Mr. Barkat, I think you’re doing great things for the city of Jerusalem. Under your leadership, Jerusalem has been transformed from a backwater city with little to offer to anyone who doesn’t want to pray, to a diverse and colorful city that attracts both Israelis and foreigners by the millions.
We Jerusalemites put up with a lot in order to make that possible. Road closures are a regular occurrence, whether it’s for a visiting President or Pope, or for the Jerusalem Marathon. But we’re a patient lot. We kvetch a bit under our breath, reorganize our lives, and carry on. For those of us who live in and around the Old City, our lives are doubly inconvenienced by all the Jewish, Muslim and Christian holidays during which streets are blocked and we practically have to beg the police to get home. But we understand that if you want to live near one of the holiest sites in the world, you’ll pay a price. So we too grumble a bit, and breathe a sigh of relief when the roads are reopened and we can go on with our lives.
But now you are taking advantage of us Mr. Barkat with Formula1. Worse, you seem to care more about fancy cars and how Jerusalem looks to the world then the lives of your city’s residents.
Kids, fancy cars are more important than your education
Citizens of Jerusalem have some basic rights, among them the right to childhood education. My kids’ schools all ended early yesterday, and will end early again today. We and the country pay for their education, and you have stolen that valuable learning time from them. Also, the lesson being taught to the children of Jerusalem is that education isn’t THAT important, and can be cancelled on a whim. Is that really the message we want to pass on to our children?
Kids, fancy cars are more important than your safety
In addition to schools being canceled, the municipality did not deign to ensure that the students learning around the area of the “race” would be able to get home from school. My kids’ Egged school bus was cancelled because the police told Egged that they couldn’t enter the Old City. Calls to numerous officials yielded nothing, and we found out at 12:45, when school was ending, that there would be no school bus. Our children, who had been stoned and attacked on a bus in the area three weeks ago, now had to walk from the Kotel, to their homes in Maaleh Hazeitim, in the heat of the afternoon and up steep inclines, and completely exposed without even the shell of a bus to protect them from possible attackers, in order to get home.
So the second lesson you are teaching our children is that car races are more important than their safety.
As you can imagine, my kids aren’t going to school today so they don’t have to go through that horror again. Yes, they are missing school so that fancy cars can drive around the city.
Parents and business owners, fancy cars are more important than your work
And how about the right to work? Jerusalem small businesses that were already hit hard by the summer war, are being hit hard again, as parents who had to stay home to be with their kids due to school being cancelled couldn’t put in a full day, and/or couldn’t even get to work due to road closures. I know one business owner who had to close his office for a day and a half due to the race, and there are hundreds more like him.
And finally, the timing of this whole thing. We are about to enter 11 days of Sukkot vacation in the schools. Cancelling school two days before we go into that period is simply cruel. Those of us running small businesses need to bring in as much revenue as possible while we can actually work. Unnecessarily losing two days of work is a huge blow to a small business that is lready going to feel the impact of 11 days where the economy slows.
Mr. Mayor, fancy cars are NOT more important than our right to live with dignity.
Mr. Barkat, we can bite our lips and stay quiet as long as the cause for the incredible inconveniences we suffer is reasonable. But you have crossed a line with the Formula1 race.
You are a mayor who claims to want to make Jerusalem an attractive place for people to live in, but events like these show us that we are not your top priority. We demand to be your top priority.
We demand answers.