to take action and stopped 15 taxis for inspection. Eight were found to be unroadworthy due to severe safety defects. Fines of NIS 1,000 were imposed and taxis taken off the road.
The police videoed and documented taxis which obstructed traffic, and took down details of pirate taxi ranks within the Egged bus station compound.