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Jerusalem art: it's eeeeeeeeevil

by michael May 09 2014
ArtBridge of StringsCity planning

Hey, remember that "concerned Jerusalem citizens' group" Lemallah (population: one dedicated hombre) that, well, according to itself, stopped the construction of a philanthropist-funded aesthetics-defying eyesore of a public sculpture over Zion Square downtown?

Of course you do.

Well, it turns out that in the wake of that stunning victory against the forces that may or may not be, that "concerned Jerusalem citizens' group" has kept up the fight for a purer, better Jerusalem the only way it (he) knows how: by continuing to hit the pipe really, really hard.

You see, Lemallah-guy, intoxicated with power and powder, has determined that many of the public art installations across the city are the sinister works of Jew-hating Freemasons with a secret and evil agenda.

No, really, everyone in the city government is a Freemason (possibly also an Illuminatus, with a smattering of Knights Templar):

The best is the abstract sculpture deemed "an anal cavity for your child to play in." Clearly he has it confused with the Rav Chen "movie theater." Other amusing conclusions call out Zion Square's hidden Satanic design and the uncircumcised phallus-head of the horse in Horse Park (actually, he sort of has a glans point about that).

Click here to read more and see our photo illustrations of Lemallah's arguments.

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A light (rail) at the end of the tunnel

by michael November 10 2008
City planningBridge of StringsMunicipal news
Bridge of Strings

No, just kidding. We're nowhere near seeing a completed light rail. But after years of "work" and the curiously rushed, corner-cutting construction of the Chords Bridge, the train inches closer to becoming a reality (or at least to meeting its next major delay) this week with an agreement between the major parties - the Municipality, the City Pass group, the French contractors and laughing-all-the-way-to-el-banco architect Santiago Calatrava himself - to begin structural and technical tests on the Chords Bridge in preparation for track-laying.

Wait. What? It took five months following the completion and dedication of the 220 million NIS bridge for the people behind it to get together and make sure they could fit some train tracks on it? Did anyone ask Calatrava if he made sure during the design phase to accommodate the weight of a fully loaded train as well, or will that require some more tests down the line? 

And while this international gaggle ponder whether the addition of train tracks will cause the Chords Bridge to fall apart into its component spans, cables and misplaced hopes, track-laying work on Jaffa Road has now made it all the way up to the Machane Yehuda market. Perhaps having learned from the terrible effect construction had on the street's businesses in the city center, the Municipality actually bothered to meet with Machane Yehuda merchants to determine the best way to keep the market lively and facilitate pedestrian traffic while the tracks go in. 

And now, Jerusalemite will take bets as to when the Jaffa Road tracks meet up with the soon-to-be-laid tracks that will emerge from the pile of rubble formerly known as the Chords Bridge. 2015? 2020? The Messianic Era? Let us know.

Photo of Santiago Calatrava's Bridge of Strings by Harry Rubenstein for Jerusalemite.

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Choose your poison: a Jerusalem election primer

by simone November 07 2008
Municipal newsBridge of StringsCity planningInterviewNews

With Jerusalem's municipal elections upon us this Tuesday, Jerusalemite spoke with journalist Avi Fogel, who's been covering the race for City Hall for the local Kol Ha'ir weekly newspaper. Fogel gave us a brief run-down on the candidates, the system and the craziness that is our local government. Although Fogel himself is a relative newcomer to the politics game (his usual beat is local laws and the police that enforce them), he has been eating, sleeping and breathing municipal elections for the past four months.

According to Fogel, Jerusalem's municipal political scene is complex, since "The mayor can't really be involved in what's going on in his own city: He can give his opinion, but that doesn't mean anyone will listen. He can say we won't talk about dividing Jerusalem, but at the end of the day, it's not the mayor's decision, it's the Knesset's decision.... So from a legal standpoint the mayor can't be involved with the city's major political issue. He can only deal with how clean the streets are, or the other services the municipality deals with - but not with the larger issues Jerusalem is facing."

That said, here's his low-down on the three top contenders for the city's top spot:

Nir BarkatNir Barkat

Age: 49

Political accomplishments to date: Barkat has been the opposition leader in the Jerusalem City Council since 2003. A successful businessman, he first entered the political fray four years ago, running for mayor and losing by a small margin. Since then, he's been involved in bringing issues affecting non-charedi Jerusalemites to the table at City Hall. A major opponent of the Bridge of Strings project, Barkat has argued that the money should have been used for education instead. Ha also fought against the decision to over-clothe the Bridge dancers, and was able to bring about some sort of a compromise, but as a member of the opposition, he was more involved in opposing, rather than creating, policy.

