This week in Jerusalem – A round-up of city affairs

Storm brewing?

Some eyebrows were raised when Dany Bonfil, the former head of the municipality’s employees committee who had been convicted for fraud, endorsed Moshe Lion in the 2018 mayoral election. Since then, Bonfil has kept a low profile – until last week, when Bonfil sent Lion a letter requesting his intervention against the city’s legal counselor, Eli Malka.

Bonfil complained about Malka’s attitude toward municipal employees and their working conditions. The letter forced Lion to choose between a legal counselor with whom he works in harmony and an employee representative (Bonfil is head of the Jerusalem District of the Histadrut labor federation, in which the majority of Safra Square’s 10,000 employees are members).

A response from the city’s legal office came within two days, expressing support for Malka, rejecting Bonfil’s accusations and hinting at motives behind his move. It is unclear whether this is the end of the episode or not.

Spar with the czar


Jerusalem merchants expressed anger and frustration following the coronavirus czar’s refusal to allow city center shops to reopen. City center merchants association president Eli Levy estimates that about half the shops closed since the second lockdown will not be able to reopen in the future. At a meeting with owners and merchants, Levy said it is wrong to contrast religious needs, like reopening synagogues, with the capital’s economic needs, and that all sides should ensure that rules and restrictions are observed to do what is necessary to save the city.

Science alliance

Bloomfield Science Museum director Maya Halevy has been awarded the Beacon of the Year prize by the European Science Museum Organization, which includes 350 science museums and organizations from around the world. The award ceremony was held in an online gathering of the Directors’ Forum of Science Museums in Europe.

The judges noted, “Perhaps most impressive about Maya winning this award was that the nomination came from peers outside her organization and was supported by a very broad range of people within the network. She has tackled the complexities of working in such an area within her stride, always seeking to improve and inspire.” Those who nominated Maya for the award explain that one of her most outstanding skills is “her generosity in sharing knowledge and resources, as well as her desire and ability to collaborate.”

Halevy said she is proud and excited to accept the award, which is a great honor for the museum. The prize is named after Prof. Mariano Gago, a friend of the science museum community, a physicist and researcher who also served two terms as Portugal’s science minister.

Sigd and ye shall find

A key holiday of the Beta Israel community, Sigd is celebrated on the 29th of Heshvan (November 16 this year). It has been recognized since 2008 as a state holiday for all Israelis.

Beit Avi Chai will highlight the holiday next week, November 10 to 18, with “Have You Ever Heard of Sigd?” The program includes music, lectures, culinary events and more, all available to the public through Zoom sessions and other digital means. Event organizers promise words and rhythms that touch deep inside everyone’s soul, with the large-scale participation of community artists from a number of fields. Among the events, Rabbi Sharon Shalom – a leading figure among the community’s younger generation – will deliver a lecture tracing the history of the Ethiopian Jews.

All events are free. Info:

Super-spreader event?

Hundreds protested on Thursday (last week) at the Temple Mount against French President Emmanuel Macron, following the publication by a French magazine of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. Jerusalem police arrested three of the protesters for disorderly conduct. Deputy Mayor Arieh King expressed his ire toward the police on Facebook and Twitter, for permitting the mass protest in violation of coronavirus regulations.

What goes up illegally

Despite declarations by Mayor Lion and Deputy Mayor Eliezer Rauchberger, head of the planning and construction committee, demolitions of illegal east Jerusalem homes continue.

The municipality’s intention to regulate the ownership of plots and real estate in the Old City and in the predominantly Arab neighborhoods is moving slowly; meanwhile, demolitions continue.

Not all demolition orders come from the municipality; the majority are issued by the Interior Ministry. According to left-wing NGO Ir Amim, there have been 125 demolitions since the beginning of 2020. Previously, 2016 was the year with the highest number of illegal structures demolished (123) in east Jerusalem.

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