Louis Botha… first leg in the changing face of Joburg
One of the most discussed topics among Johannesburg Jewry over the past year has been the construction on the very busy Louis Botha Avenue artery. “What’s going on?” is frequently asked and “Why is it taking so long?” Read the answers in the first of a multi-part series of articles, see the pictures and the complete PDF document the City has approved – find out how the six-fold population densification by introducing low- and middle-income residents will affect you…
What the Louis Botha corridor will look like in a few years, above, and see many more pictures and documents in and below the story
The Louis Botha Avenue hustle and bustle is not just building a Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) from Alexandra township to Johannesburg’s CBD; it is the first stage of a major redevelopment in the coming two decades that will herald a complete transformation of the city.
By the time all is said and done, there will be six BRT stations between Orange Grove and the Wynberg industrial area, with six times the present population density. It will also see the automatic rezoning by the City Council of all land several blocks deep alongside Louis Botha with developments ranging between two and eight storeys, with business rights near the stations.
SEE PICS WITH EXTENDED CAPTIONS BELOW
Taxis will not be allowed to travel on the road, but will have much more profitable “last mile” passenger loads from the stations to their destinations. Originally there were only going to be three east/west crossings in this area but community complaints have led to the Council agreeing to five crossing points
The City aims to have at least four development corridors – two running north/south and two east/west. The latter ones will cross the north/south version down George Avenue, past the Chevrah Kadisha, over the N3 and all the way to Kempton Park (if Ekurhuleni buys in).
To facilitate a programme of such massive proportions, Johannesburg has to build the requisite infrastructure first – and that is what is happening now. For example, what used to be commonly known as “death bend” (the stretch of Louis Botha Avenue between Houghton Drive and Yoeville), has seen the hillside demolished and the road straightened out.
So, readers, while it may seem to be taking forever, think of it as the pilot project for the Johannesburg of 2050 and be patient. Once one has read what will be taking place, one will be surprised that it has been managed with so little disruption to the lives those who are touched so regularly by Louis Botha Avenue.
STORY CONTINUES AFTER PICTURE…
Johannesburg Jewry are severely affected by scenes such as this one near Balfour Park this week where workmen are active on both sides of the road and, in the distance, all the way to Gresswold as well. Read why, and see the pictures below to understand what is happening, why, and how it will affect you!
The reticulation of power and water to service six times as many residents, and the removal of sewage and storm-water pipes and drains, all have to be put in place.
Follow the story, join the conversation…
Over this week and next – and maybe more if required – Jewish Report will try and answer our readers’ questions. Feel free to join the conversation and let’s hear what you think in our comments section below.
Jewish Report has also have placed a link to the 145-page “Strategic Framework” document in a PDF format for readers to see, download, print or share – to understand what is happening and why.
This major undertaking is bound to be a challenge to commuters and residents for quite a number of years to come.
Some of the motivation for the redevelopment, according to the City, is to address the problems of past spatial planning practices which have left Johannesburg with “sprawling low-density areas of settlement, lacking viable public transport systems.”
The majority of working-class and poor citizens are still living on the fringes of the city, commuting daily often at considerable cost, and face long distances to access work and economic opportunities. Also, private car and taxi use is a significant driver of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
Follow this fascinating series in our print edition and on the web (which, as you can see below, has the space to carry many more illustrations to see how it will affect your own quality of life and business and housing investments in the area.
And remember, this is an interactive website. Join the conversation and have your say by posting comments below – either in your own name or anonymously.
Illustrated above is a visualisation of what the future holds showing a small bus stop on the Louis Botha Avenue “Development Corridor” – around all bus stations will be six to eight storey developments and business rezoning. They will also have facilities for mini-bus taxis to take passengers from the bus stop closer to their homes
At left is a bulk services trench near Balfour Park which has already had some infrastructure buried, filled with soil and compacted for further service to be added. This exercise is happening on both sides of the road in some places.
