Friday, August 26, 2016

Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat on the planned tourist cable-car

Jerusalem Mayor: Cable Car Stop in Palestinian Neighborhood Will Clarify 'Who Really Owns This City'

Haaretz, August 25, 2016
Nir Hasson

link to article:

'Our ties to Jerusalem can never be unraveled,' Nir Barkat says in video about his plan to provide easy access to tourists sites by cable car, noting that the cable car will serve not just economic and tourism needs, but also ideological goals.

Jerusalem’s planned cable car will include a stop in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, so that riders will “understand who really owns this city,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat told Likud party activists recently.

According to the municipality’s published plans, the cable car will have four main stops: the First Station complex in southern Jerusalem; the Kedem Center, which belongs to the right-wing organization Elad, near Silwan; the 7 Arches Hotel on the Mount of Olives; and the churches of Gethsemane, near the Old City’s Lions Gate.

But Barkat mentioned a fifth stop – the Siloam Pool, deep in the heart of Silwan and some 500 meters from the Kedem Center – in a video clip published on his Facebook page last week. In the video, the mayor addresses a group of Likud activists he is conducting on a tour of Jerusalem.

Both stops, the Siloam Pool and the Kedem Center, would be inside the City of David national park, which is run by Elad. Barkat said the Kedem stop will be the most important, as cars will depart from there in three directions – to Gethsemane, the Mount of Olives and Siloam.

He also said that the cable car will serve not just economic and tourism needs, but also ideological goals.

After describing the archaeological effort needed to expose the steps leading from Siloam to the Temple Mount and his plan to repair the pool, he added, “I want to enable Jews and non-Jews to recreate this experience. Anyone who wants to immerse [in Siloam] and then go up toward the Temple Mount experience, anyone who does this will know exactly who the owner of this city is.
“When they have this experience, even leftists get totally confused, because they understand that this is real, and our ties to Jerusalem can never be unraveled. For this experience, it’s also necessary to create a means of transportation.”

Barkat said he wants “to bring 10 million tourists who will all get to these places. Without the infrastructure of trains, cable cars and so forth, we won’t be able to experience this unique experience. To bring the wider world, to understand who really owns this city – all this infrastructure is intended for that.”

Panoramic view of the plaza of the Dome of the Rock

Click on the photo to go to Facebook and see the panorama. This is from the Palestinian photographer Fadi Amirah, who takes beautiful photos of Jerusalem and other parts of Palestine.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Tensions as Jews Visit a Jerusalem Holy Site

Report on tensions on the Temple Mount, between Jews visiting it because the Temple was built there and Muslims who believe that those Jews are threatening their status on the Haram al-Sharif. The reporter is Linda Gradstein, for the Media Line.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Holy Fire in Jerusalem, April 11, 2015

Today is the ceremony of the Holy Fire in Jerusalem (Holy Saturday in the calendar of the Orthodox churches). See for a link to some photos.

Friday, April 10, 2015

An Israeli journalist in Tsur Baher

Israelis, including Israelis who live in west Jerusalem, rarely venture into the neighborhoods of east Jerusalem. Eliezer Yaari has just written a book on Yaari's encounters with the Palestinians who live in Tsur Baher, an area of the city that was annexed to Israel after the 1967 war. This story is from Ha'aretz, April 10, 2015

A link to Yaari's website about the book can be found here: The Book (English). In Hebrew: The Book (Hebrew).

Doctor's orders led this journalist to discover his Palestinian neighbors

After heart surgery, doctors told journalist Eliezer Yaari he needed to walk. His feet led him to a nearby Palestinian village – a microcosm of political developments in Jerusalem – and a new book with some frank observations.

Eliezer Yaari, on the backdrop of Tsur Baher. Photo by Emil Salman
By Nir Hasson | Apr. 10, 2015 | 4:10 AM


The hill that divides the cemetery of Kibbutz Ramat Rachel from the Palestinian village of Tsur Baher is visible from the home of journalist Eliezer Yaari, in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood. It’s a broad, open expanse that until 1967 was the site of a large Jordanian army base and until 15 years ago still contained a minefield, the last remaining one in the vicinity. These days it’s an olive grove, in the heart of which is an impressive – and disturbing – sculpture entitled “Olive Columns” (by Ran Morin, 1991): three olive trees planted atop huge 15-meter-high columns.

'Olive Columns' by Ran Morin (1991). 
Impressive and disturbing. Photo by Emil Salman
The national watershed runs across the hill, as does the unofficial boundary between East and West Jerusalem – on the right, if you’re facing north, Arnona and Ramat Rachel; on the left, Tsur Baher and Umm Touba. Almost 50 years have passed since Israel conquered and annexed East Jerusalem, and it’s been 15 years since the mines were cleared, but the border remains clear and sharp. Few Israelis cross it.

In the past two years, however, Yaari crossed and recrossed the (in)visible boundary time and again. He struck up conversations with residents of Tsur Baher and photographed them. The result is a book, “Beyond the Mountains of Darkness,” probably the first book written in our time by an Israeli Jew about a Palestinian neighborhood in Jerusalem. (It will be available in English as an eBook later this month; in the meantime, a teaser can be seen at

“Beyond the Mountains” ends with the wave of the violence that rocked Jerusalem last summer, following the kidnapping and murder of three yeshiva students and the subsequent murder of a Palestinian teen, which made the feeling of a boundary splitting the city even more acute.

Next to the olive trees are large blocks of concrete with which the Israeli security forces blocked the road to nearby villages, as a collective punishment meted out to Palestinians involved in the violence. A police van still occasionally blocks the road.

