The children at the edge of Jerusalem's Katamonim neighborhoods have been denied access to a nearby playground by a stone wall.
Residents have been complaining for years about the lack of recreation areas for their children and what they say is the neglected state of the playgrounds that do exist there.
Until a year ago, the children had access to a play area between where they live and Mekor Haim, but access has since been blocked from the Katamonim side by a stone wall built to settle a dispute involving Mekor Haim residents and a builder.
For some residents of the Katamonim, the wall was clearly designed to keep out children from their neighborhood, which is perceived as poorer than Mekor Haim. They say they were never consulted about it. Neighborhood activist Yossi Saidov, who is also waging a battle to establish a park along old railroad tracks nearby, is demanding that the Jerusalem municipality have the wall dismantled.
The municipality denies that the wall was built to separate the neighborhoods, adding that the wall had been approved by the Jerusalem district planning committee.
The Katamonim has 11 public parks of its own, the city noted, most of which, it said, have high-quality playground equipment.
While the reality on the ground won't change, the wall will disappear on screen in a film that students from the city's Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design have made with children from the Katamonim neighborhoods.
In recent years students from Bezalel have been working in the Katamonim in connection with a course on art and public activism. "We wanted to create a course that was less art for its own sake and more art attempting the influence things and be a partner to social change," said Eitan Shuker, one of the course instructors. Through the course, the students have been involved in efforts to block a major highway from being built in the area and in support of a hiking trail there. About a month ago, on a visit to Katamonim, the students were told about the wall.
"It was the park just below our house, said neighborhood resident Moriah Heyman, who added: "One day they built the [stone] fence and I can't send the children there alone. I can see the park from my window but you can't get to it."
Shukar said: "We told them they had a month to get the wall knocked down. All kinds of ideas were raised, including destroying it, but we said we weren't vandals. We are activists."
The idea of building a park on the Katamonim side of the wall was also discounted, but ultimately it was decided to produce a film that showed the site without the wall, inspired by the 2009 movie "Up" about a flying house.
The Bezalel school movie features 20 neighborhood children and will be shown tomorrow using the wall itself as the projection screen. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and residents of adjacent Mekor Haim have been invited to attend.
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