Shutdown, Lockdown

Getting around  Jerusalem is never easy, but mid-day on Monday, it was impossible on Agron Street.

Police cars blocked the road near the United States Consulate Building.

The building was locked down and employees were not allowed in or out.

Biking and walking  in nearby Gan Ha’atzmaut, Independence Park was not allowed.

There was an explosion as a suspicious package was blown up in front of the building.

Buses were stopped,

and with most of its passengers long gone, one finally turned around to escape.

Red police tape kept cars away from the scene.

Usually one blast means it was someone’s lunch or underwear,

a second explosion indicates explosives are in an abandoned bag.

Traffic lights were off, and police were directing cars.

Normally  after suspicious objects are blown up, activity begins within a few minutes.

Maybe it was WikiLeaks anxiety, but the road was closed to traffic for some time after the explosion.

Or perhaps it was a warm up for Tuesday?

An all day, large-scale drill for preparedness in the event of a missile attack is planned,

and at the sound of a 90-second warning siren at 10:00am,

all schools and municipal employees are to go to bomb shelters.

There should be more traffic snarls as fire and rescue units go through their exercises.

It is never boring on the real Jerusalem streets.

 

 

Away From it All

The headlines this week were full of scandals.

It was not easy, but we found a few places away from it all…

At the International Conference Center in Jerusalem 

there was an international stamp event.

Going to the main entrance, and then finding this sign was not a good start;

but as the information sign on the marquee changed, we finally found the correct entrance.

Inside the hall it was bright and flags were colorful.

One could wander around alone studying the old stamp collections

or join a group tour.

There was even an option to make your own stamp.

Photo booths were available for portraits, so

everyone could find at least one set of special stamps.

Stamps not your thing?

The annual Oud Music Festival is on until November 25.

Or you could have joined volunteers for a Package from Home ,

who packed bags for Israeli soldiers with winter items.

Two very productive hours away from it all…and for a great cause.

That is the Real Jerusalem Streets…..

 

Jerusalem City of Fire

It is said that Hebron is a city of earth, Safed a city of wind,

Tiberias a city of water  and Jerusalem a city of fire.

A common sight in Gan Sacher, Sacher Park is a fire for a family picnic,

 usually there is also plenty of smoke.

The weather has been hot and dry enough for fires,

but thankfully there have not been many in Jerusalem,

The Knesset might look calm, but Israeli politics offers plenty of fire.

This has been a week of protests, to name just a few:

a demonstration against the separation of men and women on public buses 

and the same morning,

thousands of people came to protest against a new building freeze.

On the plaza outside the Prime Minister’s Office electric generators

were fired up in a protest tent.

The protesters using  the slogan, Yes you can!  say “No”.

A tent set up by the Gilad Shalit family supporters attracted a large crowd 

at 1000 days after his captivity.

What  began as a simple tent, near the Prime Minister’s official residence

now receives a constant stream of visitors.

  The tent is equipped with a full kitchen and gets restaurant-size deliveries.

It has been fitted with plastic and heaters ready for the winter’s cold weather.

The newly-installed floors need washing, 

and the protest tent has taken over the entire  corner.

International visitors still demand his release on humanitarian grounds,

but the days just go by.

The fruit and vegetable growers are on strike. 

Supplies could decrease by the end of the week.

Farmers are demanding more legal foreign workers to help them work.

There could be shortages,

and you can bet that prices will go up for the holidays.

The fires have started heating the oil for sufganiot.

Chanukah is next week,

 then Jerusalem will be a city filled with fire from holiday candles.

To everyone in US:  Happy Thanksgiving!

Signs of Progress

While construction in Jerusalem is a hot topic in international headlines,

 on a local level, the construction of the light rail train system goes on and on.

The Chord Bridge near the entrance of the city, love it or hate it, has been discussed from every angle.

 

In the middle of the night, the roads leading into the city were closed, the bridge was tested with real trains.

As the mid-April completion deadline date approaches,

 

the track system of the light rail appears to be completed.

The high voltage power lines have been turned on,

and there are many

signs of progress.

Along Jaffa Street landscaping is under way

and train stations are under construction.

 

The corner of King George and Strauss Streets is less of a construction maze.

Years of changing traffic patterns

 

and construction have taken their toil on local businesses.

But with all the signs

of progress,

there were very few people actually working

 on the entire length of Jaffa Street.

 There have been lawsuits, counter law suits and delays, but one thing is certain.

The weather cannot be blamed if the system is not finished on schedule.

 Ben Gurion Airport may have closed for hours because of fog,

but in Jerusalem the weather still feels like summer.

Hot and sunny all day, still no rain by the middle of November,

great for construction work, but very bad for everything else.

 

Too Darn Hot

Tel Aviv was recently rated by the Lonely Planet tour guide

as the third “hottest” city in the world

 with “more bars than synagogues.”

Jerusalem might find it hard to compete in that category.

However,  at the end of the ALYN Wheels of Love charity bike ride,

it was so darn hot that most of the bikes

came into Jerusalem in the back of a truck 

with only some of the riders on the back of their bikes.

The entertainer dressed in the monkey costume,

certainly had to be too darn hot.

The weather is not the only thing in Jerusalem that has been hot of late.

The route of the security fence 

and the construction of a fence near the village

of  al-Walejeh, Walaja,  has been hot news.

 Everyone has heard the expression “land for peace”,

even though it was so darn hot,  the Real Jerusalem  Streets

went to see what some of the “land” really looked like.

A large group met our guide in the new train station at Malcha,

which was very quiet on Friday morning.

  Although some  t-shirts displayed political statements,

we were a diverse group,

with plenty of cameras.

After parking our cars along the road,

the climb began up in the Nachal Refaim, Refaim Creek area.

Several times we stopped for lectures on the nature of the area.

Archaeology and antiquities of the area were also stressed.

The car ride had been only a few minutes long, after a brief walk,

 Malcha and Jerusalem were in full view.

 A military jeep on patrol arrived as soon as we reached the flattened area.

 

A man from the village walked to us along the proposed fence route.

He led us to an old olive tree for shade– finally a cool spot.

We were  told among other things,

how a fence will make it hard for him to visit family graves.

These were the only signs of people living in this area,

other than a couple of boys who wandered

around while we were sitting under the olive tree.

From the road the land looks like most of the land of the West Bank,

but from above, as a train passed, it was hard not to think

of how much damage terrorists could do from such a strategic spot.

 

Finally we drove toward the village.

Al-Walaja sits on a mountain top. 

Some beautiful new homes are constructed along the fence route,

but collecting the garbage would vastly improve the site.

As it was too darn hot and too darn late,

by this time the group had dwindled to a few cars.

We did not follow this woman to hear more about the fence.

  Near al-Walaja is Har Gilo, 

where Israelis live behind barbed wire with an electronic security gate.

Near the top of the mountain there were some beautiful views.

The village wants the fence route to go along the road,

not on the top of the hill.

 This tour was intended to encourage people to demonstrate 

at the Israeli Supreme Court on Monday

in support of the villagers of al-Walaja against the fence route,

which was first approved in 2006.

On Monday morning there were big banners,

but by 9:25 am only ten people were in the protest.

Too darn hot?  

The court postponed a final decision for another 40 days.

 On Monday, as on most days in Jerusalem,

the really “hot” spot was the Kotel, the Western Wall.

There were thousands representing many religions from the around the world.

Tel Aviv may have lots of  bars, 

Jerusalem has The Wall.