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Formula One race cars tear through Jerusalem streets

by ben June 20 2013
SportsMunicipal newsThings to do

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Jerusalem dwellers were treated to a taste of F1 auto racing when drivers and vehicles from the Ferrari and Marussia teams put on an invigorating motorsport showcase this past Thursday and Friday on a 2.8-kilometer route that traversed the Old Train Station fairgrounds, the Old City Walls and King David Street.

Team Ferrari's three-time Grand Prix champ Giancarlo Fisichella zoomed past rows of bleachers set up around the Mamilla neighborhood at 240 kilometers per hour, and the crowd, hailing from all walks of life, went wild. Some 160,000 people are said to have checked out the action in person over the course of these two days. In addition to Fisichella, Marussia driver Rodolfo Gonzalez and 2012 World Superbike victor Massimiliano "the Roman Emperor" Biaggi also participated. Massimiliano's freestyle motorcycle stunt routene provided major thrills.

"It’s great to have the chance to drive a Formula One car on the streets of a city that is as fascinating and full of history as Jerusalem,” said Fisichella at the Formula One Jerusalem Peace Road Show's press conference launch event.


Driving for sport is in its infancy in Israel, having only become legal as of 2011. An estimated 100 Israelis are licensed to drive in this context.

The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), Formula One's governing body, has been aggressively expanding its reach to new territories in recent decades. While many locales are now enjoying new additions to the Grand Prix competitoon circuit, showcases like the one in Jerusalem are rare, as non-Grand Prix FIA events usually take the form of demonstration rallies in closed spaces.

Photo of a 2009 Ferarri Formula 1 automobile outside the Jaffa Gate courtesy of The Israel Project from Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Jerusalem of tunnels

by ben July 26 2011
Municipal newsCity planning

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You can get there from here

This Thursday morning, the Moriah construction concern and the Jerusalem city government are scheduled to collectively host a ceremony to mark the official naming of the Mount Scopus tunnel after Israel's "first lady of song," Naomi Shemer.

Shemer, who lived from the pre-state age through the age of post-Zionism's rise (1930 to 2004), penned classic Israeli songbook anthems like "Lu Yehi" and "Al Kol Eleh."

In 1966, as the regional tensions prior to the Six Day War began to reach a fever pitch, Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek personally pleaded Shemer to write an ode to the Holy City. The result, "Jerusalem of Gold," is arguably the most beloved of all Israeli folk songs.

Ultimately, "Jerusalem of Gold" is far more than a staggering piece of songwriting. It's also inspiration for horrible headline punnery ("Jerusalem of tunnels?" Oy. Remember the wince-inducing "Jerusalem of celluloid," "Jerusalem of prose," or "Jerusalem of green"?), as well as being maybe - just maybe - evidence of urban planning prophecy.

Reflecting on the Israelites' (temporary, in retrospect) longing for a reunited Jerusalem, the song even includes this couplet, which, rhyming in Hebrew, addresses the travel inefficiency disadvantages of Jordanian control over eastern Judea:

And in the tunnels in the mountain
Winds are howling
And no one descends to the Dead Sea
By way of Jericho

A few months after the song was written, among a few other changes that took place, it became possible for Shemer and friends to visit the Dead Sea via the Jerusalem-Jericho route. And in recent years, this road has become even faster, thanks to its circumventing of Jericho altogether, the addition of lanes and the digging of a tunnel which allows travelers to bypass the congestion atop Mount Scopus on the way out of town.

Ignoring the arguments of those who tend to read too much into symbolism, if there were ever a tunnel more deserving of Shemer's name, Jerusalemite defies readers to name it. There sure are loads of other options (like this one, or this one), but this tunnel has her name all over it.

Photo courtesy of the Jerusalem Municipality.

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Streetballin' in Jerusalem

by michael June 30 2011
Municipal newsSportsThings to do
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Safra Square: better for basketball than government

Basketball. Long ago in the game's early days, before everyone realized they were not on the whole a very tall people, Jews were major players, significantly overrepresented on the court. And while the era of Jewish sports mastery has since passed, the Jewish state honors the Jewish heritage of basketball by reserving the sport second place in Israeli athletic affections (after soccer, of course). Maccabi Tel Aviv may be populated by nearly as many NBA castoffs as born Israelis, but they're our NBA castoffs, and we love them even if they sometimes embarrass us by losing to the Europeans.

