Jerusalem of (tarnished) gold

Jerusalem needs to clean up its act. Literally.

Nahariya is nice 311 (photo credit: reuters)
Nahariya is nice 311
(photo credit: reuters)
Irecently toured several northern cities, and was impressed in particular with Ma’alot and Nahariya. Ma’alot offers an astonishing combination of greenery, friendliness and small-town feel. In Ma’alot drivers are mostly cautious and careful, the city is tidy and the attitude calm and cool. Nahariya has pristine beaches, immaculate streets and sidewalks and an abundance of cafes and pubs. The stretch of boardwalk I saw in the early morning was quiet and essentially free of trash. The few pieces of garbage were attended to by workers maintaining its spotless shine.
What a crash landing it was when I returned home to Jerusalem, only to realize something was sorely amiss. Compared to these cities Jerusalem has become one large dump. My neighborhood of Katamon is riddled with dog feces. I’ve got the biggest dog I have ever seen in Israel, but I dispose of his refuse properly. This is Jerusalem, the beating heart of the Jewish people! HERE IN Jerusalem, drivers are aggressive, traveling way too fast even with schools, children and pedestrians in abundance. Speed bumps seem to encourage citizens to drive faster in daytime and are not marked clearly enough to see at night. Riding a bike is dangerous as bike lanes still do not exist in a majority of Jerusalem neighborhoods.
Street-sweeping vehicles mostly push garbage from one side of the street to the other and parks, streets and sidewalks are constantly littered with refuse.
The city does not provide sufficient trash containers (large green ones), and garbage cans, recycling bins and trash receptacles are ridiculously placed in some locations. They serve mainly as obstacles on sidewalks forcing pedestrians – including mothers with strollers – onto streets with raging traffic.
Drivers continuously blare horns from impatience and road rage rather than as a friendly warning of danger.
The city needs to clean up its act, literally.
Citizens must stop to think of the ramifications of just throwing their trash on the ground. Likewise, parents must not let children carelessly discard cardboard mini-trays from pizza or bags of potato chips or Bamba upon our streets. The city must initiate fines for failure to pick up dog feces, for litter in parks after barbecues or Shabbat meals and in general for garbage not properly disposed of. This applies also to developers and contractors who obstruct sidewalks, pathways and streets, and for excessive and needless use of the car horn.
Many sidewalks and streets are poorly maintained and have slipped into disrepair.
Our roads desperately need repaving, there are not enough clearly marked crosswalks and signs for pedestrians and cars. Streets, sidewalks and especially bus stations require serious and immediate upgrades in the quantity and quality of lighting. No one should have to stand in pitch blackness waiting for a bus! Our buses, too, are filthy, with insufficient garbage disposal, insufficient ventilation and little oversight or ramifications for graffiti and destruction of public property. Without such measures the light rail will soon become just as filthy with grime, garbage and graffiti.
Those who damage public property and vandalize our cherished city must face stiff financial penalties, and the culprits should know their actions will earn them police records. Shop owners need to be held responsible for the space in front of their businesses and ticketed for sweeping refuse – at any time of day or night – onto the sidewalk.
There is a need to educate the general public that living, working and playing in our dear city, enjoying its amenities and greatness, comes with responsibility.
A combination of education, fines and additional workers and sanitation personnel may be appropriate.
Police, who seem to drive way too fast around our city streets, should slow down and be tasked with ensuring greater public safety, decorum and cleanliness.
Signs clearly warning of instructions for proper disposal of refuse, proper public behavior and responsibilities as citizens and pet owners and fines or penalties for offenses should be posted in Hebrew, Arabic and Russian, at minimum, and even better, include French and English.
The city of Petah Tikvah offers rewards and fines, via DNA testing, for proper disposal of dog feces. An additional option for dog owners can be found here: scoop-for-dog-owners.
Several decades ago Naomi Shemer first sang a song titled Jerusalem of Gold but Jerusalem’s golden shine has lost its luster, become dulled and tarnished. It is time we return it to Jerusalem’s glorious, sparkling splendor with immediate and swift action: until we do so the city simply reflects the cleanliness of our politicians.
The writer is a high school English teacher, business consultant and a resident of Jerusalem.