Not a Regular Day in the Park

 Gan Sacher, Sacher Park, lies in the midst of a huge desert region,

 it is a refuge for birds from the Middle Eastern summer sun.

The large trees provide shade for people,

 groups both large

and small.

Summer days can be quiet,

maybe a water fight after a frisbee game,

 a  bike ride

 

or a nap.

As the sun goes down though,

 

it comes alive, with people and picnics

 and baseball 

and often there is even a white horse to ride.

But Thursday was not a regular day.

 There were police vehicles

and beautiful police horses in the park,

 a blimp hovering above

and a second one near by.

There were major street closings; it was not a good time to be a passenger in a taxi.

For awhile, it felt like a ghost town, a movie set, like when President George W. Bush visited Jerusalem.

 The Gay Pride Parade, with an estimated 3000 participants, came down the hill from Ramban Street

and past the park towards the Knesset.

 

Police seemed to be everywhere, in the center of town and along the parade route.

Photographers were also out in great numbers, running after that colorful shot .

More police than marchers?  Maybe.  And the Ultra-Orthodox?

 This family wanted to get to the park for dinner,

but waited patiently to be allowed to walk across the street.

 A long day with lots of red tape, but no large, violent protests and few outlandish displays.

Plenty of pink cotton candy and

  in the end, a regular day in the park after all.

Lights Back On

There are many museums in and around Jerusalem,

 including the Museum of Natural History,

the Museum for Islamic Art,

and the Tower of David.

 

There are displays from angels & demons

at the Holyland Museum 

to water at the Science Museum.

Located high on a hill is the Israel Museum.

  After months of construction noise, in November 2009, renovations were well under way

and in December 2009 the last building crane was removed.

 

May 24, 2010, the chimney was really smoking.

Work has also been done in the area surrounding the museum,

 resulting in newly paved walking and biking paths

with “street” signs,

 a sculpture, “The Struggle”

and new sidewalks.

For the official opening on Sunday night, the viewer stands were up, but there was still work to finish.

The dome of the Shrine of the Book, site of the Dead Seas Scrolls,  was visible behind the security area.

Streets were closed to the public long before the Prime Minister and President were to arrive.

The fireworks ending the program of the grand opening could be seen by all in the area.

 Inaugural events continue all week with musical performances at night.

The rock concert in the Art Garden 

could be heard not just by the new entrance and cafeteria, but in the surrounding neighborhoods as well.

The closed gift shop was well-lit

but more impressive when viewed from a distance.

The Israel Museum, popular with locals as well as tourists, has signs up seeking renewed membership.

After a very long time, the lights are back on at the Israel Museum. 

Next week a wine party, all you can drink…

Still Waiting

If you wait one nano-second after the traffic light turns green, the cars behind will honk,

but a shopkeeper will arrive two hours late to open his store.  Still waiting?

 

 The Knesset summer recess has begun,

 all pending legislation will wait.

The proposed new conversion law caused such an uproar that even visitors got into the fight.

 Now all sides have time to read the bill carefully and work towards a compromise.

Also, in the week leading up to Tisha B’Av, doctors picketed against the proposed budget

and civic groups again gathered to protest new pending Holyland building legislation.

For three days, Jonathan Pollard supporters protested that he has been held too long,

but he remains in a United States’  jail, so he and his supporters are still waiting.

  

Before Tisha B’Av, hundreds of groups

including many children on outings

 

 

 

 

 

 

passed through the streets

 

 

 

 

 of the Old City.

For Tisha B’Av,  tens of thousands of people made their way to the Kotel, the Western Wall

to quietly pray and recite Eicha, Lamentations, at night and Kinot during the day.

Restaurants and entertainment venues were closed at night for the day long fast,

and usually busy streets were quiet as many people stayed home to fast and not use any extra energy.

But there were hundreds of venues, including “Tonight we don’t learn Torah”

where Tisha B’Av was observed.

There was even a special reading of Eicha by Chief Rabbi Metzger to hundreds of people

who gathered near the Shalit family, who are still waiting for over four years to see their son.

 

It is five years since the Jewish communities in the Gaza Strip were forced to give up their land,

  many are still waiting to get into permanent homes

and we are all still waiting for peace.

 

 It took many years to finally agree on building

the magnificent Hurva Synagogue in the Old City.

So many disagreements,  so many people still waiting to come together.

As the sun set on Tisha B”Av, there were clouds on the horizon,

  at least on one issue there is agreement, in spite of the clouds and humidity,

we will still be waiting for rain for some time.

Summer Nights in Jerusalem

Spain has won the World Cup, so finally soccer fans 

are freed from their TV sets to enjoy the Jerusalem summer nights.

Playgrounds can be unbearably hot during the day,

 so at night, even little children come out to play.

Not everyone stays inside to avoid the blazing sun,

but streets are quieter than usual.

One busy spot is the tent where the Shalit family is receiving a constant stream of visitors.

 Across the street there has been a small counter protest in the evening,

but the number of yellow ribbons continues to grow.

The usual crowds of visitors are near the Jaffa Gate all day

and at night,

and at the Kotel, the Western Wall, all night long.

Tower of David

Light and Sound Show

is an extremely popular

night attraction.

Ben Yehuda Street Mall

Machane Yehuda, the shuk  and

 Mamilla Mall are popular for shopping, eating out, or just getting out at night.

The fountain in Paris Square takes on a whole new look in its night-time colors,

as did this construction site when it was lit up at night.

A sign of change, a coffee shop is to be open all night long.

A new sign promoting the municipality’s summer cultural events

seems to be everywhere.

