This week in Jerusalem.

Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs.

The Natural History Museum (photo credit: ANNE97432/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
The Natural History Museum
(photo credit: ANNE97432/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
The Blue Line – the next stop
Monday, March 6, was the deadline for submitting objections to the Emek Refaim section of the light rail’s Blue Line connecting Ramot to Gilo. A total of 1,716 objections to the planned segment through city center and Emek Refaim were submitted.
Most of the objections were handled through the Refaim Ba-Moshavot resident association; the remainder were submitted by residents directly to the district planning and construction committee.
Another 1,571 residents of the area – German and Greek Colonies, Baka’a and Old Katamon – have joined the association and expressed their support for its objectives and efforts.
The association wants the municipality to seriously consider the possibility of a running a tunnel under Emek Refaim Street, particularly in light of the fact that this solution is being implemented in the Geula neighborhood for another segment of the same line.
On the final day before the deadline for submitting objections to the proposed segment, the Society for the Protection of Nature, the Council for Conservation of Heritage Sites in Israel (Jerusalem Branch), the Taxi Associations in Jerusalem, the Jerusalem College of Management, Jerusalem Venture Partners and Isrotel Hotels all joined the residents’ association in objecting the Emek Refaim segment.
Now that all objections have been submitted to the committee, the objecting residents will be invited to present their case. The district committee (under the aegis of the Interior Ministry) has the capacity to accept or reject the requests of the residents.
Young and Jerusalemite
A joint initiative of the municipality and the New Spirit Association, the 2017 young adult conference aims to address topics of special importance to the young generation in the city – particularly those who wish to remain here but are encountering difficulties.
The conference will take place on the premises of the Alliance Israelite Universelle on March 21 with the participation of Mayor Nir Barkat, city council member and holder of the Young Adults portfolio Hanan Rubin (Hitorerut) and municipality CEO Amnon Merhav. All three – together with additional staff and members of New Spirit – will field questions and suggestions regarding the needs of the young generation: developing career opportunities, business entrepreneurship, social activism, academic advancement, promoting tolerance in Jerusalem and more.
The goal of the session is to outline the needs of the young generation in the city for the next five years; active participation and engagement in the confab are encouraged.
Groups will meet and work from 8 a.m. into the night, followed by a show.
Encouraging entrepreneurship
There is a new accelerator for projects being developed by the young entrepreneurs, newcomers (olim) and others. PresenTense – the association established in the city a few years ago to hub such projects and initiatives – is launching this project in cooperation with the municipality and more than a dozen local firms.
Visionaries of all ages with an idea for an innovative project are encouraged to apply to gain access to the facilities needed to develop the concept.
More details and registration at
Closing a museum, take two Almost six years after the successful battle to prevent its closure, the Natural History Museum, an architectural jewel in the heart of the German Colony, is facing a new threat.
Located on one of the most expensive plots in the city, the museum is inevitably attracting real estate sharks. In addition to the expansive historic museum building itself, which offers a variety of activities for children and parents, there is a plan to build on the adjacent parking lot.
Officially, the plan is to build a music conservatory there, and thus the demand for the ground is for a good cause. However, members of the friends of the museum association, seasoned veterans in fighting the development plans of the municipality, say that this is only one part of the story. The first story of the planned building will, indeed, be used as an auditorium and classrooms for music studies, but the upper stories will house many luxury apartments to compensate the real estate entrepreneurs for the cost of the construction.
A greater concern is that this would be only a first step toward the ultimate goal – to expel the museum from its grand building and turn the whole plot into additional exclusive residential exclusive towers. Former city council member Pepe Alalu (Meretz), who was deeply involved in the previous round of this struggle in 2011, says that this is part of the larger plan to transform Jerusalem’s most historic and beautiful neighborhoods into a kind of local Singapore, crowded with innumerable towers.
At a city council meeting on February 23, the atmosphere became stormy due to the presence of many friends of the museum and residents of the neighborhood who attended to express opposition the city’s plans. For now, the association and the museum directors have appealed to the court in order to renew their request from six years ago to freeze all steps by the municipality until the residents have an opportunity to submit opposition and objections.
If something about this sounds familiar, it may be because the situation calls to mind the objections in a nearby neighborhood to the Emek Refaim segment for the Blue Line. Again the municipality seems to be advancing plans without proper involvement of the residents most at stake.
Municipal budget for 2017
After the stormy events that prevented the completion of the city’s budget until recently, the 2017 budget stands at NIS 7.37b. Of this, 1.9b. is designated for development and construction projects, leaving NIS 5.47b. for city affairs and the needs of its 900,000 residents.
