I was in the Old City last night,
as the sun was setting, the sky still blue.
Not as many people around,
but I walked home at night alone, stopping to talk with friends.
These quiet evenings do not make headlines.
Today the sun is shining in Jerusalem, Israel.
The daffodils in the Botanical Gardens are in bloom.
But last week was very cold,
and for the first time we drove south to Eilat.
Once we left the Judean Hills,
there are long stretches of road in the desert,
lined with camel warning signs.
Not sure if these camels were real,
but this ostrich was running along a fence.
have popped up everywhere.
I always thought Eilat is far.
Well, nothing in Israel is that far!
We did stop once on the way down,
the distance is similar to that of NY to Baltimore.
In the rest stop this was a favorite sign.
Another interesting sign on the road was
this one is to warn of a road closed due to flooding.
I now understand why people run to see areas like this
when they are covered by streams of rushing water.
It is hard to imagine deep water here,
but these markers are in many locations on the road.
Then there is the huge Ramon Crater,
an impressive sight stretching for as are as you can see.
But from that crater outlook
you must go down,
twisting around and down,
on curves and sharper curves.
Once in Eilat the views
of the water from beachfront hotels
are picture postcard perfect.
Jordan is this close,
and Egypt is just on the other side.
We went to see the Israman (Israeli Ironman) race.
At dawn nearly 2000 men and women
swam in the cold water.
Then after a quick change, they jumped on their bikes,
and pedalled up the Eilat Mountains.
They left their bikes here for UPS trucks to take back to city,
and then they set off running a full or half marathon course,
back to Eilat near the starting point.
Bart Candel of the Netherlands came in first again this year.
But I think every one who finished the race
was a winner.
Imagine doing this course with one leg?
There were lots of other inspirational stories,
maybe I will share them another time.
On the way back to Jerusalem
we passed the site of the new Ramon Airport
and fields of solar panels.
The Dead Sea may be shrinking,
but it still seems big as you drive along.
These beware of sink hole signs warn of serious
sink holes along the Dead Sea.
Back to Jerusalem,
where else would one find these new bus signs?
“Listen, Israel, the Lord is our G-d, the Lord is One.”
It’s raining. It’s pouring.
It was so windy I refused to go outside.
Jerusalem, Israel, was bone chilling cold.
The eastern US coast was buried under mountains of snow.
But it was Tu B’Shevat, the New Year for Trees,
in spite of the winter weather today.
Scenes from last week,
seem much more appropriate for this holiday, than grey fog.
The flowers in pots were overflowing,
outside of Beit Hanasi, Israeli President’s House,
for all to see.
Inside, the row of former Israeli Presidents greets visitors,
and the resident cat was enjoying the sun.
This cat is there all the time,
but most people do not get to enjoy the gardens.
Therefore, in honor of Tu B’Shevat, the New Year of Trees,
I took special photos to share the landscape with you.
Trees line the left front walk way inside,
while flowers are on the right side of the entrance.
Tu B’Shevat is about the new season of fruit trees.
Olive trees grow in several places,
the orange trees were bursting with fruit,
as were the kumquats.
Special visitors plant trees, even if it is not Tu B’Shevat,
and one tree came from the White House.
Flower beds were looking good,
now that Shemitta year of no planting has ended,
but one lone rose was all I saw.
First Lady Nechama Rivlin is a proud savta, grandmother,
and for Tu B’Shevat invited school children to Beit Hanasi.
The cat checked out her short presentation,
but did not hang around to help,
as planting in her new community garden began.
Tu B’Shevat is not a time in the synagogue,
but outside planting.
Glad I was there when the sun was shining!
Now we are ready and waiting for snow,
never know what will happen next in Jerusalem.
In case you think I was exaggerating,
this is not snow,
but morning fog on road to Knesset,
ready and still waiting for snow.
Tu B’Shevat, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat,
was not a big holiday outside of Israel.
Chewing on a piece of bokser, a hard, dried out, dark brown carob pod,
was the highlight of the international Jewish experience
of this holiday known as the New Year of trees.
In much of the northern hemisphere,
the months of January to February, when Tu B’Shevat falls,
is the dead of winter and spring buds seem far away.
But in Israel on Tu B’Shevat flowers are blooming.
In 1949, the Knesset held its first session on Tu B’Shevat.
Therefore, the 67th birthday of the Knesset,
and 50th year in present location, was celebrated
along with Tu B’Shevat, though it was a few days early.
JNF had hundreds of small plants lined up on the sidewalk outside
ready for visitors to take home.
The day was overcast and sky was light grey,
the wind was great for flags.
In spite of the cold,
it was a great photo op for thousands who came all day long,
from young children to seniors.
There are regular public tours of the Knesset.
But this was not a regular day,
but a huge public birthday bash.
To hear the tour guide in the main plenary.,
was only one of dozens of things happening.
A Green Knesset display greeted visitors at the main door.
The main Chagall Hall is usually empty,
or set with rows of chairs for special events,
but for this special day
tables and chairs were set up like a cocktail party.
People could sit and enjoy the music
performed by professional musicians, and, for a special treat,
members of the Knesset showed their talents too.
MK Bezalel Smotrich played the piano,
while MK Stav Shaffir played and sang.
At the other end of the hall
was a Knesset model made out of Lego,
and thousands of Lego pieces for anyone
to make their own masterpiece.
Members of Knesset read stories to children,
produced jam in the cafeteria,
and sat for interviews with media.
I did not stop long enough to hear what Arab MK Tibi was saying.
Down the hall this group was sitting around
one of the games taking place around the building.
The sounds of music led us to
this dairy restaurant, turned into a Music Cafe for the day.
Talks and lectures were scheduled,
one was to be held in the main auditorium.
In the Knesset Synagogue,
there was a special mincha, the afternoon service.
Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Aryeh Stern
joined Knesset members, staff and guests.
After the prayer service,
Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef spoke.
Tu B’Shevat treats were enjoyed by everyone.
Lining one of the corridors were the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s
posters on the history of Jerusalem.
People of Hope was the title of one poster.
On a day when the mood and weather outside were both ominous,
these young people from communities all over Israel,
including bus loads of Arab high school students,
joined to celebrate the birthday of the Knesset.
It was truly a sight to see.
Tu B’Shevat plants for all,
the scent of herbs to enjoy.
People of Hope,
praying for so many years to return to Jerusalem.
In the past,
Tu B’Shevat for many meant giving money to plant in Israel.
This year in Israel, JNF gave me a plant.
67 years Knesset,
50 years in present location,
Tu B’Shevat celebrations have just begun,
much more next week.