Yaari provides fascinating documentation of the complexity of Palestinian life in Jerusalem: On the one hand, efforts to achieve social and economic integration in Israeli society; on the other, tenacious adherence to a Palestinian and Islamic identity, and to waging the struggle against the occupation. Above all, though, the book offers a picture of an intimate, unforgettable acquaintanceship between neighbors on the two sides of the border in Jerusalem.

“‘Beyond the mountains of darkness’ is a phrase aimed at the readers,” Yaari says, in an interview with Haaretz. “It’s not really beyond the hills of darkness. The people there have ears, eyes and a political viewpoint, and we don’t know them.”

Yaari, a former air force fighter pilot, was a correspondent, editor and anchorman and Channel 1 news, and afterward director general of the New Israel Fund. He left the NIF, which works to advance democracy and equality in Israel, in 2010, just before it became the focus of a demonization campaign by right-wing politicians.

Two years ago, not long after his doctors told him he needed heart surgery, his second grandchild was born. That occurred the day after a heavy snowstorm hit Jerusalem. For a moment, he writes, he felt as though he was in the Russia of his grandfather, his blood carrying memories of frigid winter scenes. He was born in the East, he notes, in Jerusalem on the edge of the desert, but on that winter’s day, he felt momentarily disconnected from this land. Then a voice sliced through the imagined snowy silence – the call of the muezzin, “Allah hu akbar,” “God is most great” – and he was instantly catapulted back to Jerusalem, to the village across from his home, whose sounds he heard but whose residents he didn’t know.

Like many residents of West Jerusalem, Yaari admits, he is ignorant when it comes to East Jerusalem and its inhabitants. “The line exists, make no mistake about it,” he says. “Formally, though, Jerusalem has been one unit for the past 50 years. I am ashamed that I don’t know the language and that I didn’t act earlier. I say this with embarrassment.”

Following his operation, he obeyed his doctors’ orders and started to take walks. At one point, not far from his house, “I came to a descent, and to avoid having to exert myself by climbing back up afterward, I kept walking toward Tsur Baher,” he recalls.

The first person he met, by the olive trees, was a shepherd named Sallah Abu Kaff, who told him that herding sheep was just a hobby and that he was actually truck driver by profession. That conceptual duality, between livelihood and the everyday, on the one hand, and preconceived “Orientalist” images, on the other, would return.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Jerusalem Day in the Old City - a story from the Jewish Daily Forward

From the Forward, a story on the celebration of Jerusalem Day in the Old City.

‘Go to Hell, Leftist’ and Other Jerusalem Day Slogans

By Leanne Gale | May 29, 2014, 12:30pm

The crowd enters Jerusalem’s Old City singing racist chants / A. Daniel Roth Photography

As I made my way out of the Muslim Quarter, the dark alleyways suddenly seemed too quiet. Just moments before, crowds of ultranationalist Jewish celebrants had marched through this same space shouting “Death to Arabs.” Children had banged against shuttered Palestinian homes with wooden sticks and Israeli police had stood by as teenagers chanted “Muhammad is dead.” Now, all that remained were eerie remnants of their presence: “Kahane Tzadak” (Kahane was right) stickers plastered over closed Palestinian shops and the ground littered with anti-Muslim flyers. As Israeli police and soldiers began to unblock closures, Palestinian residents of the Muslim Quarter cautiously ventured outside. This is the only time I cried. 

Jerusalem Day marks the anniversary of the Israeli conquest of East Jerusalem in 1967. The March of Flags has become an annual tradition in which thousands of ultranationalist Jewish celebrants parade through the city waving Israeli flags. It culminates in a dramatic march through the Muslim Quarter, generally accompanied by racist slogans and incitement to violence. Israeli police arrive in the area earlier in the day, sealing off entry to Palestinian residents “for their own safety.” Those Palestinians who live in the Muslim Quarter are encouraged to close their shops and stay indoors, while any Palestinian counter-protest is quickly dispersed.

Growing up at the Solomon Schechter Day School of Long Island, I have fond memories of Jerusalem Day. We celebrated every year with school-wide assemblies and dances, singing “Sisu et Yerushalayim” (Rejoice in Jerusalem) and “Jerusalem of Gold” with pride. Even in high school, I never knew the political significance of the day or imagined that my joy might be at someone else’s expense. Today, I know better.

I made a conscious decision to attend the March of Flags this year. As an intern at Ir Amim, an Israeli organization committed to fostering a more equitable and sustainable Jerusalem, I helped coordinate a group of volunteers to document racist slogans, police responses to incitement, and restrictions on Palestinian mobility. While I thought I knew exactly what to expect, I find myself feeling numb as I write these words. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Revealed: What a partitioned Jerusalem would look like

An Israeli firm has been working for 10 years to perfect plans that would transform the city's 'natural' urban boundaries into a border between two future countries, in a nonthreatening and aesthetic manner.

By Nir Hasson | May 27, 2014 | 1:09 PM | Haaretz

Almost since Jerusalem was reunited after the Six-Day War 47 years ago – an event being commemorated today, Jerusalem Day – various ideas have been proposed as to how the city can be redivided. Possible partition lines were drawn during peace talks at Camp David and Taba in 2000-2001, in U.S. President Bill Clinton’s Oval Office and in the bureaus of former Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert.

But for the most part, these discussions ended with drawing lines on a map and debate over how to apportion sovereignty to the sites in the area known as the Holy Basin, which includes the Old City and its immediate surroundings.

Very few, if any, sought to figure out whether Jerusalem could actually be divided again – and if so, how would the border look? Would a wall be built in the heart of the city? Where would the crossing points be, and who would be able to use them? What would become of the network of roads and the public transportation system in the area? And so on and so forth.

Click here for the interactive map or see this page.