Building and Community

The Sukkah turned home on Hertzl boulevard.
The Sukkah turned home on Hertzl boulevard.

When someone lost his home just before Rosh Hashana and appeared on a bench on Herzl Boulevard, his new neighbors invited him for meals, helped him build a sukkah, gave him an electricity connection, a bed and more. When the holiday ended, they added a plastic covering on top of the schach. All of this right next to his bench, at a very specific point on Herzl where the sidewalk widens, and a row of trees separates the pedestrians from the light rail. It was a plan that required no paper pushing or approvals, just some good old Kiryat Moshe neighbors.

And then, one day, he moved on.

And then it was gone.

Everyone is trying to figure out how to solve the housing crisis. There is a place for public policy, but as it exists today, it is too rigid and it stymies the potential for communal intervention. Sometimes, the community is more effective at identifying and serving the needs of the other than is any government program worth millions. In many ways, the growing government encourages the individual to abdicate his responsibility toward others. Though he is exposed to the many challenges that face society, well, there is a department for that. Then, layers upon layers of bureaucracy obscure creative solutions, limiting progress. The individual loses his right to initiative, and the higher taxes rise, the less charitable he feels. Suddenly, when he sees someone sleeping on a bench his instinct is to call the police.

But, in this case, someone posted to the community WhatsApp group instead, and the neighborhood rallied. The future success of residential development is tied to community. If current conditions prevent the development of community-centered systems that are so crucial to the health of society, we must change them. The city depends on it.

About the Author
Liba grew up in New York, thinking of Jerusalem as a far-off place to visit in prayer. Today, she practices architecture in what she now knows is a very real, contemporary city, with all the potential in the world. Liba encourages discussion about architecture in Jerusalem @Building.Jerusalem on Instagram.
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