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
Israel Rugby 7s to camp with the Blitzbokke
The thrill-a-minute Rugby 7s have captured the hearts of fans around the world. The Blitzbokke, South Africa’s national Rugby 7s team, ranks second in the world, and is among the most exciting, formidable, and feared of 7s teams.
Exactly 9 191 km away are the Israelis, an emerging rugby nation that has talent, determination, and a world-class coach in South African Kevin Musikanth. Now, these two squads will meet. The Israeli 7s side will be travelling to the SAS Rugby Academy in Stellenbosch to train with the Blitzbokke.
The Blitzbokke will have the opportunity to prepare for the coming 7s rugby season by measuring their skills of play against the Israelis. And the Israelis, well, they will be rubbing shoulders with, and learning from the best in the world and honing their skills for their coming European Rugby season.
“It’s an opportunity for our boys to learn from the world’s best,” says Musikanth. The SAS Rugby Academy is run by the legendary Frankie Horn, a technical expert whose coaching guidelines and methods are second to none in World Rugby 7s.
Musikanth took over as Rugby 15s head coach in Israel in 2018, and in October 2019, he became director of rugby for the Israeli Rugby Union and head coach for the national programmes of both the 15s and the 7s.
Horn visited Israel last December at the behest of Rugby Israel and its supporting Olympic body and since then, the partnership has continued to grow. The upcoming training camp will begin in Israel, where Horn, together with Phil Snyman, the former Blitzbok captain and multiple world champion winner, will spend a week with the players and coaching staff at Wingate, Netanya, the home base of Rugby Israel. They will then all travel to Stellenbosch for a week’s camp with the Blitzbokke.
“We’ve already seen the difference through our partnership with Frankie. Two of our players were spotted by him on his previous trip to Israel, and have been training at SAS on the off-season,” says Musikanth. The two players are Omer Levinson (scrum half) and Yotam Shulman (lock).
Horn, technical advisor to Rugby Israel’s 7s, says “It is a great opportunity for both teams to derive positive benefit from the camp.”
Israel Rugby has been making considerable professional strides since Musikanth took over the reins. Israel 15s played their 100th test match against Cyprus and celebrated with a 34-22 victory.
“We’re in the top 25 in Europe in 15s and in the top 16 in 7s, the toughest, most competitive continent in world rugby,” says Musikanth, “and I can realistically see us setting our sights on the Top 15 and Top 12 respectively in the future.”
Currently, there are three eligible South Africans who are on the Israeli national squad: Jayson Ferera as flanker (Pirates Rugby Club), Daniel Stein as fly half (studying in Israel), and Jared Sichel as prop (Hamilton’s Rugby Club, Cape Town). Eligibility to play for a national team in rugby is stricter than in other sports. One does not qualify just because one has a passport. One has to have had a parent or grandparent that was born in that country or one has to have lived in the country for at least three years.
“With so much Jewish rugby talent around the world, we would be able to put a world-class Israeli national team together if not for the measures that restrict eligibility to national call ups,” says Musikanth.
The Israel Rugby development project was accelerated thanks to Musikanth initiating Bridges through Rugby. This project is the collective effort of a few South African Jewish businessmen who appreciate the long-term vision of Israel becoming a stronger rugby nation. They have come on board to assist with this most opportune tour. National financial support is fixed and, as such, is limited. While the strong players and national coaches will be attending the training camp in Stellenbosch, there will be some that will, unfortunately, have to stay behind.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our players and coaches. To get to see the best upfront and feed off their knowledge is going to be incredible,” says Musikanth. “Everyone is eager to go, of course, but there is a cap to the support we have in place. We would like to take a development u20 squad as well as coaching staff who would carry the benefits of this into the future. A rugby visit to Stellenbosch can change rugby lives in many respects. Stellenbosch is rugby utopia!”