Fortunately for basketball lovers in Israel, soon you'll have something to do other than read about which Americans and Brazilians are becoming Israelis under the Basketball Law of Return (The Law of Rebound?) - because it's time for the annual Jerusalem Streetball tournament. The tournament, which divides Safra Square into 16 basketball courts, is probably Israel's largest sports event open to any player, with teams divided by age. Public figures are getting in on the fun too, including players from the professional Israeli basketball leagues and Knesset ministers. Can those dour boys from Shas ball? Maybe you'll find out (or maybe not).

Other activities on tap include dunking contests, 3-point shootouts and showy performances by the Israel contingent of the And1 Streetball organization. Registration has already begun, so do not miss this once-a-year chance to shoot hoops with Israeli basketball's finest. You can register online at the Municipality's website, or in person at Safra Square. The tournament itself runs from 12 to 14 July.

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Traffic in Rechavia possibly headed underground

by michael May 01 2011
City planningMunicipal news

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Jerusalem - even modern Jerusalem - is an old city.  Many neighborhoods date back to the horse-and-buggy era, and the street layout is, to put it gently, more "organic" than "thought-out." All of this conspires to create quite the crush of traffic in Jerusalem's more venerable neighborhoods, and with no space to build more roads (all those priceless vintage houses in the way), it seems an intractable problem.

Unless, of course, as Ha'aretz notes, you build a tunnel.

Getting from Sacher Park to Independence Park in Jerusalem today requires a slow crawl through the crowded arteries of the upscale Rehavia neighborhood. A new municipal plan, which includes a tunnel connecting the two parks, could spell an end to the heavy traffic flowing through the neighborhood's Rambam [sic] Street, which connects the city center to the government quarter and the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway.

The traffic in what was once a quiet garden quarter is disturbing the residents and some claim it has impeded Rehavia's development. The new plan, long in preparation by architect Nahum Meltzer, was filed yesterday at the municipality so the public can register objections or comments.

After the public comment period, the plan will be hashed over by city hall and assuming passage, will become an binding document for the next decades. The plan does not detail the tunnel but only offers it as one option to alleviate Rehavia's traffic troubles.

That's such a good idea, it's a wonder nobody seems to have thought about it before (well, except for that one under Jaffa Gate, pictured above, which has actually worked wonderfully). It's an exciting time for Jerusalem urban planning these days, what with the Bridge of Strings' walking path, the much-needed initiative for better cinemas in town, and an ambitious plan to better integrate Jerusalem's government infrastructure with the rest of the city. Now, if they could just do something about that light rail....

Photo of Jaffa Gate tunnel courtesy of EagleXDV from Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Matza hits the big time for Jerusalem

by ben March 25 2010
HolidaysFoodMunicipal newsNewsReligionThings to do

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With just four days to go until the big holiday, Passover fever is sweeping Jerusalem, hard-core.

Preparations are underway for an extremely festive week, when Jerusalemites will be celebrating the Exodus in style, complete with loads of cultural offerings, an arts-and-crafts street fair, and even a festival showcasing the city's most impressive English-language performance ensembles.

But first, we need to burn our chametz and bake our matza (click through to check out awesome videos).

Speaking of baking matza, pictured above is the honorable Mayor Nir Barkat, posing with a world record-setting largest piece of matza ever. The oversized cracker measures over 3 meters in diameter and weighs in at 60 kilo. It was made by a team of 40 people, two of whom wore rappelling gear to be able to reach the edges while hanging from above. Try hiding that afikoman.

The matza went on display at Safra Square today, as part of a pre-holiday "toast" (nyuk) for City Hall's employees. Barkat is posing with Aryeh Goldberg, one of the owners of the Irenstein Matza factory, which spearheaded the baking, and Racheli Ivenboim, the CEO of the Meir Panim NGO, whose headquarters plans on displaying the matza to the general public through the end of the holiday.

