Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What's Happening in Jerusalem?

Life moves along briskly in the holy city, the "Eternal Undivided Capital of the Jewish People," as our politicians like to call it without really meaning it.

On the street corners, activists have been passing out the gold ribbons, relating to the famous 1967 Naomi Shemer song, "Jerusalem of Gold." The ribbons are to protest negotiations over the re-division of Jerusalem's capital by Jerusalem's former mayor, current prime minister Ehud Olmert.

The shirt reads, "Above everything, Jerusalem"

Shemer herself was quite contraversial in her time. While the resolve of the Labor party and the ruling elites crumbled into the empty shell of an ideology in the decades after Israel's near defeat of 1973, Shemer remained true to her beliefs. While she didn't need to take on the religious garb or ideology of the religious right, or the ultra-nationalst chest-beating of the secular right, she stayed true to her beliefs in the simple justice of the Zionism with which she had grown up.

Anyway, the face of Jerusalem is changing, as another level has been added to the massive bridge at the entrance to the city.

It will be an engineering marvel, an architectural classic, and an aesthetic monstrosity. One of the difficulties in living in Israeli society is the tendancy to need to prove that they are "One of the Gang." This is just another attempt to show how high-tech and flashy the city can be. But a city like Jerusalem will always strike feelings of awe at the antiquity and holiness of the place, wouldn't it be more appropriate to perhaps design a bridge which would fit in with a more biblical motif? Or perhaps just with a bit of modesty?

Instead, they've got this massive, curvey, high-tech marvel that sticks like a knife through the skyline. It would go well in Tel Aviv or Ashdod, the modern coastal cities, but for Jerusalem, I'm disappointed that we can't grab hold of our biblical roots. Still, as an engineer, it will certainly be a sight to behold.

Meanwhile, Russian-born billionaire Arcadi Gaydamak is eyeing a bid for for the mayor's office come the next election. He immigrated from Russia to Israel in 1972, and bumped around between Angola and France until a warrant was issued for his arrest on weapons dealing and tax evasion charges, which caused him to flee back to Israel. He's been peppering the country with his billions for social projects, building up support, especially amongst the Russian community, and now his billboards are everywhere

The poster on a passing bus: "Jerusalem, You Deserve More" (Subtitle: "Renewed Center for the Ill," a project he sponsored.)

Meanwhile, Jerusalem's non-billionaire population enjoys some music on Agrippas Street.

And, of course, who could miss the new coin. "Two" is shteim (Or shneim, depending on gender.) So now that we have a two-shekel piece, which would be a "Shnei Shekel," coin, it's been abbreviated to the "Shnekel."

The holy shnekel.

Today, I went jogging up Armon Hanatziv when I was smacked in the face with a wind so powerful I was barely able to even walk against it. Worse, it was loaded with hail which struck my face like a swarm of bees. Now, the wind is whipping, my windows are rattling, and the first flakes have fallen (and melted) outside. A snowstorm is coming. They're expecting several inches in Jerusalem. Stay tuned to Planet Israel for up-to-the-minute coverage!

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