Rugby aside, with the Israelis and South Africans camping together, the question of what will be for dinner after a gruelling day’s training may be a matter of contention. A tussle for whether to serve boerewors or shwarma may result in a scrum in the SAS dining hall to determine the outcome.
SA teen curates LA Holocaust exhibition
Youngsters who have seen David Labkovski’s paintings of the Holocaust say the artworks are much more raw and emotional than the black and white images we have come to know so well.
“It really hits home. You get the feeling of what these people went through,” says a student commenting on the artist’s work.
Now, Labkovski’s works have been combined with the stories of famed Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem in a new online exhibition titled “Recalling a Lost World – David Labkovski brings Sholem Aleichem stories to life”, hosted by the Holocaust Museum Los Angeles. One of the curators of the exhibition, which opened on 28 October, is 14-year-old Eva Trope in Grade 9 at Yeshiva College in Johannesburg.
In the exhibition of about 30 artworks, Labkovski’s depiction of the world of Eastern European Jews prior to, during, and after the Holocaust, is combined with the writing of Aleichem, who Labkovski thought of as his muse. Though Aleichem’s characters were created decades earlier, they are so true to life, he could have been describing the people of Vilnius – or Vilna as it was then known – in Lithuania, Labkovski’s childhood home.
For Labkovski, reading Aleichem’s stories brought him back to his childhood. He wanted to commemorate the Jewish world that was, not just how the Jewish people died, but how they lived for centuries before the Holocaust.
The exhibition has a dark side, moving from paintings with bright colours and Aleichem’s fairytale-like settings to increasing scenes of destitution. Some place their subjects in the Vilna ghetto with Jewish stars on their clothing, and the exhibition culminates with an image of the destroyed Great Synagogue of Vilna after the war.
The exhibit includes audio tours which share Labkovski’s illustrations of Aleichem’s stories with the audience along with teacher educational lesson plans combining the art and literature.
The combination is a powerful way to educate viewers, particularly youngsters. “I could stare at the works for hours,” Trope says of the exhibition. “The placing of the people, buildings, the colour of the sky … many of the Holocaust stories I found unrelatable before have come to life.”
Trope, who “loves art in all its forms”, got involved in the exhibition through a poetry competition organised by the David Labkovski Project (DLP) earlier this year. The DLP uses Labkovski’s art to improve youngsters’ understanding of the Holocaust and promote tolerance and acceptance.
The competition brought her in touch with Stephanie Wolfson, director of education at the DLP, and Trope joined the DLP’s six-months-long International Student Docent Programme with students (Grades 8 to 12 ) from around the world who learn how to educate others about Labkovski’s art. From this, she was asked to join the team curating the current exhibition.
Curating is a “big job”, she says. She worked on the layout, narratives, translations of interviews and story summaries, among other things. Trope was even required to attend meetings at 01:00 at times because her co-workers in the United States were nine hours behind her. “It was a bit stressful with school work and exams,” she admits, but it was worth it.
At 14, she was the youngest member of the team by far, “but we had sophisticated discussions, and listened to each other”, Trope says.
Michele Gold, the president of the Holocaust Museum Los Angeles, describes Trope’s involvement as “remarkable”.
“Eva is wise and professional beyond her years,” says Leora Raikin, the founder and executive director of the DLP. “She has shown dedication not only towards the creation of the virtual exhibit, but the translation of movie footage. She was also part of the official speaking panel for the launch of the international exhibit along with the Israel consul general to Los Angeles, Dr Hillel Newman.”
What’s next for this budding art historian? She aims to get involved in other exhibitions, and to help expand this project by, among other things, assisting in bringing the exhibition to South Africa.
Falling in love with the world’s hottest real estate
Falling in love with Jerusalem was the last thing Sarah Tuttle-Singer could have imagined. However, the love story that would unfold between this American-born writer and the ancient Jewish city proves that their match was ordained from the start.
