Jerusalem hi-tech center inauguration complicated by politics, protests


Some politicians have a problematic trait that can be described as an inability to hold back in the face of their own achievements, a desire to talk about their accomplishments, even when it is clear that a little modesty wouldn’t hurt. This malfunction occurs even with politicians who are known for their quiet way of promoting things without immediately announcing them to the media.

Mayor Moshe Lion is known for his quiet way of resolving tensions and conflicts. For the most part, he does this in a pleasant way and prefers to act without media attention which, in his opinion, is not always necessary for the good of the matter. However, this week Lion deviated from this path, and the unpleasant results were not long in coming.

Unpleasant consequences over EasTech inauguration in Jerusalem

EasTech is a hi-tech complex on Saleh a-Din Street, which will host hi-tech companies for free in exchange for hiring programmers from east Jerusalem. The center, which was established at a cost of NIS 10 million, is the first step in the Silicon Wadi project of the Jerusalem Affairs Ministry and the Jerusalem Municipality. The project aims to establish a large hi-tech campus in the Wadi Joz neighborhood, which is to span 200,000 square meters with commercial, employment, and industrial space, with an investment of NIS 200 million. According to the plan, Israeli and international hi-tech companies will be located in the complex and will employ programmers from the east Jerusalem. The place is offered to companies free of charge in order to encourage and develop the hi-tech sector in the eastern part of the city and enable quality employment for young academics who have difficulty finding work in technology companies. Among the companies that have already begun operating in the complex are Ness, Natural Intelligence, Techlinic, and Quantum Vision. 

The arrival of Jerusalem Affairs Minister Meir Porush, Mayor Lion, and Deputy Mayor Aryeh King on Monday at the complex added an unnecessary dimension of tension to the opening ceremony, which was supposed to be a positive event in every respect. Due to their presence, police arrived ahead of time, which caused embarrassment to the Arab participants and provoked – not surprisingly – – those opposed to any involvement of Israeli representatives to protest. Placing Israeli flags at the location of the ceremony only added to the tension.

It is clear that the State of Israel, which invests huge budgets to improve the situation in east Jerusalem, should not hide. The question is to what extent it is possible and appropriate to ignore the situation. For several days, ahead of the inauguration of the center, there has been tension around the matter. Among Arab residents, opponents of any normalization were known to all parties. The owner of the complex has been accused of collaborating with the “occupying” forces. A boycott was announced, and the owner and all the entrepreneurs, businessmen and moderate activists looking for ways to improve life in east Jerusalem, despite the challenges, were denounced as complicit. Aware of the problems and the risks, they asked the mayor to cancel the ceremony and settle for perhaps a filmed blessing and let the area return to calm. After all, it was clear to everyone that the majority of the residents are interested in the assistance of the government and the municipality and are happy about this important project. But it was also clear that a state ceremony, with Israeli flags and speeches in Hebrew, would not help calm the spirits. All this was known but wasn’t taken into consideration.

Minister Meir Porush attends a government conference at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem on January 8, 2023. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Protesters poured oil on the stairs, and as a result, the dignitaries and their entourages had to climb to the sixth floor via the emergency stairs. ❖

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