Of course, this is hardly the first world record set in Jerusalem. In recent months, we've witnessed the unfurling of the world's largest flag, the grilling of the world's largest serving of meurav Yerushalmi, and the whipping of the world's largest plate of hummus. The jury is still out, though, on which of the four world record-breaking events is least nightmare-inducing.

Happy Passover, lovers of Jerusalem, from the Jerusalemite team.

Photo courtesy of Yossi Mor for the Municipality of Jerusalem.

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Paper recycling finally goes curbside for Jerusalem

by michael February 23 2010
Municipal newsEnvironment

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It's easy to recycle plastic in Jerusalem. Massive, modern-looking cages brimming with discarded Neviot water bottles (pictured above) are spread throughout the city, but options for paper recycling are more limited and less attractive - unsightly, ancient-looking horizontal barrels, inconveniently located for lugging armloads recyling1.jpgof newspapers or broken-down cardboard boxes.

Fortunately, that's all changing: one by one, Jerusalem neighborhoods are getting brand new paper recyling bins for curbside pickup.

Currently the bins have been installed in outlying neighborhoods Ramat Beit HaKerem, Ramot, Arnona and Ramat Rachel, but more neighborhoods are slated to receive the bins shortly.

The bins can accept just about any paper waste you care to throw at them: white paper, newspaper, colored paper, envelopes and mail, used books and cardboard packaging. No sorting necessary.

Happily, this is yet another addition to the recent parade of green-friendly news coming out of the Holy City - from the Jerusalem Green Map and the new SPNI Jerusalem nature tours to planned electric car infrastructure and urban eco-housing initiatives.

Bottle cage image courtesy of emilie raguso from Flickr under a Creative Commons license; blue bin image courtesy of the Municipality of Jerusalem.

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New and easier ways to get to and see the Old City

by michael February 15 2010
City planningMunicipal newsThings to do

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Jerusalem is a great city for pedestrians, but it's cruel for the motorist. First-time visitors to Jerusalem who think renting a car might be a great way to breeze through all the sites and landmarks are in for a bit of a surprise - the Old City is not car-friendly, and parking ain't easy.

Fortunately, the city government has actually implemented a plan to address that. The Old City has been closed off to all non-residential vehicular traffic, and to compensate, parking rates have been slashed at three lots within walking distance of the Old City, and a retooled local bus line, the 38, has been inaugurated to take tourists from the lots straight into the Old City's heart.

To see the new route map and find out about deals at city parking lots, read on.

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Making Jerusalem clean...for Bambi

by michael December 08 2008
EnvironmentMunicipal news

Cleaning up Gazelle Valley

Finally, the children are learning a useful trade

Yeah, it's true: we've been talking a lot about Gazelle Valley lately. But this time, we don't have anything to report about the mad machinations of our local robber barons. This is good news.

You see, Jerusalem (as well as the rest of the country) suffers from a terrible litter problem. Despite the love for the Land of Israel drilled into every Israeli kid as part of the public curriculum, not to mention built into the Jewish religion, far too few people make the seemingly obvious mental association between loving the Land of Israel and not throwing Coke cans and falafel wrappers all over it. Sometimes it's the people's fault: many older generations of Israelis hail from countries (or eras) where nobody ever considered the longterm ramifications of tossing trash out the window, and thus transmitted those values (or lack thereof) to their offspring; other times, it's the government's fault, both for not encouraging a green consciousness and for failing to install enough public waste receptacles.

But things are changing. Younger Israelis are increasingly aware of the effects of littering. And the government is throwing its support behind programs like Clean Up the World Day - which brings us back to Gazelle Valley.

Last week, dozens of local schoolchildren descended on the garbage-strewn valley, and under the watchful eyes of representatives from the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and the Jewish National Fund, removed 100 large trash bags full of refuse. Not only is it a nice thing to do for the residents of Jerusalem and the resident gazelles, it sends a symbolic message to the hungry developers hovering around the valley's periphery. It's ours! We cleaned it!

So good on you, children, and try to take the lesson to heart: every time you toss that Bissli bag onto the ground, a baby gazelle probably dies.

Image courtesy of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.

