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Stepping sideways in Zion Square

by michael July 23 2008
City planningArtMunicipal news

Zion Square has long been the estuary in which the different streams of Jerusalem's population swirled around - and crashed into - one another, a place shared by addled Breslover missionaries and glazed-over hilltop youth djembe enthusiasts, preening acid-washed arsim and bubbly Anglo seminary girls, earnest protesters of public policy and strident prophets of doom; Jews and Arabs, residents and tourists, bankers and street kids, police and thieves, all idling in the space between Banks HaPoalim and Leumi.

A few years ago the Square centered around an elevated platform often used by musicians for performances and by idlers for, you know, idling, until without warning the city knocked it down and carted it away, apparently in an effort to keep unsavory elements from congregating there. In that regard, the city was not entirely successful (the banks, after all, are still there), but it did leave a lot of empty space aching to be filled someday with one of the damned fool ideas to which the Municipality seems to have devoted a special department.

That day has arrived.

You see, a major Jewish philanthropist from Waco, Texas has chucked enough money (2 million dollars, to be precise) over to the Jerusalem Foundation and the Municipality that they agreed to let him rename Zion Square to Rapoport Plaza (after himself) and attach that same name to a massive art installation that would grace the square - an art installation whose design has been kept a strict secret from the public. The name change was thwarted last year due to an outcry by grassroots public interest group called "Lemallah" ("Upwards"), and now the very same group has somehow obtained an image of London sculptor Ron Arad's design for the new square sculpture. It turns out it was kept a secret for good reason.

Comes pre-rusted for your pleasure.

2 million simoleons can buy you the right to restructure major city landmarks as you see fit, but as for good taste, well...her value is far above rubies.

Lemallah has not been taking the proposed construction of this mighty monument to hubris lying down, dubbing it, in an apparent mix-up with the nearby Mike's Place, a "haven for beer drinking and urination." They've organized an online petition against it, but included in the anti-Arad initiative is a counter-initiative to drop an enormous curlicued Star of David over what seems to be the greater part of downtown Jerusalem.

Too Jewish.

The Jungle Gym of Og, anyone?

Lemallah's cause - to bring an end to the Municipality's closed-door policy of urban planning - is noble and admirable, and some of its ideas to improve the Square, like replacing the banks and moneychangers with the cafes and theaters that were once its main businesses, are excellent. But its proposed Peace Dome is a move sideways rather than upwards, and so Jerusalemite finds it difficult to fully support the group's petition.

But then how does a civic-minded individual express their opposition? There's always letter-writing and organized protests, but if that fails and they succeed in building the thing, Jerusalemite can only recommend one course of action: crack a Goldstar beneath its oxidized heights, yank down your YKK and let fly the golden shower of civic aesthetics. Do it for Jerusalem.

Images courtesy of Lemallah.

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