Sunday, August 20, 2017

Kibbutz in the heart (of the city)

Dafna Shemer

The borders of the city of Jerusalem underwent a significant change 50 years ago, in June 1967. Much has been written about that change, which led to additional population, territory, and numerous questions of legality and sovereignty being encompassed within the city limits.

However, a number of additional minor changes have been made to Jerusalem's boundaries over the years, the most recent of which was approved in September, 2016, by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, when a change was made in the border between Kibbutz Ramat Rachel and Jerusalem. The minister has the authority to alter the boundaries between local authorities, in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee for Jurisdictional Boundaries.

This change included the transfer of about 69 acres (280 dunam) of Ramat Rachel's orchards to Jerusalem, and was effected despite the combined opposition of Kibbutz Ramat Rachel, the Mateh Yehuda Regional Council (within which Ramat Rachel is located), and the Ministry of Agriculture (because of the agricultural crops in this area). Those who didn't number among the opponents to the change were the green organizations: The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, and the Sustainable Jerusalem coalition. Although the source of the reasons for which the green organizations chose not to oppose the change is related to the Safdie Plan, the role of the Safdie Plan in this story is not only played out in the position taken by those organizations.

The Safdie Plan was created in response to Jerusalem's demographic needs. As part of the efforts to promote the plan and in order to meet the quota of missing land reserves, in 1993 the then Interior Minister (who was Aryeh Deri at that time as well), at the recommendation of the Committee for Jurisdictional Boundaries, decided to add territory to the city from the west: The Lavan Ridge, the Arazim Valley, and Mt. Herat. Included in this agreement were also the 79 acres (320 dunams) from Kibbutz Ramat Rachel. This area is to the east of the Talpiot neighborhood and to the west of East Talpiot.

Over the years, Kibbutz Ramat Rachel benefited from this decision, since the land is still owned by the kibbutz (under lease), so a situation was created in which the area was transferred to the municipality of Jerusalem, but ownership remained with the kibbutz. As a result the kibbutz made handsome profits from the sale and rental of the housing units built in this area.
As time passed, the green organizations altered their strategy in their efforts to protect open spaces, and focused on protecting areas that are not located on an urban continuum but have value as natural sites.

While in 1993 it was agreed that there would be no further changes in the borders around Ramat Rachel, today, from an urban perspective, sectioning off additional parts of the kibbutz seems like a more logical option than other alternatives, and therefore the green organizations did not express opposition.

Ramat Rachel is an enclave within the Jerusalem city limits that were created in 1967. It is a kibbutz in an urban environment. As we have shown in this short review, this position has both positive and negative ramifications.

Translation: Gilah Kahn

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

It's time to raise the curtain

Alon Kupererd

The Khan Theatre is the city theater of Jerusalem. In 2015 it hosted 66,608 theater guests, who paid to attend any of 16 productions. It is a relatively small city theater compared with Israel’s other city theaters: The Haifa Theatre produced 22 shows, attended by 126,611 paying visitors. The Be’er Sheva Theater produced 14 shows for a total of 154,512 paying visitors, and Tel Aviv’s Cameri Theatre produced 41 shows for audiences that totaled 844,151 paying visitors. 

With the exception of the Cameri Theatre, which held 1,478 performances of its shows, the numbers of performances across the theaters are comparable: the Khan had 302 performances, Haifa had 339, and Be’er Sheva had 396. Thus it appears that the discrepancy in the number of theater guests results from the size of the main auditorium of the respective theaters and the number of shows produced outside the main auditorium.

In terms of geographical distribution of performances, we find that most performances produced by the Khan and Cameri theaters (73% and 72%, respectively) take place at the home theater. In contrast, city theaters located farther away from Israel’s center, which have smaller home-based audiences, have fewer performances in their own city. The Haifa Theatre held 54% of its performances in Haifa and its surroundings, while the Be’er Sheva Theater held only 46% of its performances in Be’er Sheva and its surroundings. 

Of the theaters noted, the Khan has the smallest auditoriums: its main auditorium seats 232, and its small auditorium seats 69 (totaling 301 seats). The Haifa Theatre has three auditoriums, with 160, 158, and 767 seats respectively (totaling 1085 seats). The Be’er Sheva Theater, whose main auditorium is the city’s center for performing arts, has two auditoriums, with 430 and 885 seats respectively (totaling 1,315). The Cameri has four auditoriums with 910, 414, 267, and 156 seats respectively (totaling 1,747). Thus, even when the Khan has a full house, its audience is about one-third the size of an audience at the Haifa Theatre. The combination of a small auditorium and small number of performances outside the main auditorium explains the low number of attendees.

The small size of the audiences is not, however, an indication of public opinion: Jerusalemites are very fond of their theater. For example, 42% of the paying theater guests at the Khan were subscribers with season tickets, compared with 24% of the audience members at the Be’er Sheva and Cameri theaters and 19% at the Haifa Theatre. Likewise, the relatively low percentage of theater guests who attend performances using tickets sold to institutions indicates that Jerusalemites come to the Khan out of choice (48% of the Khan’s paid-for theater guests had tickets that had been sold to institutions, compared with 64% for the Cameri, 66% for Haifa, and 72% for Be’er Sheva).