The bus stations will be situated at Orange Grove, Raedene (which will in time link up to the East/West corridor down Scott Street), Balfour Park, Corlett Drive, Wynberg and Marlborough. This map has a colour-coded key which illustrates the future population density plans
This pictograph illustrates the envisaged densification of population as envisaged in the council’s plan. The red focus area is that directly along Louis Botha Avenue. This has been subjected to an intensive study and is expected to grow six-fold. This will, however, obviously be driven by demand (for accommodation) and supply (by developers or landlords)
Illustrated above is a larger bus station, this one in Wynberg, which will also intersect the the Alexandra to Sandton route also currently under construction, has additional facilities and parking to support the higher traffic convergence and mini-bus taxi usage
Follow Jewish Report in the coming weeks to find out how the changes may affect your property values, what opportunities they may offer and how the lifestyle of both observant and secular Jewry may be impacted
Yochanan’s gamble: the controversial move that saved Judaism
Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai, known as the father of rabbinic Judaism, saved Judaism from complete and utter destruction during the Roman Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE. However, his methods weren’t without controversy. He was crafty, practical, and pragmatic, and history has questioned his behaviour ever since.
Limmud@Home on 22 August 2021 featured Marc Katz, the author and rabbi at Temple Ner Tamid in New Jersey, United States, who discussed Ben Zakkai’s controversial gamble that saved Judaism, and the lessons that can be learned from it.
The zealots, a group of religious fanatics in Jerusalem, wanted to fight the Romans. When the sages refused to engage in battle, the zealots burned wheat, deliberately causing starvation to make the people desperate and have no other option but to fight.
“Show me a method so that I will be able to leave the city, and it’s possible that through this, there will be some small salvation,” Ben Zakkai told Abba Sikkara, the leader of the zealots.
Heeding Sikkara’s advice, Ben Zakkai pretended to be dead. In a coffin, he could possibly travel outside the city to seek a solution with the Romans.
Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua successfully carried Ben Zakkai past the guards, who were of the faction of the zealots, by telling them that they were burying the coffin outside the city.
When Ben Zakkai reached the Roman camp, he spoke to Roman leader Vespasian. Ben Zakkai helped Vespasian cure his swollen feet. Vespasian offered something in return, and Ben Zakkai asked for certain Jewish lives to be spared and doctors to heal Rabbi Tzadok.
Why didn’t he ask the Romans to spare Jerusalem? He maintained that Vespasian might not do that much for him, and there wouldn’t be even this small amount of salvation. Therefore, he made only a modest request in the hope that he would receive at least that much.
Katz said several lessons could be learned from this story.
He drew a comparison to US President Abraham Lincoln at the time of the American Civil War in the 1860s, who freed slaves.
“One of the things he’s famous for is that he surrounded himself with people who disagreed with him in order to build the best coalition and understand that he didn’t have all the right views in a time of discord,” said Katz. “So, many of his secretaries – like his treasury secretary, his war secretary – were people who were actually his political rivals but he brought them in because it was really important for him to listen to them. It was pragmatic because he knew the social capital he was going to gain from it. It was also hopeful because he wasn’t so caught in his ways that he couldn’t hear them out or heed their warnings. That is exactly what Ben Zakkai is doing. Not only is he creating this plot of land where he is going to save Judaism, but he is the kind of guy who tends to think about politics in the way he governs.”
Another lesson is to try to seek compromises, just like Ben Zakkai did with Sikkara.
A further lesson is to have love and kindness, not regret and hatred. Katz discussed what happened when Ben Zakkai was leaving Jerusalem with Yehoshua, and they witnessed the destruction of the Temple. “Don’t be bitter, my son, for we have another form of atonement which is as great, and this is [an] act of love and kindness [gemilut hasadim],” Ben Zakkai told Yehoshua.
An additional lesson is not to be afraid of people. If they kill you, you won’t be dead for eternity as there is life after death. But the supreme king of kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He, lives and endures forever and all-time, and if he kills you, you are dead for eternity.
“Yochanan doesn’t know if he is going to heaven or hell,” said Katz. “I truly believe that’s because he doesn’t know whether he made the right call or not – he doesn’t know if the pragmatic decision he made was better than going for broke and asking for Jerusalem to be saved.”
The dispersal of the Bukharian Jews
The story of the Bukharian Jews, a community with deep roots in Central Asia, is sadly coming to an end, but the community’s legacy lives on in the United States and Israel, where most of the remaining Bukharian Jews now live.
Uzbekistan-born Bukharian Jew, Ruben Shimonov, told of this little known Jewish group which emanates mostly from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan, countries in the heart of the Asian continent.
