Be the firefighter, not the pyromaniac
The election of Barkat gives Jerusalem a little hope, but his mission - to restore it to being a normal city - remains very difficult.
It's pretty clear what Nir Barkat doesn't need to do early on in his term as the new mayor of Jerusalem. He doesn't need to ignite public fires, as he did in interviews to the press late in his campaign. There are enough fights and commotions in Jerusalem without having the mayor add his own. The mayor should be the firefighter, not the pyromaniac. Barkat should study the policy of moderation that was practiced by Teddy Kollek.
He doesn't need to fight with Waqf officials about the Temple Mount, but rather to reach tacit agreements with them. Even if during the upcoming Knesset election everyone will be arguing over whether to divide Jerusalem, Barkat should remain outside of the debate. He doesn't need to express an opinion on the Gay Pride parade, but rather to find a route that will minimize the disagreement and come to a quiet understanding with the Haredim. Barkat has an enormous amount of work to do, and in order not to fail he will need peace and quiet.
The election of Barkat gives Jerusalem a little hope, but his mission - to restore it to being a normal city - remains very difficult. Here are a few tips that could prove useful:
b Build new neighborhoods, lots of them, and overcome the opposition of the "greens." In the past two years the ultra-Orthodox have begun moving into Kiryat Hayovel, in the heart of secular Jerusalem. The struggle of the area's veteran residents is one of the main reasons for Barkat's electoral victory. Only the creation of a supply of apartments somewhere else will stop the Haredization of Kiryat Hayovel. A Haredi neighborhood must be built at Givat Alona, in the north of the city, so that the ultra-Orthodox will not need to buy homes in Kiryat Hayovel. The issue may be so urgent as to justify passing a law early in the next Knesset session.
b Immediately rescue Jerusalem from the nightmare of roadwork for the light rail system. No one can convince the drivers who have been sitting in traffic jams for at least five years, staring at the work underway, that it cannot be done much faster. One of the reasons that Meir Porush lost the election is that the outgoing Haredi mayor, Uri Lupoliansky, was so indifferent about the slow pace of construction.
b It's a good idea to meet with high school and university students at least twice a week to try to persuade them to stay in Jerusalem. Let's be clear: It's not just the lack of jobs and high housing prices that are driving them away. It's possible to commute to work in an hour and housing costs in Tel Aviv are much higher. The problem is the sense that the non-religious have no reason to be in Jerusalem. If anyone can plant in them the seed of hope, Barkat can.
b The Finance Ministry's efforts to stop the express train to Jerusalem must be foiled. It will be much easier to live in Jerusalem if one can get to Tel Aviv in 30 minutes. It will be much easier for Tel Avivians to visit Jerusalem without the need to climb up through clogged mountain roads. And in general, if there's an answer to the increasing mental detachment of Israelis from their capital, it will bring the city closer to them.
b Barkat must be reelected in five years' time. It won't be easy, and he must not turn the Haredim into his enemies. He'd do well to bring at least one ultra-Orthodox party into his coalition.
b The city center is depressing and in desperate need of a few thousand students to make a difference there. The plan to bring the ))Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design back to the moribund city center must be implemented.
b Construction is necessary in the east of the city, even in Anata: not neighborhoods for Jews to live in, but rather schools, community centers, roads, sidewalks, squares. Every mayor of Jerusalem talked about the need for equality but zealously preserved the terrible discrimination that turned the eastern part of the city into one giant slum. When Barkat plans on creating jobs, he must think about East Jerusalem, too. When Barkat plans new residential neighborhoods, he must plan ones for the city's Arabs, too. No, no one is talking about equality. There will be equality in this city only in the End of Days, it seems. But at least an effort can be made to make the city's invisible residents a little more visible. Perhaps if life in the east of the city is more tolerable it could even prevent one or two bulldozer terror attacks.