Primary platform: Barkat's main issues are education – he wants to allocate more money for the capital's educational infrastructure – and stemming the population drain by strengthening academic institutions, reducing housing prices and providing rent subsidies to university students. Barkat has also promised to attract between 10 and 15 million tourists a year to Jerusalem, opining that the city is not utilizing its full potential as a tourist destination and that increased tourism will equal increased municipal revenues. And, despite the fact that at the end of the day it’s a Knesset decision and not a municipal one, Barkat is throwing the undivided Jerusalem card, establishing a national initiative campaigning against the division.

Cultural platform: "Culture is a big issue for Barkat," says Fogel. "Jerusalem's cultural institutions are currently suffering from a lack of funding, because the municipality hasn't transferred the money they were allocated – i.e. their budgets are not being paid. First and foremost, Barkat wants to ensure that Jerusalem's culture institutions receive the funding they are due." Barkat has claimed that the current city government is subtly trying to strangle nightlife and cultural institutions that operate on Shabbat by withholding their funding. Barkat has vowed to support Jerusalem's cultural institutions financially and institutionally, hoping not only to increase the capital's cultural standing, but to stem the youth drain as well. After all, if theater and nightclubs can't keep 'em around, what will?

Meir PorushMeir Porush  

Age: 54

Political accomplishments to date: The ultra-Orthodox Porush has served in the Knesset since 1996 as part of United Torah Judaism (an amalgam of Porush's own Agudat Israel party and the Degel HaTorah party) though as a Knesset member, "Porush was not all that active politically. He wasn't an initiator," says Fogel. Aside from comparing Ariel Sharon to Benito Mussolini in a well-publicized 2005 controversy, though, "He had a job and he did it; he was very neutral. As they say, 'He didn't hurt, and he didn't help.'" Prior to his stint in the Knesset, Porush served as deputy mayor under Teddy Kollek, so he does have some experience in the Jerusalem municipal scene - although Fogel points out that the decision to run was not Porush's own. "Porush's party decided that he was their mayoral candidate, so he is their mayoral candidate," he says. 

Primary platform: According to Fogel, "Although Porush's campaign speaks about combating population flight and securing employment opportunities, his main platform is the fact that he's the Charedi candidate and everyone knows the Charedi sector will vote for him." However, "It's hard to tell exactly what Porush stands for," Fogel says, since the candidate has not made himself exceedingly available to the media: "He doesn't let his views be known. He's very handled [by former Knesset speaker Avrum Burg among others] and restricted in what he says. During Kollek's reign, Porush worked in the municipality's environmental department, but not even the charedi population knows what he did there." 

Cultural platform: Not surprisingly, Porush doesn't go out of his way to address Jerusalem's eclectic cultural landscape. According to Fogel, Porush has said that he doesn’t have a problem with people doing their own thing here in Jerusalem, but he has also never made any promises to strengthen Jerusalem's cultural institutions. "He is not billing himself as a fighter for Jerusalem culture. Now this may be because he will offend his constituency if he talks about it, or it may be his own view, but in any case, he has kept quiet on this issue." For now at least, it seems that Porush is of the live-and-let-live school of thought (as long as that living doesn't cross the borders of his neighborhood). While he supports keeping the roads closed on Shabbat in charedi neighborhoods, he has made no such demands on the rest of the city. "We have to remember, that Porush was only chosen at the Charedi candidate about two months ago [as opposed to Barkat who has been campaigning as opposition leader for many years], so we know far less about him," says Fogel.

Arcadi GaydamakArkady Gaydamak (aka Arieh Bar Lev)

Age: 56

Political accomplishments to date: Like Barkat, Gaydamak's background is in business, not politics. Instead of serving in the city council opposition, however, the arms-dealing Gaydamak has been honing his political skills by buying up the Beitar soccer team as well as Bikur Cholim Hospital (which serves a largely charedi population), and financing respite programs for Katyusha-plagued northern residents and Qassam-afflicted Sderoters. According to Fogel, "Gaydamak is known as a man with a lot of money, who gives a lot to the community, but people are often wary of his support. People are suspicious of his motives. They think he is giving them money so they will vote for him at a later date."