 Free summer musical programs attract large crowds.

 However, the Jerusalem Film Festival showing

of “Blazing Saddles’ was free in the park

and did not draw a large, early crowd, eager to get good seats.

 If the movie was not shown during the Nine Days leading up to Tisha B’Av

 there certainly would have been many more people in attendance.

All is not fun after dark, there is often road work being done. 

Judging by the large number of cars with diplomatic license plates

parked near the American Consulate last night, 

 there was plenty of work to be done before today’s arrival of special envoy George Mitchell.

 Too much summer sun or night-life?  Try a mid-afternoon nap.

 

Though not a picture from this week,

 a beautiful night scene from Jerusalem, like a cool summer night’s breeze…

with thanks to M  Hurley.

 Update July 2012: the coffee shop is gone and so are those lions, 

the Olympics are the sports to follow,

amazing how so much of today is the same as two years ago.

The Gilad Shalit tent is becoming a memory.

Long Journey

July 8, 2010

Over four years have passed

since Gilad Shalit was kidnapped by Hamas near Gaza.

Today Jerusalem was ready for large crowds.

Signs were posted

around Paris Square.

Even the flowers were secure

nearby in Independence Park

where red police tape closed the road to traffic.

In Paris Square there was one reminder of Jonathan Pollard,

but today was all about Gilad Shalit.

Traffic was snarled for hours as the Shalit family and supporters marched toward Jerusalem.

Following speeches in Independence Park, Noam and Aviva Shalit walked the last few meters

toward the tent erected near the Prime Minister’s Residence where they plan to stay until their son is released.

 Gilad Shalit has not had one visit by the International Red Cross in more than four years.

Zachary Baumel has been missing since June 1982 with no reported visits by the International Red Cross.

How many people around the world even remember the name of this missing Israeli soldier?

 

 

 

Summer Days

Many of Jerusalem’s residents travel in the summer,

  the Prime Minister has gone to Washington, DC, so the sirens of his grey entourage are silent.

Visitors have arrived from around the world,

so the streets might be quieter and less crowded during rush hours,

but plenty of tour buses and rental cars

and construction sites go all day.

 New traffic signs showing new traffic patterns

 are confusing drivers, whether they are familiar and unfamiliar with the area.

One wrong turn and you can end up stuck in a cross walk waiting for a tow truck.

Protest signs about the construction freeze

and new signs for Hamas to release Gilad Shalit are meant to attract  attention.

While any day is a good time to have a picnic,

 both the Canadian July 1st  and the United States July 4th celebrations, with their picnics and fireworks

 were hardly noticed this year.  A magic show was held for kids on July 4th

in the new AACI auditorium, sponsored by the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel.

There are the traditional ways to keep cool,

as plenty of watermelons are available.

 

Inside the Machane Yehudah Market, the Shuk,  old stalls or new shops are cool even on a sunny afternoon.

Air-conditioned Malcha Mall is a popular summertime favorite.

 

Carrying your jacket and hat must make it a bit cooler too.

A free sample of a new ice cream product from the Nestle company was extremely popular.

The Jerusalem Film Festival

has over 70 films

from around the world.

Air conditioned theaters

offer a good place

to be on a hot afternoon

or evening.

Trying to keep children busy and safe during the summer days is always a priority.

Normal days and regular activities are not headline grabbing,

but they do happen, even in Jerusalem,

and then there are the summer nights …

                        

 

 

What’s Up

     

        The blue, black, and white flag of Estonia

        was up during the visit of its President

        Toomas Hendrik Ilves, but probably

        more people were aware of the flags

        of the countries playing in the World Cup

        in South Africa, as soccer

        fills the air waves and the minds

       of all sports fans.

 

 

Thursday evening outside in Kikar Safra, basketballs were going up and coming down,

                    while inside at the Jerusalem city council meeting,  it seemed that just tempers were going up.

 

  The mayor called for a recess, 

which gave Pepe Alalu time to move around and others to network.

When the meeting finally returned to Mayor Nir Barkat’s agenda, 

the loud objections of Meretz’s Pepe Alalu to the King’s Garden development project filled the room.

Development and construction seem to be everywhere in Jerusalem;

 building cranes can be seen in all directions.

                                        School is out                                            

  and children are on the streets.

Wednesday was the last day of classes and

 sadly it seems the end of Ulpan Mitchell, a favorite site for new residents to meet and learn Hebrew.

 

 

    With temperatures up

    and vegetation dry,

    the chance of fire is

    great. A major fire

    filled the skies with

    smoke and caused

    serious damage

    in the Beit Shemesh

    area near Jerusalem. 

 

         

While there is no regular air traffic over Jerusalem,

  Wednesday afternoon several helicopters were in and out of the Knesset landing pad. 

Special Envoy George Mitchell was back in town.

Surely he noticed the growing protest over the more than  four-year captivity of Gilad Shalit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yellow ribbons are popping up in many places.

What does not seem to be up is the voice of the International Red Cross,

which has not been allowed to visit him once  in over four years of captivity.

 As pressure is put on Prime Minster Binyamin Netanyahu to meet Hamas demands to release mass

murderers, where are the human rights organizations and the United Nations Human Rights Watch?

 From around the world, people came to Jerusalem for June weddings,

each ceremony was filled with hope and the promise of new beginnings.

Look up and beyond the couple under the wedding canopy,

 up to the walls of the Old City that look like they really are made of gold.

For centuries people have prayed  for the welfare of Jerusalem,

again in these depressing times the promise of the future still brings hope.