Cultural revolution?

A new law could bring a major change to the cultural life of the capital.

dance 88 (photo credit: )
dance 88
(photo credit: )
According to legislation passed by the Knesset last week, beginning in 2006, a newly-established authority will now be responsible for promoting all aspects of culture, tourism and external contacts for the city of Jerusalem. The authority will also be responsible for coordinating between the various government ministries, providing information, and advising other Jerusalem-based organizations and institutions that deal with these matters. Deputy Mayor Yigal Amedi, who has been the initiator and supporter of the legislation to form the authority, says that it is no less than "a revolution in the life of Jerusalem." The background to the establishment of the authority began last May on Jerusalem Day, during a festive government meeting on Ammunition Hill to mark the 38th year of the reunification of the city. At that time, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced that he had just approved an allocation of NIS 280 million for the promotion of culture and tourism in the capital. Officially, Amedi, who had been very active in the behind-the-scenes activity that led to the decision, declared that "one of his dreams was fulfilled at last." But sources close to Amedi said that he was concerned that the moneys would be "lost" in the general budget - and that he would lose any influence he might have had over the way in which the money would be spent. To prevent both possibilities, Amedi immediately announced that he had no intention of canceling his other project: passage of a Knesset bill to ensure the establishment of an independent authority for culture and tourism in Jerusalem. MK Roni Bar-On (Kadima), a close friend of Amedi and once a candidate for the mayor's job, presented the bill to the Knesset, and months of quiet lobbying paid off: the bill was passed unanimously. What will this new authority do or change in the city? "Quite a lot," Amedi, who holds the cultural portfolio in the municipal council, told In Jerusalem. This new authority will first choose a 22-person council, to be composed of representatives of the Foreign, Finance, Education and Culture and Tourism ministries, together with representatives of the Jewish Agency, the Hoteliers Association, academia, religious institutions, the city council, and the general public. Following the establishment of this council, the municipal council will choose a general manager, who will in turn hire experts for each of the various issues that the authority will take charge of. Each area of culture - cinema, theater, music, dance and so forth - as well as issues of tourism, will be guided by a specialist. This specialist will have the authority and the power to obtain the money needed in order to take care of problems, including sites that are dirty, under-developed, or neglected. Currently, the municipality regularly claims that it simply does not have the money to make these improvements and waits until the Tourism Ministry allocates special budgets. However, the size of budget that will be allocated to the authority remains unclear and the enthusiastic press release issued by the municipality stated only that "the authority will act to raise money in Israel and the world in order to implement its goals, to establish associations that will aid in these goals and to create and maintain funds to develop culture, tourism and external relationships." One of the immediate results will be a harsh cut in the size of the culture department at the municipality. This department, which has been functioning without a manager for almost two years now, will dwindle even further and its main function will be to pass over the remaining municipal budgets to the newly established authority. According to Amedi, the department's best employees will find their place in the new authority - but the others might soon be finding their way home, without a job. Also as a result of the establishment of the authority, the municipal subsidiary company, Ariel, will be pushed back to its original goals, which included the production of municipal cultural events, but no influence on their content. The new authority is expected to begin to operate within three months. Amedi is delighted. And most sources in the municipality note that Amedi has yet another reason to be happy: he will have the opportunity to nominate his long-time favorite candidate for the culture department, Yigal Hayo, current director of the Cinematheque, for the position of general manager of the authority.