Jerusalem needs to care more about its residents

Those of us who live in downtown Jerusalem expect a certain level of noise. We expect the honking of Israeli drivers who have yet to learn that patience is a virtue. We expect the middle-of-the-night yells of American students, away from their parents in a country where the drinking age is 18. We expect the band at the bar across the street to go a little overboard on the drums once in a while.

What we don’t (or at least shouldn’t have to) expect is to have our lives completely disrupted for three months by a project that has the full backing of the Municipality of Jerusalem, and then to be completely ignored when we try to contact them to express our concerns.

If you’ve been to the center of Jerusalem recently, it’s highly likely you’ve seen (or heard) the project in question. It’s a wooden deck with chairs on it. Basically, it allows you to pretend you’re in an orchestra. If you sit in one chair, a motion sensor is activated and the trumpet part of a song plays. If you sit in another chair, the violin part of the song plays, etc. etc.

You may be thinking that that sounds cool. And in general, you’d be right. It’s a cool concept.

However, imagine that you live or work next to it. Imagine that you have to listen to the same few songs play over and over and over again from ten o’clock in the morning until ten o’clock at night, Sunday through Thursday (not to mention 10:00 until Shabbat Friday and the end of Shabbat until 22:00 on Saturday). From the beginning of July until the end of September.

All of us who live or work (or especially those unfortunate souls who live AND work) nearby have been going absolutely insane. With the windows open it’s impossible to handle the horribly repetitive noise for too long. Even with the windows closed and their air conditioning constantly on (a huge financial burden that should not be foisted upon us) it’s still far too loud.

Every morning, we dread the moment it begins, and we count the minutes until it’s over at night.

For us, the Nine Days (the period of mourning leading up to Tisha B’Av) was the happiest week since the project started, as it was on hiatus in observance of the period’s traditions. In this time when we were supposed to be sad, we couldn’t help but be happy, as our lives had finally returned to some semblance of normal.

When the Nine Days ended and the national mourning period of the Jewish people came to a close, the private mourning period of the residents and workers of Hillel Street started up again.

We’ve contacted the municipality, through multiple channels, simply to ask that the volume be lowered. In every case, we were told that somebody would be in touch with us. Even after more than a month of trying, nobody has been in touch.

When we waylaid the architect behind the project as he inspected his creation and turned it back on after Tisha B’Av, he told us that he spoke to the municipality about our concerns and they told him not to worry about it, as the sound levels were within the legal limits.

It seems quite clear that the noise regulations in question were meant to deal with short events. A beer festival here, a parade there. Maybe a week long light festival. Not something that blasts repetitive music twelve hours a day, six days a week, for three months.

It’s truly disheartening to see that to the City of Jerusalem, those of us who work in the city, who pay taxes in the city, who choose to spend our lives in the city, are not a priority, or apparently even a concern. That we don’t warrant even a response.

No, to the Municipality of Jerusalem, it seems that we’re secondary, and it’s quite appropriate to make the residents of the area suffer for three months so that tourists can pretend they’re performing “Toxic” or “Shape of You” for three minutes, without even taking a moment to listen to us.

We want tourists to come here, we want them to have fun and be able to take part in unique activities, and we’re happy that the municipality puts an effort into making sure they can. But when it comes to projects that have such a huge impact on the lives of the residents, we find it more than reasonable to expect that the municipality will take our concerns into account as well.

About the Author
With an eye toward advancing the two-state solution, the only solution that would grant both the Jewish and Palestinian peoples their right to self-determination and secure Israel's existence as a Jewish and democratic state, Nick is working to build connections between Israel and the Arab World.
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