Primary platform: Gaydamak too has pledged to fight Jerusalem's population drain and bring new jobs to the city. He claims that his connections in the business world make him the ideal man to bring new business and new investments to Jerusalem. Gaydamak also plans to invest more money in Jerusalem's higher education institutes and provide greater support to students and young people - so that they can choose to stay in the city as residents and not just as students.

Cultural platform: This Russian playboy has big plans for improving the city's nightlife. In fact, one of his major supporters recently sent letters to the current mayor protesting the fact that Jerusalem's Culture Department currently lacks a director. "This is a big part of Gaydamak's campaign," Fogel asserts. "He wants to know why the municipality is not doing anything about the cultural life in this city, why they are withholding funds and why they are letting culture die. He wants to revive it."

The (brief) low-down on City Council

As if choosing a mayor wasn't choice enough, there are scores of parties running for city council. For a party to make it onto the 31-seat council (only the mayor's six deputies receive a salary), they need to receive a minimum number of seats. Once they have passed that threshold, they need a smaller percentage of the vote to receive additional seats.

Fogel claims that because of this system, and general voter apathy (except in the charedi sector), it is almost impossible to tell which parties will garner seats. Apparently, only 38 percent of eligible voters bothered to show up at the polls for the last municipal elections, and Fogel fears a similar trend this time around as well - a trend which will most likely hurt Barkat and his party. "This year, the main fight is for mayor and not city council," Fogel says. "Every candidate also has a city council list, plus there are numerous other lists."

Fogel fears that smaller parties like Wake Up Jerusalem (Hitorerut Yerushalmim, which has already merged with the Yerushalmim party) will fail to hit the threshold required to make it into the city council, but will succeed in splitting the secular vote, causing the council to swing charedi, where there are fewer parties and the vote is more controlled. Apparently there is a movement underway to unify all the secular parties onto one list so that they achieve the critical mass needed to make it onto the city council. With one unified party, it will also be easier for the mayor to form a coalition and pass laws. But you know Jews - they can never agree on anything, leaving voters to choose between a myriad of options (Hitorrerut-Yerushalmim, Meretz, The Green Party (HaYarokim), Lma'an Yerushalayim, Likud, MAFDAL and Ichud Haleumi, Shas, Yisrael Beitenu to name a few…).

Happy voting!

Mayoral candidate Dan Birron was not discussed in this item, because in-depth coverage of his campaign will appear when Jerusalemite's mayoral election-themed content continues in the coming days.

Photo of Arcadi Gaydamak courtesy of Deror Avi.

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The evolution of Calatrava's Bridge of Strings

by harry July 04 2008
Bridge of StringsCity planningMunicipal newsPhotography

Sketch of the Bridge of Strings

With projects rarely finishing even remotely according to schedule, construction in Jerusalem is so pervasive and continuous that it's hard to believe that work on the Bridge of Strings has finally ended (or has it?). The past six years of bridge building (and its limitations on our city's main circuits) has certainly been infuriating at times, but the result is unquestionably fascinating. Let's look back at the evolution of the bridge from the initial sketch by Santiago Calatrava to the completed architectural marvel.

We'll start off with some interesting (and not so interesting) facts about the bridge provided by the Jerusalem municipality and Moriah, the engineering company that constructed the bridge.

Location: The bridge is located near the main entrance to the city, near the Central Bus Station.

Reason: The bridge was built to carry Jerusalem's future light rail lines across a dense urban area, resolving traffic and pedestrian issues, and to create a new landmark for the entrance to the city.

Construction began: 2002

Inaugurated: June 25, 2008

Type of structure: Steel arch bridge, cable span bridge with pylon

(The specs and photos continue here.)

Bypassers check out the construction of the new bridge.

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Bridge of Strings fanfare despite it all

by ben June 26 2008
Bridge of StringsCity planningMunicipal newsNewsPhotographyThings to do

A bird's view of the Bridge of Strings

So many farces; so much optimism. That's the Jerusalem way. Last night marked the closing event in the celebrations over the "closing of 40 years" since Jerusalem was reunited. Even though the event took place over three weeks after Jerusalem Day. Even though Jerusalem has been reunited for 41 years. Even though the purpose was to dedicate a bridge whose construction is not complete and won't be used for its primary purpose (carrying the light rail system's electric trolleys) for about two years. Even though the whole project has been marred by several categories of criticism.

