Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Follow the cobblestone road


Former Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek tells about the challenges of rehabilitating and integrating the reunited city.
June 10, 1967: a cease-fire was declared, the Six Day War was over, and where everyone stood was where everyone would stand.
Suddenly, Jerusalem was united, a blend of East and West, new and old, a mixture of two different cultures: a Jewish majority and an Arab minority. What to do now? Teddy Kollek, who had been elected mayor in 1965, knew he was facing something new, something he could not have imagined, or planned.
"When I looked at the city, [when I was elected] and even more so a year and a half later when it was united, I saw what a poor city it was, what tremendous needs there were, and what even greater possibilities there were."
"Also, that there were tremendous demands on the city that didn't concern the citizens themselves, [like] the restoration of the Via Dolorosa, or the walls of the Old City. You had needs of the city, but you also had needs that were demanded from the city, because it was Jerusalem to the entire world, and you had to live up to it."
On June 27, 20 days after Jerusalem was liberated, the Knesset formally added the eastern part to Israeli sovereignty, and passed a law protecting holy places from desecration and assuring freedom of access to all.
But what a mess the Old City was in! Years - if not centuries - of neglect had left it in an advanced stage of decay. It was time to get to work.
One of the first orders of business was the area in front of the Western Wall, which was completely cleared of all buildings in anticipation of the millions who would visit the site each year. Clearing dirt from the Wall itself was also undertaken, but it was decided to stop after uncovering one more layer of Herodian stone and build the plaza at that point.
More excavation took place beside the Wall further north, resulting in an unprecedented archeological and tourist site known as the Western Wall Tunnel.
A decision was made to entirely replace the Old City's dilapidated infrastructure, while at the same time salvaging and restoring its physical history. Modern sewage and drainage systems were installed, eliminating the unbearable stench that was prevalent there before the war, and the water, electricity, telephone and television grids were all renovated.
Special attention was given to strengthening defective foundations of buildings in danger of collapse. Included in that were the walls of the Old City itself, which were covered along their base with rubble and garbage.
"The walls of the city had been crumbling, there was very little of them left," says Kollek. "For three years a 15-member crew worked on rebuilding the city walls. They had been built from different quarries, and in every case we went back to the same quarry, to build it from the same stone that this part of the wall had been built. We built the city walls again - today it looks as it looked when Suleiman built them, with the foundations of the Herodian wall below."
A carpet of grass, called the Jerusalem Gardens National Park, was laid down around the circumference of the wall, creating a patchwork of some 30 parks and archeological gardens.
"Immediately when the city was united, I invited 30 or 40 people here, the best minds of the world, to consult on what we would do," Kollek recalls. "They sat here for a week and studied it together with us, and some turned out without any ideas, but some had [good ideas]. Amongst them were architects, university presidents, scientists - it was called the Jerusalem Committee.
"One of them was a man called Louis Kahn, a high priest of architecture at the time. I took him to two places and asked him [what we should do], and I got a reply in both cases that no other architect gave. We had a plan of a street going around the city walls. He and other architects said, 'Move this away.' They wanted to move it down below. He said 'No, move it farther away, leave a green belt around the city.' "
Around the walls much renovation and restoration was accomplished following excavations and a cleanup, including the ancient gates of the Old City.
Beneath the Damascus Gate, for example, excavations in the early 1980s revealed an entranceway from the Roman period. The whole area around that gate, as well as others, was cleared and restored to its earlier splendor.
The Tower of David, parts of which go back to the second century BCE, was excavated, and the Museum of the History of Jerusalem was opened there in 1983.
The Jewish Quarter, completely destroyed in the 19 years it was under Jordanian occupation, was reconstructed and developed. In the process, large-scale excavations revealed historical sites that were incorporated as tourist sites amid a thriving Jewish residential area. These include the Cardo, a section of the main Roman commercial street that existed in the second century; a section of the seven-meter-thick Broad Wall that was part of Hezekiah's northern city wall; The Burnt House, the basement of a house destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, during the destruction of the Second Temple; the Nea Church, one of the largest churches of the Byzantine world that was built by Emperor Justinian (485-565); and the Wohl Archeological Museum, an archeological excavation of houses underneath Yeshivat Hakotel called the Herodian Quarter, where priests from the Temple are believed to have lived.
WESTERN Jerusalem, meanwhile, faced other problems. There was an urgent need to develop more housing for the swarms of people who suddenly wanted to come live in the unified city. New municipal boundaries were drawn up after the war to allow for urban expansion, and were designed to form a barrier against any future partition plan.
The first area of expansion linked Mount Scopus with the rest of the city, in the areas of Ramat Eshkol, Givat Hamivtar and French Hill. The second was the building of four new bedroom communities: Neveh Ya'acov, Ramot, East Talpiot and Gilo. More recently, the construction of Pisgat Ze'ev linked Neveh Ya'acov with French Hill.
One of the issues the city faced, both in the downtown area and the outlying suburbs, was how to build: what kind of material to use, and how high to construct the buildings. Kollek was advised by the Jerusalem Committee to build only in stone, and no high-rises. He took their advice, despite the price: He traded land for air space.
