This week in Jerusalem

Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs.

Dried fruits at the Mahane Yehuda shuk (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Dried fruits at the Mahane Yehuda shuk
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Watershed moment for women
Mavoi Satum, the Jerusalem-based association for women held in “captivity” by husbands who refuse to give them a get (divorce), won a small but significant victory this week.
The Supreme Court has alerted the state that the petition submitted by Mavoi Satum, together with Na’amat and WIZO, will end in a breakthrough ruling for women. As in the case of Alice Miller’s petition, which opened a door for women in the Israel Air Force 20 years ago, this case could be a turning point that will result in women moving to key positions in the rabbinical courts.
Despite the law mandating that women are entitled to equality in positions in public functions, women have not yet been selected for top roles in the rabbinical courts. Attorney Batya Cahana- Dror, CEO of Mavoy Satum, says that the appeal to the Supreme Court was unavoidable following the state’s failure to achieve equality in this arena.
The final legal decision will be announced after Passover.
Enriching your holiday There is an impressive lineup of activities for locals and visitors to the city during the holiday week.
The Jerusalem Development Authority has prepared a variety of events, most of them free of charge. Residents and visitors will have an extensive choice – from a picnic in the Ben-Hinnom Valley to exhibitions of games, technology and fashion (some of Jerusalem’s top designers will display their creations in the framework of the traditional spring Primavera event).
Workshops in fashion, design, culinary arts and gardening, as well as a presentation of the evolution of games throughout history – all this and more will be open to the public during the week of Passover between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. at Beit Hansen, 14 Gedalia Allon Street.
Awakening the Old Lady
History will be spotlighted in the Old City during the holiday, enabling the general public to learn more about our heritage and the story of modern Jerusalem, especially during the months preceding the Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948, and the battle for Jerusalem.
Innumerable stories comprise the big picture of that period: the battle, the daily life during the War of Independence, the local heroes of that period.
Many of the stories will be portrayed to revive the past; special guided tours will include short plays depicting that time period. Some of the tours are offered in English.
The action is scheduled to take place each Thursday throughout April – every 20 minutes, starting from Jaffa Gate, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
In addition, a new passageway from the Jewish Quarter to the Cardo and the nearby renovated Hurva Synagogue is expected to attract thousands of visitors.
Of further interest is a new display – a series of mosaics depicting the life in the city in ancient times as well as during the 1948 War of Independence and the battle for the city.
Integrating olim
A special city council meeting kick-started a new initiative to promote participation of olim (immigrants) in the business sector and other projects in the city.
Led by Deputy Mayor Ofer Berkowitz (Hitorerut), the April 3 meeting introduced the project – a joint initiative of the municipality and the national government – and its goal to increase the participation of olim in all aspects of business in the city. Goals include encouraging employment of olim in local businesses and non-profit associations, creating a wide range of opportunities to enable olim to play a more active role in the economic life of the city.
Despite the lack of affordable housing and other issues, Jerusalem remains the preferred destination of most olim from Western countries, including those coming from France in the recent immigration wave. The meeting sought productive ways for the municipality to help employers expand their workforces.
Effective integration of olim, Berkowitz concluded, is critical to the sustainability of the city and creation of new bridges to foreign markets in their countries of origin.
Peace, Irish style
A delegation of 20 principals from both predominately Arab and Jewish schools in Jerusalem traveled to Ireland to learn from locals there how to promote peace.
The overarching idea was that there is an urgent need for opposing sides to talk first about what they share, and only later tackle the issues on which there is strong disagreement. The program, called “Shared Education,” has been effective in Ireland in promoting understanding and cooperation between Catholics and Protestants, who have been at odds for centuries.
The program behind this initiative was launched two years ago, bringing principals from the Arab and Jewish sectors together to study neutral topics unconnected to core local issues. The next step is to find ways to leverage the experience of studying together and extend it to their students. One of the issues was language. While most of the Arab principals know enough Hebrew to conduct a real conversation, on the Jewish side few speak Arabic. This is a cause of unease and a feeling of inequality.
One of the results of the program was the pledge of some of the Jewish principals to add Arabic studies to their curriculum.
Kosher parking
Some of us may remember the enthusiasm with which the municipality announced the installation of modern parking meters less than three years ago.
They cost the city a small fortune – more than a million shekels.
That may have been the latest word in technology three years ago, but progress marches on and soon parking meters will be only a memory. By August, all existing parking meters – even the new ones – will be removed from our streets and parking will be possible only through a smartphone application.
Implementation of the new approach is not without its problems, though.
Smartphone possession and proficiency is not universal. Some seniors, for example, may not be able to master the technology behind these devices; tourists will not necessarily have the local application handy; and many haredim do not possess smartphones for ideological reasons.
The municipality announced that in cases such as these, there will be a phone number for drivers to call when they park. As for seniors, a campaign is planned to prepare them for the new approach.
Kosher, under limits
Last week, a widely reported inspection of the Ministry of Health and local public health services resulted in the destruction of more than 200 kg. of meat, fish and poultry taken from restaurants in Mahaneh Yehuda after being deemed unfit for human consumption.
Nino Peretz, president of the market merchants association, says that regulations are scrupulously enforced to ensure that merchants and restaurant owners “keep the highest standards of food safety for the honor of the whole shuk.”
Market merchants say that the announced figures were greatly exaggerated.
Whoever is right, the issue of whether food in the shuk – cooked and fresh – is properly handled in line with the highest standards of hygiene has been an issue for many years, and still hits the headlines occasionally.
“We must provide the best conditions for our customers here.
We will not tolerate any deviation from these standards – with the help of the Health Ministry,” concluded Peretz, hinting that rivalries between merchants and owners of restaurants that sell readymade food are behind the flurry of accusations in this recent matter.
Reut may be back
The closure of the Reut home for youth at risk due to a budget shortage at the Welfare Ministry has raised anger and concern among professionals at the municipality.
Although not all the young people in that home are local – in line with ministry policy – high-ranking figures at the Welfare and Community administration and Safra Square have expressed concern that there will be an increase in youth at risk hanging around in the streets, exposed to dangers such as drugs and prostitution.
A civil initiative to raise the funds needed to reopen the place has already collected more than NIS 350,000 and efforts are underway to get responsible parties at Safra Square and at the ministry to reopen the facility as soon as possible. This sum has been supplemented by a special grant of $250,000 from the Jewish community of Toronto for that purpose.
The next step is to find a non-profit association to assume management according to the high professional standards required to safeguard and rehabilitate these youngsters at risk.