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Jerusalem finally gets Park and Ride - kind of

by josh December 05 2008
Things to doMunicipal news

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If you can't beat them, advertise to them. That's the attitude the city is taking toward drivers who insist on driving into and parking in the city's center, apparently oblivious to the fact that it’s more congested and messed up than Amy Winehouse with a cold. The Jerusalem Tourism Authority, which apparently thinks the tourists came to see the traffic jams, wants them to know that the city fought over by a multitude of peoples has more to offer. From a press release:

If until now the words "city center" caused you to shudder, to think of pressure, traffic jams and noise, the Tourism Authority and the Eden Company would like to remind you that there is so much more: tourist attractions, galleries, museums, sculptures, city murals and many other attractions.

For those lucky enough to find a place to put their cars and actually get out, the Authority will offer a free brochure - ahem, booklet - listing a number of places of interest for them to visit during their foray. Although the new initative is called Naim B'Yerushalayim in Hebrew, a double-meaning play on words ("Naim" means both "moving" and "pleasant"), planners have translated it simply as "A Stroll through Jerusalem," perhaps a lesson learned from overzealously literal translations.

Presentation of the booklet will give users 10 to 33 percent discounts at many of the city's attractions, such as the Tower of David (15 percent discount during the day), the Museum on the Seam (10 percent discount), the Time Elevator (10 percent discount), the Rav Kook Museum (25 percent discount) and more. Other items in the booklet are advertised for the special price of free, though in reality we doubt you would be charged admission for walking into Machane Yehuda or looking at street art without the booklet.

Still, the fact that the booklet itself is free makes it that much more attractive than the city's previous marketing scheme, HolyPass, which we discovered is not such a deal. Plus, it comes with a handy dandy map, and the entire content is printed in both English and Hebrew. Take that, Frenchies.

The booklet, which features a love-polluting little lion (see picture above) that looks suspiciously like some of Don Hertzfeld's more disturbing characters, will be given out to cars parked at the Karta, Safra, Independence Park, City Tower and Machane Yehuda lots.

Image of the new booklet guide courtesy of the Jerusalem Tourism Authority.

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Hamshushalaim makes every weekend a three-day weekend

by michael December 02 2008
Things to doMunicipal news

Tower of David light show

The arrival of the Queen of Sheba, projected on the Tower of David. That's right.

Or, uh, at least the next three weekends.

Hamshush is a bit of acronym-tastic army slang, short for "Hamishi, shishi v'Shabbat" ("Thursday, Friday and Saturday"), that refers to a rare prize in an Israeli's army service: getting released from base on Thursday to enjoy two and a half whole days of leave. And with uncharacteristic pithiness, the Municipality has tacked "hamshush" onto "Yerushalayim" to give us Hamshushalaim, an annual city-wide festival taking place over three consecutive long weekends. And it's starting this Thursday.

So what can a Jerusalem resident or visitor expect from these three hamshushim for the price of one? A pretty good deal: free or reduced-price admission to museums and tourist sites; extended venue and museum hours; reduced hotel fares as thousands upon thousands of both domestic and foreign tourists descend on the city; and cheap food from some of the city's finest restaurants.

That leaves you with a lot of choices:

  • Dig a choral concert in the Shrine of the Book or a wacky Tower of David light and sound show (pictured above), or the dozens of other events.

hamshush-eng-banner-3.gifOf course, Jerusalemite is your one-stop shop for Hamshushalaim event information. Most of the events taking place at Jerusalem's major venues over the three weekends of Hamshushalaim were already scheduled and will simply be receiving a price cut, so check out our listings for the first, second and third weekends - and keep in mind that new events are being added all the time, so keep checking back. You can also get a full listing in English on the Municipality's website, although be prepared to contend with the same terrible organizational skills that brought you the light rail.

And if you'll be visiting from out of town, don't forget to check out the lengthy list of hotels offering special discounts.

We'll have more special Hamshushalaim content in the days to come. Have fun, eat well, and tip your hat towards city hall for their one yearly good idea.

Light show image courtesy of Amit Geron for the Tower of David; Hamshushalaim banner image courtesy of the Jerusalem Municipality's sopkesperson's office.

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