I was walking in the neighborhood near Binyanei Haumah the other day when I snapped this photo of the Jerusalem Chord Bridge. Inaugurated on June 25, 2008 the bridge just kind of sits there and does nothing really. It is only scheduled to be operational on April 7, 2011 when it will be used by commuter trains running from outlying Jerusalem neighborhoods into the center of the city. Given that the commuter train project itself has suffered from cost over runs and numerous delays, I wouldn’t bet the farm on that 2011 deadline. The bridge itself, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava cost 220 million NIS, over twice the original budget. The bridge was said by former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski to represent David’s Harp and is the tallest structure in Jerusalem.
But look to the right of the bridge. See that construction crane? I’ve noticed that the city is beginning to use the bridge as an iconic symbol of Jerusalem, but maybe a crane ought to be used in its stead. It’s less than a ten minute walk from my apartment in Nachlaot to Binyanei Haumah, the main Jerusalem conference center. My centrally located neighborhood, which used to be the exclusive domain of poor Mizrachi Jews, artists and students, is beginning to be overrun by massive luxury construction projects. And I mean massive! Priced beyond the reach of most Israelis, I suspect that these projects will be populated mostly by non-residents and used as vacation condos which will sit empty most of the year. That’s what happened to the City of David Project just across from Jaffa Gate. The neighborhood is a textbook example of Urban blight with over 70% of its residents not living there most of the year. As a result, there are no shops nearby, no pedestrian traffic, and the empty condos are a target for thieves who can break in and take their time emptying the apartments of their luxury goods. In the meantime, young people continue to leave Jerusalem in droves because affordable housing becomes less and less available.
And what’s driving all this construction? Well, it seems like a large part of it is pure greed. Former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski himself was recently arrested on suspicion of accepting 3 million NIS in bribes related to another eyesore, the Holyland project. He remains under house arrest. The principals of the Holyland project have also been arrested on suspicion of giving out bribes totaling tens of millions of shekels. More municipality officials are being arrested seemingly every day.
With all that tax-free cashola floating around, you’d think… you’d think developers wouldn’t be so… clueless? For instance, check out the signage around the “Michkenot Haouma” development, located just West of Nachlaot near Sachar Park.
Some clever creative types changed the wording so now it reads “Eliminating new lifestyles” instead of “Discover a new lifestyles.” That sign’s been like that for months. WTF?
And this French sign? In Hebrew “Lifestyle” is “Tarbut Chayim” literally culture and life. The French version is simply a direct translation, so it says “Discover a new life and a new culture” – “Decouvrez une vie et une culture nouvelles.” Trust me, it sounds retarded. They should have just used the French word for lifestyle which is “Mode de vie.”
Now I’m not saying that the developers of Michkenot Haouma are corrupt. But if they were and they were caught, they could make the most of their time in prison by studying French! Again, I AM NOT SAYING THESE PARTICULAR DEVELOPERS ARE CROOKS. All I’m saying is that the Jerusalem Post reported that the HolyLand fiasco is merely the tip of the iceberg.
In the meantime, Jerusalem’s skyline has been altered irretrievably for the rest of our lives thanks to the greed of criminal developers, the corruption of our municipal servants, and the cluelessness of wealthy property buyers. I mean sheesh, rent a fucking hotel room if you’re not going to live here. Stop ruining our city. We really ought to change the Jerusalem logo and use a crane instead of that otherwise lovely bridge.