Speaking to a virtual audience via Zoom at Limmud@Home last Sunday, 22 August, Shimonov said the different layers of culture, cuisine, music, and language in the region were an amalgamation of all the different cultures of Central Asia, and were also reflected in the small but deeply-rooted community of Bukharian Jews.
The Bukharian Jewish story begins with the Babylonian conquest of the ancient land of Israel, Judea, and subsequent exile of Jews east of the land of Israel to other regions of the Babylonian Empire, namely present-day Iraq and Iran.
The Babylonian Empire was conquered by the Achaemenid Empire in 539 BC. “Under the Achaemenid Empire, the king was a more benevolent king and he allowed Jews to return to rebuild Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash,” said Shimonov. “But many Jews stayed as they now felt safe and secure under this new reign and moved even farther east of this new large Achaemenid Empire. This, folks, was Central Asia.”
Shimonov believes that the Bukharian Jews were more integrated with the local non-Jewish communities in Central Asia than, for example, the Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern Europe.
“Even though Bukharian Jews for a large part of their history lived in quarters [maḥalla], there was constant interaction with the dominant societies amongst which they lived,” said Shimonov. “For example, the shashmaqam musical tradition is influenced by Sufi Islam, but many Bukharian Jews became the gatekeepers of this tradition.”
According to Shimonov, there are 250 000 Bukharian Jews in the world. Most of them now live in Israel or the United States, primarily in the New York City borough of Queens.
“In Uzbekistan, there are fewer than a thousand Bukharian Jews left – mainly elderly folk who are staying behind because it’s harder for them to emigrate,” said Shimonov. “Jews in Uzbekistan are highly protected; their safety is preserved. And Jews do go and visit Central Asia, including Uzbekistan, where there is one kosher restaurant and a couple of synagogues. But our story is quickly coming to an end in our place of origin.”
In the Tajikistan city of Khujand, where Bukharian Jews once enjoyed a rich communal life, the last remaining Jew, Jura Abaev, died in January this year. Zablon Simintov, a carpet trader who is the last remaining Jew in Afghanistan, is reportedly safe as the country comes under the control of the Taliban.
Shimonov, who emigrated from Uzbekistan three years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, said the main reason for the low numbers today was the struggle of the Bukharian Jews living in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan under the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
“State-sanctioned antisemitism and dispossession or marginalisation of Jews was part of that story even though there were more ups than downs. And then, the subsequent new instability of the newly formed independent republics – whenever new countries are formed after the colonial past there is more often than not a lot of political, social, and economic instability,” he said.
“As a democratic minority, we felt that even more. So, the urgency to leave was clear and present. In the decade of the late eighties to mid-nineties, we went from having the majority of our community living in this place where we had lived for centuries to the majority of our community living in a new diaspora. In Uzbekistan, the real impetus to leave was more about everything I mentioned than antisemitism coming from our Muslim neighbours.”
“Our Muslim neighbours were our friends, and we baked bread with them,” Shimonov said. “This is different to Jews coming from the Arab world, where Arab nationalism and Zionism came to a head in a way that the Jews were sadly caught in the crossfire.”
In contemporary times, Uzbekistan-born billionaire Lev Avnerovich Leviev and Israeli Dorrit Moussaieff are two of the Bukharian Jews who have made an impact. Known as the “king of diamonds”, Leviev annually sent large quantities of Passover food to Chabad emissaries in the Commonwealth of Independent States to distribute to Jews in these communities. Moussaieff, the former First Lady of Iceland, promoted Icelandic culture and artistic productions in the international arena.
Shabbat Around The World beams out from Jozi
More than 75 devices around the globe logged in to Beit Luria’s World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) Shabbat Around the World programme on Friday, 15 January.
Whether it was breakfast time in California, tea time in Europe, or time to break challah in Johannesburg, participants logged in to take part in Beit Luria’s Kabbalat Shabbat service.
Among those participating were Rabbi Sergio Bergman, the president of the WUPJ; chairperson Carole Sterling; and Rabbi Nathan Alfred, the head of international relations. Singers Tulla Eckhart and Brian Joffe performed songs from a global array of artists, along with Toto’s Africa to add a little local flair to the service. After kiddish was said and bread was broken, Rabbi Bergman thanked Beit Luria for hosting the WUPJ. The shul looks forward to more collaborations with its global friends in the future.
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