Sources: Pilat, websites of the theaters

Translation: Merav Datan

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Silver Screen

Omer Yaniv

In 2008, The Jerusalem Film & Television Fund set up operations in the city, tasked with promoting the production of audio-visual works with Jerusalem as their focus, and also expanding employment possibilities for Jerusalemites in the film industry.

The Fund's staff assists local and international filmmakers to produce works for film and television in the city, in the same way that funding bodies and film foundations do in other cities and countries around the world, where they have learned that the production of films and TV series, with their support, contributes to the image of a place, augments the development of a creative society, and positions the locale as a tourist destination. Furthermore, the production of films and TV series in Jerusalem also provides employment for a second circle, comprised of drivers, catering services, hotels, and more.

Between the years 2010 and 2016 the Fund supported the production of eight television series and 48 films, among them international productions (such as A Tale of Love and Darkness, directed by Natalie Portman, and Norman, starring Richard Gere) and animated films, produced at an animation studio that was opened in the city several years ago.

The Fund assists filmmakers by covering some of the production costs, providing guidance and assistance in dealing with bureaucracy, identifying possible locations for filming, and providing connections to industry people who work in the city.

According to statistics based on Israeli filmgoers, the following are among the most successful films from those produced with the support of the Jerusalem Film & Television Fund during the years 2010 to 2016: Footnote, directed by Joseph Cedar, in 2011, viewed by approximately 290,000 people in Israel, with an income of 10.3 million shekels from screenings at cinemas (Footnote was nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film); Bethlehem, directed by Yuval Adler in 2013, viewed by 165,000 people in Israel, with an income of 6.3 million shekels; Hunting Elephants, directed by Reshef Levy in 2013, viewed by 164,000 people in Israel, with an income of 4.9 million shekels; and The Kind Words, directed by Shemi Zarhin in 2015, viewed by 150,000 people in Israel, with an income of 4.4 million shekels.

Translation: Gilah Kahn

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Housing Projects – Israeli Style

Dafna Shemer

One of the repercussions of the 2011 housing protests was that recent Israeli governments, and the current minister of finance in particular, have taken measures to lower the housing costs. For now it seems we’re still in trouble, though, given that the total number of monthly salary installments required to purchase an apartment in Israel (according to Ministry of Construction and Housing data for the first half of 2015) amounts to 146, whereas in 2009 the total was 116.

The project Mechir Lamishtaken (“Buyer’s Price”) was launched in an effort to address the growing housing crisis in Israel. Through this project developers compete for discounted land to construct affordable housing for first-time homebuyers who meet certain qualifications, and the apartments are then offered for sale by lottery. As of 2016, a total of 7,600 apartments were offered in tenders. In Jerusalem the total was 501, and tenders will soon be announced for 407 apartments. The (501) apartments offered so far amount to 18% of the annual average for construction starts in Jerusalem over the past five years. The apartments offered so far in the context of Mechir Lamishtaken were mainly in the neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo (86%), and the remainder in Pisgat Ze’ev. The average apartment size is 116 square meters (Sq m.), which exceeds the 2016 average for Jerusalem, at 81 Sq m.

The media has pointed out that apartments in the Mechir Lamishtaken program are generally larger than typical, and so too in Jerusalem: 40% of the apartments offered through the program have 5 rooms, and 35% have 4-4.5 rooms. According to data on construction starts in Jerusalem published by the Central Bureau of Statistics, only 20% of apartments under construction in Jerusalem in 2016 had 5 rooms.

The prices of apartments that have been won by lottery are published on the website of the Ministry of Housing and Construction, and as promised, their prices are lower than average for the relevant neighborhoods. An apartment in this project in Ramat Shlomo costs NIS 12,900 per Sq m. whereas the typical cost, according to the Madlan website, is NIS 19,700 per Sq m. – a difference of 54% per square meter.

In Pisgat Ze’ev the cost for apartments in this project is NIS 9,500 per Sq m., compared with the average cost of NIS 16,200 per Sq m. – a difference of 69% per square meter.

Mechir Lamishtaken reserves a number of places for “locals”: 38% of the lottery winners in Jerusalem are Jerusalem residents, 22% are from the Tel Aviv District, and another 20% are from the Central District. A relatively small proportion of winners are from the environs of Jerusalem: 4% from the Jerusalem District (excluding the city) and 8% from the Judea and Samaria District.

The next tenders are expected to be announced in Gilo and Malha, thus maintaining the trend of using available peripheral lands in implementation of the project. The attractive price and “brand newness” of the apartments are plusses, but the locations are less attractive in terms of public transportation and, as a result, access to places of employment.

Translation: Merav Datan