Dear Mayor Lion, city-councillors, residents of Jerusalem and citizens of Israel,
I love Jerusalem. I live in a beautiful part of the “New City,” not far from the city center and know that I am blessed to have the privilege. I write this letter to you from my sukkah on the our roof. It is amazing to sit here and watch our city expand and become even more beautiful each year.
Every time I enter the Old City, especially if I am going there to work, I have to pinch myself. Could my grandparents have imagined that it would be “normal” for me to walk these streets, to tread these ancient stones, to pass these holy sites, to rub shoulders with so many wonderful and diverse people, to see this special light, to hear the sounds?
Jerusalem is unlike any other place on earth. However, as you know, it is also a place where people live and work and go to school and do their shopping. Since I have lived here, I have noticed a great improvement in many things, including accessibility to public spaces, collection of rubbish and maintenance of parks.
Nevertheless, there are still many things that could be fixed simply and quickly to improve the quality of life for those of us who call this city home. This is particularly so for those of us moving around the city.
I have a list of recommendations for you and I hope that you will take them seriously.
In the spirit of Sukkot, which finishes with an eighth day of celebration, here are my top eight:
- Impose fines for littering, especially for dropping cigarette butts. It could be a great revenue-raiser for the municipality until people realise that we are serious – and then it would change our city.
- Pedestrian crossings need to visible to drivers. Put up warning lights; do not place crossings where trees block the drivers’ view if someone is stepping from the kerb. (Two examples where pedestrians are forced to step out from behind trees are on Emeq Refaim and Pierre Koenig.)
- Pedestrian crossings need to be accessible and passable for pedestrians. Do not have them blocked by trees, large gutters or other obstacles. (This is the case on the Jabotinsky-Balfour intersection, where once I saw a hapless policewoman trying to force a woman with a stroller to stay on the crossing that was blocked by a tree!).
- The roofs on bus shelters provide no shelter from either the sun or the rain. They need to be inverted Vs, in an east-west direction. It would be funny if it were not serious to see people trying to take shade from the sun OUTSIDE the shelter.
- Laws against smoking in public spaces need to be enforced. This could be another huge revenue-raiser, especially if you start with Machane Yehuda, but, more importantly, it would improve the health of all of us.
- Trim trees that block pavements (sidewalks). Remove other obstacles, such as protruding pipes.
- Provide more bicycle paths and clarify the laws on bicycles. Rule if they can be ridden the wrong way up one-way streets, if they can use pedestrian crossings, if they can ignore traffic lights. If the answer is “no” then try enforcing the law.
- Have some consistency in the English spelling of street names – not really a life-changing matter but sometimes I feel embarrassed when directing visitors. It is particularly confusing to see the letter “beit” becoming a “p” or the names of famous people transliterated in ways that bear no relationship to the formal and accepted spelling.
I hope you take these recommendations in the spirit in which they are given. Once you have dealt with these matters, I have a few other pieces of advice, as a lover of this city. I will talk to you about them another time.