Challenging the status quo in Jerusalem

Whoever is elected mayor of J'lem should motive, encourage world’s greatest business minds to invest time and capital to cahnge city's future.

Moshe Lion and Nir Barkat 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Moshe Lion and Nir Barkat 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Last year Arieh King, who is now running as chairman of the United Jerusalem party together with Shmuel Shkedi in Jerusalem’s municipal election, stood with me at Nof Tzion. He was talking with a friendly Arab neighbor when the man’s daughter emerged from their house carrying two full garbage bags. She walked past us casually and threw her garbage onto the side of the mountain.
No more than 15 meters up the street sat the beautiful recycling bins and cages erected by the City for the exclusive benefit of the Nof Tzion neighborhood. I could not believe what I had seen.
Why were there no facilities for the Arab home only 15 meters away? When I looked into the matter I discovered taxes actually paid by Arab residents of east Jerusalem do not afford them a proportional share of services. Then I wondered whether union labor, a function of left-wing politics, had dictated conditions that encouraged a division of the city.
Having asked a lot of questions, I now believe garbage in east Jerusalem is frequently not collected to promote the left-wing pro-Oslo agenda.
Arieh King and I met Nir Barkat and his then-fledgling team a few years before he was elected mayor of Jerusalem. He had already been a council member while waiting out his term before becoming a candidate for mayor. In the last of three meetings before his election Nir and I sat at his home, where I presented my thoughts on resolving the Old City’s congested pedestrian traffic, as well as my ideas for parking and traffic exchange for taxis, busses and private vehicles.
Admittedly in those days the plan was a little rough, however I wanted to plant in Nir’s mind the essential necessity of advancing Jerusalem’s “Holy Basin” as its tourism epicenter, and to do that as a priority. My goal was more people, more traffic, more hotels, more infrastructure, more money and more exposure to pre-Second Temple Jewish history.
The plan I was envisaging for tourism in the Old City expanded to include a more comprehensive impact study, now available via
During Nir’s term as mayor, the British advertising standards board and appeals tribunal banned Israel’s use of the Kotel, the Western Wall, as a symbol of Israeli territory, designating it east Jerusalem and off-limits to advertising as an Israeli attraction.
Despite the Old City and the Kotel being Israel’s number one tourist destination, participation by the municipality to improve conditions there is barely evident. The area is often dirty, smelly, crowded and badly signposted, and unlicensed vendors who operate within its confines are allowed to prey on unsuspecting tourists.
It holds enormous potential, rarely exploited by the city. For example, Nir’s Formula One experiment emphasized the importance of external entertainment to attract people.
However, the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are more significant, connected to Jewish tradition and bring more visitors to the city than any other time of the year, yet the city did very little to improve conditions or promote the Jewish pilgrimage.
Drivers exiting the city will see Barkat’s banner hanging larger than life on the Jerusalem Garden’s hotel, promoting his campaign for re-election, and next to him stands challenger Moshe Lion.
In the sordid world of politics and money, advertising will not confuse voters intent on finding real solutions to the city’s problems.
These issues must ultimately be addressed by improved labor relations, relaxed conditions and the release of new land for construction of tens of thousands of dwellings and an equal number of new hotel rooms.
Investors who presently prostitute Jerusalem to sanctify their moral obligation to the city or those who don’t participate, preferring the distance their charitable contributions afford them, must be encouraged to change their ideals.
Whoever is elected mayor and whichever party dominates the city list, it is time to motivate and encourage the world’s greatest business minds to invest time and capital to participate in making a profound and fundamental change to Jerusalem’s future so that it can develop into the world-class city it is capable of being.
The battle between Nir and Moshe is one of the most important in the history of the city and people have to answer this very important question: Has there ever been a city in history that has sustained its apparently divided constituents as well in a divided state as in a united state? Logically Jerusalem or any other city cannot sustain division; the mayor and the city must take responsibility for the north, east, south and west parts of the city and must ensure all its people and all its neighborhoods benefit from the city’s plans for the future.
City representatives and the mayor must be willing to aggressively challenge the influential Knesset’s Oslo status quo, while fairly providing services to all the city’s constituents and enhancing Jewish roots and culture. I worked with Arieh King for eight years; he knows how to concentrate on this agenda, and its for that reason I am encouraged that his United Jerusalem Party will significantly influence the future behavior of elected city council members to the benefit of all the City’s constituents.
The author is a real estate entrepreneur, investor, technologist and philanthropist. He is a major benefactor and supporter of numerous charitable organizations and was awarded the Yeshiva Center Leadership in Philanthropy. He has previously developed substantial businesses in the computing, multimedia and Internet industries. He sits on the board of various companies and has been a founding investor in several successful startups, including Skype. More recently he is responsible for Jerusalem 5800 planning and development, and also founded the Jerusalem Development Fund.