In Jerusalem Article - May 16, 2003
Ma'aleh Adumim Magic
by Charley Levine
In Jerusalem - 05/16/2003
It was the second day of the recent general strike. I took a chance
and called my City Hall in Ma'aleh Adumim, half-expecting no answer
or voice-mail hell.
Within (literally) two minutes, I reached the Mayor, erstwhile
Benny Kasriel. I needed to see him. We set it for the next morning,
less than one day later. He graciously offered to come in early
so I could catch him on my way to work without inconveniencing my
schedule. Service with a smile.
I'm Jerusalem's biggest booster. You folks know that. But it
occurred to me that I should devote at least a few words at long
last to the place I hang my kippa every night, a great little
town just east of the Big Golden Apple, Yerushelayim.
We have had the pleasure of residing in this very special community
for nearly 'chai' years. We've witnessed momentous changes,
continued intelligent growth and the blossoming of what is today
one of Israel's prime quality of life environments, up there in
its own way with Kochav Yair, Kfar Shmaryahu, Ra'anana and even
the legendary Saviyon.
The full functioning of all Municipal services on a nation-wide
strike day was but one not so subtle hint as to how MA sees itself.
In many ways, this town, which now has 30,000+ residents, typifies
everything that is RIGHT in current social and urban planning in
Israel, mamash a model community. Consider these attributes,
all realized with foresight, sweat and money:
* Tens of schools of all kinds, united by a quest for
excellence...from pre-Kindergarten through certified community
college and yeshiva hesder
* Full commercial facilities: a gorgeous, sensibly sized and
designed mall with four-cinema complex (no long lines ever);
banks, supermarket, specialty shops, restaurants; and for heavy
industry aficionados, an adjacent industrial park named Mishor
Adumim where the city is eager to make investors an "offer they
can't refuse" in terms of tax concessions and infrastructure
availability, from no-tech to hi-tech.
* The second most-used Matnas (community center) program of
any city in Israel, replete with music, sports, performing arts
programs, adult education, all complemented by a just-opened
state of the art library built by Bnai Zion, neat archeological
finds in the middle of town and a long-awaited museum-repository
for the original works of one of my favorite artists, Moshe Castel.
* An amazing population: roughly 30% religious (although not
one Haredi, hmmm); huge chunks of Anglo-Saxons (my entrance of
six families has three from America, one each from Canada, UK and
Australia-don't worry, the KIDS all speak Hebrew!) and intellectual
Russians, all integrated brilliantly with middle and upper middle
class Israelis...sort of a larger, friendlier Mevaseret Zion with
greenery and better building design!
* One-stop-shop for painless bureaucracy: From Interior Ministry
passport renewals to drivers licenses and gun licenses, the town
has a red-tape free office or cubicle awaiting your ever public
need. Did you hear the one about the guy who went to his Bituach
Leumi office and got his task completed in under 5 minutes.
In Ma'aleh Adumim, no joke, brother.
* It costs less! A bit less to buy a home, although it used to
be a lot less. But Arnona (municipal) taxes are way, way down,
around 30-40% less than in Jerusalem. And for the moment, we still
get our 7.5% income tax reduction which, as every year, is
"supposed to be cut" in 2003-but meanwhile, I've enjoyed that
little windfall for nearly two decades.
* And finally, as to underscore MA's commitment to quality of
life, a venue where pot-holes actually get fixed in 24 hours and
huge efforts go into planting seasonal flower and tree
arrangements in all public areas, we have the TUNNEL!
Getting to town, as a majority of the working populace does
every day, is much better than ever before. With traffic jams
a rarity, it's mainly godspeed ahead as the wonderful tunnel
shortens the time in and out of Zion. Undoubtedly, it takes me
less time to get to work in the heart of the city than many
Jerusalemites coming in from places like Ein Kerem, Pisgat Ze'ev,
Har Nof or Neve Yaakov.
I asked Mayor Benny Kasriel as I was taking leave of him at our
meeting (he helped me out with what I needed, naturally),
"How would you put our town's benefits into one concise sentence?"
He paused nary a second before doing just that: "Ma'aleh Adumim
has better quality of life than most of Jerusalem, and it costs
less to live here." That seems to sum it up pretty well.
This is not a clarion call to everyone in Jerusalem to pick up
and move eastward. What do I care? I already have plenty of great
neighbors in our Mitzpe Nevo neighborhood of MA.
My actual point, rather, is to sit up and salute this wonderful
town that has sprung up over the past 25 years. While some other
areas have stagnated during that period, the good citizenry and
leadership of Ma'aleh Adumim have only headed in one direction:
onward and upward.
It's nice to be along on that particular ride.
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