The education budget will grow by NIS 124m. The sum of NIS 323m. is budgeted for renewal, development and planning projects, including a special focus on Tama 38 plans. An additional NIS 30m. will be channeled to youth, sports and culture programs. Swimming pools? More sports grounds? More community centers and enlargement of their current budgets? We have them all, with a NIS 33m. allotment for this year. Moreover, NIS 62m. is set aside for community and welfare programs for the residents – about a third of whom are considered to be living under the line of poverty.
Closing a pub
The latest victim in the war between haredim and seculars in Kiryat Hayovel is the Mifletzet Pub, with the immediate request to close it down. Located in the backyard of the neighborhood’s community center and just behind the famous playground of the Mifletzet (Monster), the pub is a local community initiative. Founded in September 2015, it is a nonprofit community enterprise, based on partnership of members, and offers usual activities of a neighborhood pub – a bar, some music and local events.
Its permit to operate is classified as a community project, and it now requires a different kind of permit – like any other business activity. This is the crack in the wall being used by the municipality to refuse to grant the new sort of business permit – which means that by the end of this month the Mifletzet Pub will have to shut down. Among the pub’s management and the secular activists in Kiryat Hayovel, there is no doubt that this is part of the war on their initiatives by the representatives of the haredi sector at city council.
And as if they needed some additional proof, earlier this week, as the 2017 budget was completed and ready to be presented to the Finance Committee for approval, haredi city council representatives announced that they would not vote for it, unless all events held on Shabbat in public spaces would be, as of now, canceled. Public spaces and venues, in this case, includes the Israel Museum and the cinematheque. Deputy Mayor and holder of the culture portfolio Ofer Berkowitz (Hitorerut) declared on Tuesday evening, at a panel held at Tmol Shilshom cafe, that he would not let this happen, but asked his haredi counterpart at the panel, “How long will this war between the two sides continue and waste our time, instead of working for the best [interests of] Jerusalem?”
Reconciliation now The Jerusalem Prize for the Unity of Israel this year is being awarded to Tzav Pius, an organization that acts to bridge the religious-secular divide, promoting tolerance, diversity and mutual responsibility.
Tzav Pius is one of the organizations funded through the Avi Chai Foundation.
Created in the months following the June 2014 kidnapping and murder of Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah, the prize promotes initiatives that span political and ideological differences and gaps to bring Israelis together – as the murder unified people during the period of searching for the boys.
Since its establishment in 1996, Tzav Pius has been demonstrating to all sectors of the population that there is something more important than magnifying entrenched opposing points of view. The annual Jerusalem Prize for the Unity of Israel, a joint initiative of the bereaved families of the three murdered youths and the municipality of Jerusalem, will be ceremonially presented to the awardees in the presence of President Reuven Rivlin.
Survey my people
The municipality has made several attempts to identify, as much as possible, the varying needs of olim who choose to reside in Jerusalem. In addition to the routine work of the new immigrants administration at Safra Square, special interest is being evidenced by Hitorerut, one of the lists that is part of the coalition at city council.
Recently a survey was disseminated among Anglo candidates for aliya, aimed at identifying their expectations for their new lives in the city. The survey tries to ascertain a complete picture of the needs and plans regarding jobs and further education these olim expect to find here, and how the city can respond to these specific needs. Thus far, at Hitorerut, the focus is on olim from Western countries – at this stage from English-speaking countries and from France.
In parallel, at Safra Square, there has been an ongoing effort to document statistics on immigrants from Western countries who decide to come here, despite all the problems – such as security and the lack of job opportunities and affordable housing.
The Kotel in other times
Chaos and struggle are not a new phenomenon at the Western Wall. Many years ago, this very special site – the major remnant of the Temple destroyed by the Romans some 2,000 years ago – was generally accessible to all, and didn’t have a divider separating the genders. However, it was not always easy for Jews to get there, and from time to time the presence of Jews, praying and mourning, was not well tolerated.
On April 24, 1928, a British Mandate officer, accompanied by British and Arab policemen, arrived and suddenly and pulled down the temporary separation fence that the Jews positioned there only at prayer times, throwing some of the worshipers to the ground, causing chaos, anger and fear.
Among those who were brutalized that day was an American citizen on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
The whole report and other interesting historical materials are currently on display at the National Library of Israel in Givat Ram, reminding us, perhaps, that some things are never really new.