A journalist and the author of Jerusalem Drawn and Quartered, Tuttle-Singer shared her story at eLimmud2 this past Sunday, 25 October. It began in the first summer she spent in Israel at the age of 16 in 1997. Raised in Venice Beach, California, today she lives in Israel with her two children and has made it her mission to come to grips with what it really means to live in the Jewish capital.
“Going to Israel was the last thing I wanted to do,” she said. “I wanted to hang out at the pool, go to the movies, and to the mall. But my parents had another idea, and I remember the afternoon my mother called me into her office.
“I walked in and saw her sitting at her old library desk, drinking her coffee, and smoking a cigarette. She said, ‘Sarah. Sit down.’ I wondered what sin of mine she’d found out about, but then she said, ‘I’ve decided it’s time for you to go to Israel, experience your roots, and meet the people who are your family.’”
Such a trip wasn’t a priority for her daughter, in spite of having grown up on stories of her mother’s travels in Israel in 1967, involving camels walking through Damascus Gate and the smell of rose water and the peals of church bells in the Jerusalem markets. But her mother remained adamant.
Her intuition proved right.
“I fell in love,” said Tuttle-Singer. “For the first time in my life, I didn’t have to explain why I kissed a mezuzah on the side of the door or explain why I didn’t eat shrimp tempura. It was the first time all the pieces of my identity came together, and it all made sense. I stood on a rooftop overlooking the Old City, and I fell in love. I felt at home.”
Tuttle-Singer swore she would return on aliyah, knowing that Israel was where she belonged and that the root of her belonging was in Jerusalem. She returned for brief subsequent visits, feeling connected to Jerusalem and its people, believing this was where she ultimately belonged. However, it didn’t occur to her that things weren’t as positive as they appeared.
“One night, I took a walk in the Old City, and ended up at the Damascus Gate,” she recalled. “I was standing there having a fantasy moment, and I suddenly felt a searing pain in my head and neck. I touched my head and my hand was sticky with blood. The pain hit, and I realised that someone had been throwing stones at me. I was terrified.
“I was standing there covered in my own blood. I ran headlong into the Muslim Quarter, and found myself surrounded by loud and scary Arabic, jarring sounds, and my senses were bouncing. I found two border police officers, they walked me out, and I sat at Jaffa Road and cried.
“I thought I’d never go back again.”
In spite of returning to America, Tuttle-Singer married an Israeli, and while they led comfortable lives in Los Angeles, they resolved to make aliyah. Plagued by fear and doubt, however, she was reluctant to leave the safety of home and return to Israel with her husband and two children. Still, she resolved to rediscover her love for Israel but chose to stay away from the Old City.
Reeling from a breakdown in her marriage and subsequent divorce, it wasn’t until colleague and journalist Avi Issacharoff convinced Tuttle-Singer to venture back into the ancient quarters that she slowly reignited the passion of her youth.
“My heart was in my throat, and I felt sick to my stomach,” she recalled. “It was my first time back in 15 years, and the last time I had been there was I hurt.” Tuttle-Singer gradually overcame her trauma, and with the help and care of local residents, rediscovered her love of Jerusalem.
“I slowly realised that I wanted to live in the Old City, to go into it as deeply as I could and be part of it,” she said. “I divided the year into four parts, just like Jerusalem is divided into four, and I wanted to be part of each community.”
Over time, Tuttle-Singer engaged with people across the Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Armenian quarters, and came to a realisation.
“This is the hottest piece of spiritual real estate in the world,” she said, “and we’re afraid to look each other in the eye in spite of being in love with the same space. I resolved to go into the city again to see beyond the borders and the fear that divides us.”
While her experience has blended uplifting spiritual moments with physically frightening ones, Tuttle-Singer said that she learned the importance of connecting with others based on a shared love of the ancient city.
“I learned that you can have a treaty between governments, but unless people live by the treaty, it’s meaningless. We won’t live by it unless we know each other, unless we take steps to begin having conversations, it will never happen.
“One conversation may not change the world, but if it leads to more conversation, you have a friendship, and that can become a basis for positive change.”
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