But Santiago Calatrava's Bridge of Strings was dedicated in a gala free celebration last night, an event that added half a million dollars to the project's already bloated $73 million budget (over twice the original planned expenditure), and VIPs and tens of thousands of revelers from across the land came to our city entrance square to check it out.

Splashes of color on the Bridge of Strings

Acrobatics and pyrotechnics on the Bridge of Strings

Aside from performances from contemporary popper David D'or, Broadway hazzanut crooner Dudu Fisher and local ensemble The Jerusalem Flower Choir, the famed Ra'anana Symphonette played a rousing set that accompanied aerial acrobatics, video projections on eight screens, splashes of multi-colored lights, pyrotechnics and hundreds of dancers (the women among them reportedly having been encouraged politely to wear long skirts and head coverings).

The production was named Hallelujah, an appropriate moniker for a show centered around a structure that has been likened to David's harp by its visionary.

Around here, "facts on the ground" make dreams come true, and perhaps the sight of the tallest spire in the Middle East will help to take our city's sense of aesthetics and ambition to new heights.

Jerusalemite's coverage of the Bridge of Strings continues next week.

Aerial photo of the bridge and its environs (top) by Sasson Tiram, courtesy of the Jerusalem Municipality; photos of last night's multimedia extravaganza courtesy of bdnegin under a creative commons license.

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Bridge of Strings dedicated in Jerusalem

by harry June 26 2008
Bridge of StringsCity planningMunicipal news

Mayor Uri Lupolinanski walks the walk.

Rumors of the Bridge of Strings completion were greatly exaggerated

Upon the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1884, circus showman P.T. Barnum led a parade of 21 elephants across the bridge to demonstrate its safety and to instill confidence in the people of New York. Yesterday at the official ribbon cutting ceremony of Jerusalem's Santiago Calatrava's Bridge of Strings, the municipality might have considered a herd of camels, but instead paraded over 20 journalists across the pedestrian walkway to show off Jerusalem's greatest architectural marvel since Herod's reign.

Construction was still being performed on the bridge, but the vast majority is clearly complete, with only a few cracks here and there that still need to be filled.

From the pedestrian walkway side of the bridge you can only see into Jerusalem, which is unfortunate, since the most beautiful view is certainly in the opposite direction. I guess we'll have to wait at least two years when the light rail is scheduled to begin operating in order to see the majestic view of the Jerusalem hills.

The ribbon cutting ceremony, using a pair of scissors made of gold (where does one buy gold scissors?) featuring Mayor Uri Lupolianski and Santiago Calatrava was anti-climatic, but the tension in the air was palpable as we all held our breaths and let out a collective sigh of relief as the bridge held when the ribbon was cut.

The general public was invited to celebrate the dedication of the bridge last night with much fanfare. Jerusalemite will bring you the details later today.

Santiago Calatrava, Mayor Uri Lupolianski and some engineer.

(Click here for the full story and more photos)

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Pulling strings for the Bridge of Strings

by harry April 30 2008
Bridge of StringsMunicipal newsPhotography
Construction on the Bridge of Strings at the entrance to Jerusalem is almost complete and will be dedicated on June 26 in honor of Israel's 60th anniversary. Designed by famed Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, the construction of the bridge has not been without controversy. Outrageous traffic jams, increasing costs and even cracks (yes, cracks) in the bridge and other problems have made for a PR nightmare for the municipality. Many feel that the bridge is simply out of its element and question whether it even fits visually in the city. Others think that Jerusalem, a city not exactly known for anything progressive nor enough spending on welfare or cultural initiatives, is deserving of such a unique landmark. Design-wise, the goal of the bridge was to add a defining visual element to the "skyline" of the entrance of Jerusalem, which, up until now included dilapidated buildings and that's about it.

Besides being an architectural wonder, the bridge's purpose is to carry the Jerusalem light rail, which is currently more than a year behind even the most updated schedules.

Without thinking about all the problems that have plagued the construction, the Bridge of Strings (some say Chords) is a marvel, and it is impossible to stand under it and not be in awe.

Santiago Calatrava's Bridge of Strings in Jerusalem

Santiago Calatrava's Bridge of Strings in Jerusalem

chords bridge today 1 by harry.JPG

Click here for more.

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