"There were some high-rises already: the Wolfson buildings had existed - three had existed and three still had to be built - the Hilton already had a permit, the Laromme had a permit for I don't know how many floors, the Hyatt had a permit for 26 floors... Then we added some land and convinced them [to lower the buildings' height].
"In some cases we didn't have additional land. For example the Migdal Ha'ir building. It would have cost us $8 million in 1967 or '68 when we started negotiations with them. We didn't have that [money] anyway, so the building went up. They had a permit, and you couldn't stop anybody with a permit unless you paid him his loss. So a number of high-rises went up." Kollek said the city council made a decision not to construct residential buildings higher than eight floors, which copied the building code of Washington, DC. The hard part was convincing the contractors to build in stone.
"It costs about 8 percent or 9 percent more in stone, but it repays itself over 10 or 20 years because you don't have to restore it as often. But when an investor builds, he sells the apartment afterwards, he doesn't care what happens in 10 or 20 years."
Non-residential development in the city included the eastern Jerusalem government complex, the restoration and development of the Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus, the building of the City Hall complex known as Safra Square, and the doubling of hotel rooms in the city with the building of more than a dozen new hotels.
In the southwest part of the city, major development took place in the neighborhood of Malha, or Manahat, which was itself expanded into a much larger locality. The largest mall in the Middle East was built alongside, and next to it a technology park. Across the street saw the building of Teddy Stadium, and the Biblical Zoo was moved to a nearby location from its previous home in Sanhedria.
An infrastructure to accommodate all the new building was also undertaken, with major roads upgraded and new ones built along the former frontier between eastern and western Jerusalem, as well as the north-south Road No. 4 that is now under construction.
Kollek says one of his first priorities 30 years ago was building parks all over the city, much of which was done with the assistance of the Jerusalem Foundation.
"There was not a single tree in the city - every tree has been planted since then. Individual trees were planted in private plots near a house, but nobody took care of the public space. Since then the city is becoming a green city... not quite, it takes longer for a tree to grow than to build a house.
"[The Foundation] came to an agreement with the city - which was easy because it was the same person, now it's a little more difficult - the Foundation plants the garden, and brings it up to a first-class state, and the city takes over the permanent maintenance."
The Jerusalem Foundation has been the single biggest contributing organization to the city's welfare over the last 30 years, having raised some $430 million towards improving the quality of life in the capital.
Its focus is on five areas of development for the city: education, culture, community services, beautification and preservation of historic sites.
Altogether over 1,500 projects large and small have been initiated by the Foundation.
One of the most visible marks the Foundation made on the city was in the area of city parks. In 1967 there were only 540 dunams of parks; today that figure stands at over 1,600. It includes the National Park around the Old City walls, the Wohl Rose Park near the Knesset, the Hebrew University Botanical Gardens, and over 200 other neighborhood parks and gardens, most of which display the Foundation's ubiquitous tulip symbol etched modestly on stone in a corner of the park.
One of the biggest projects of the city was the building of the Haas and Sherover Promenades along the East Talpiot ridge. Kollek relates how here, too, the idea came from the architect Kahn.
"The government and the city wanted to build four or five high-rise hotels that would overlook the city. And I said what should we build here, and he said, 'I'll give you advice: don't build anything. Leave it empty.' This is how the promenade came about, which is a great success of the city."
Another success was the building of the Jerusalem Center for the Performing Arts, the complex in Talbiyeh that houses the 900-seat Jerusalem Sherover Theater, the 750-seat Henry Crown Symphony Hall, which is the home of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra; the 450-seat Rebecca Crown Auditorium; and a 150-seat theater in the basement.
This complex, Kollek says, is one of his proudest accomplishments. "It had been started in the former city administration but was abandoned because they didn't have the money to finish. I remember when we started, we had a concert in a hole in the ground, we brought the Israel Philharmonic there. It was started by Mr. Sherover, before he passed away, but the money that he gave, through inflation, wasn't sufficient, so I had to raise the rest. So we added the Henry Crown Hall to it, which was entirely paid by the Crown family in Chicago, through the Jerusalem Foundation."
A major area developed after the '67 war was the strip of land that had been the border between Jordan and Israel. Today it is the scene of over 20 different types of activities, on what is known as Jerusalem's "Cultural Mile." It includes the museum in David's Tower; Hutzot Hayotzer, an arts and crafts center; Hassenfeld Amphitheater in Sultan's Pool; the renovated neighborhood and artist colony of Yemin Moshe, and alongside it Mishkenot Sha'ananim, the first building constructed outside the Old City in 1860.
Adjacent is the Jerusalem Music Center, which teaches young Israeli hopefuls. Below, in the Hinnom Valley, is the Cinematheque/Jerusalem Film Center, and facing it the Alpert Youth Music Center, home to the Jerusalem Youth Orchestra made up of Israeli and Arab youth. Further along Hebron Road is the Khan Theater, a former Crusader and Turkish inn.
Today there is more construction happening all over the city, as the capital prepares to meet the needs of the next century. It, too, will change the face of the city, adding to what has already been the largest expansion in the city's 3,000-year history.