Old Tractor Parade

On Monday, May 30, 2011,

main streets in Jerusalem were closed to all vehicles,

except the old tractors on parade

and some special bikers.

Groups of young people gathered

in Gan Ha’atzmaut, Independence Park.

Thousands of people

 dressed in blue and white, came together,

many from kibbutzim and moshavim

throughout the country to take part in this annual

pre-Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, event.

As last year, Noam Shalit was one of the speakers

and got most of the media attention,

on Gilad Shalit’s 1800 day of captivity.

Flags and marchers accompanied tractors as they went from Agron Street

to King George Street,

where a few spectators watched from above

and below as the old pieces of farm equipment led off the parade.

Thousands of people filled King George Street

with music

and blue and white Israeli flags.

Marchers and tractors outnumbered spectators as the route turned

and filled Bezalel Street

on the way to Gan Sacher, Sacher Park,

where a huge stage was ready for a night-time concert.

Thousands came early to get a good spot on the grass.

Tens of thousands of people,

 hours of family fun,

ending with a fire works display,

and

NO violence… so it was not news

Happy. Jerusalem Day!

More photos on The Real Jerusalem Streets Facebook page.

Israel: a Racist State?

    The views at sunset from Yemin Moshe, one of the oldest neighborhoods

  built outside the walls of the Old City, can be spectacular. 

As Israeli schoolchildren gather to eat picnic dinner on the grass,

 an Arab couple sits nearby.

During the nineteen years of Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem,

much of this area was no man’s land.

From 1948 to 1967, no Israelis were allowed in the Old City.

The Hurva Synagogue in the Rova, Jewish Quarter,

 which was the largest of all the many synagogues

 destroyed by the Jordanian Legion has been restored at long last.

In the last 44 years the entire area has been revived,          

and there is freedom of movement  

to people of all religions.

Under the flag of Jerusalem,

the Muslim Quarter

and surrounding areas have grown.

Public areas,

 

city parks

 are open and free to be enjoyed by all,

 perhaps even too free.

On the eve of Yom Yerushalayim, which celebrates the reunification of Jerusalem,

 Mahmoud Abbas announces that he wants a state with Jerusalem as his capital,

 a state without an Israeli presence…

military or civilian.  A state without Jews.

 Is Israel a racist state?

A Few Facts on the Land

 

The 50th Israel Festival opened on May 23, in Kikar Zion, Zion Square,

with the Australian dance troupe Strange Fruit impressing the crowd from above.

The list of cultural programs this week is too long to list,

but the world’s attention is not on the stage with the Giselle ballet troupe or with an Indian Music Festival.

Focus is on Washington, DC, as millions of gigabytes and whole forests have been used up on opinion pieces

about the speeches and intentions of Obama and Bibi and on Israel and its borders.

No map can clearly show the Judean mountain ranges.

Here are a few facts with photos, all taken less than 30 minutes from the center of Jerusalem.

 

Fact #1

These pictures are from a road southeast of Jerusalem

and show some of the land

and the view leading to the Gush Etzion area,

where Jews lived until May 1948.

The women and children of the settlements were rescued from invading Arab gangs only by

being evacuated in the middle night and walking through the hills to safety.

 Those who remained to defend their property were brutally murdered.

After 1967, the children were finally able to return to the Gush Etzion Bloc to rebuild their homes.

 

Fact #2

On the other side of Jerusalem, minutes past the bus stop on main Highway #1 to the north

  

are a number of new neighborhoods.

These neighborhoods on the hilltops

and roads were developed after 1967.

They are home to hundreds of thousands of people.

Along Highway #1 are reminders of the loss of the life and difficult period in Jerusalem

when this sole access road was cut and recaptured in 1948.

 

Fact #3

 Abu Ghosh is a beautiful Arab Village outside of Jerusalem off  Highway #1.  

Its peaceful inhabitants have prospered.

 

Fact #4

Jerusalem was divided in 1948 after being captured by the  Jordanian Legion.

 For centuries Jews were buried on Har Hazeitim,  the Mount of Olives.

Narrow streets lead

to the ancient cemetery.

In 1948 it was desecrated and vandalized by the Jordanians, 

 gravestones were used to pave roads and line latrines.

Only after Jerusalem was reunited in June 1967  could the cemetery be used again.

 

Fact #5

Yamit was a beautiful town, an oasis near the Sinai desert.

 In 1982 it was destroyed by Israel.

The land was turned over to Egypt along with the rest of the Sinai desert in a land-for-peace deal.

Some of its inhabitants were resettled in new agricultural communities in the Gaza strip.

Those communities in the Gaza Strip were unilaterally evacuated by Israel,

the land given away in a gesture intended to promote peace.

How many people still remember Yamit?

 

Lag B’Omer 5771

The children of Israel are certainly blessed on Lag B’Omer.

How else can you explain that

 thousands and thousands of children

 crowd around open fires

late into the night;

either cooking

or just admiring their medurot, bonfires,

which fill city parks

and open spaces around the country–

without getting serious injuries?

After collecting and saving every scrap of wood since Passover,

 in one long night it all is transformed into smoke.

 Givatayim and Tel Aviv topped the list with the highest levels for bad air quality.

The next day the windows are re-opened and schools are closed.

Museums and mall productions are popular outing destinations.

Usually in Jerusalem, when you see a noisy gathering

with police presence

 and banners, it is a protest rally.

On Lag B’Omer though, this group was forming a parade,

that was followed by a police security officer,

to a city park for a carnival, one of many around Jerusalem.

As fires are being filmed all around us,

what a beautiful day, when sparks do not cause harm.

Outrageous

Princess Chulabhorn of Thailand who is visiting Jerusalem

is recovering from an injury and presently unable to climb stairs.

"picture wheel chairs" , "photo wheel chair" , "image disabilites"

The grounds of Beit HaNasi, the President’s official residence

are accessible for those with disabilities,

however it is reported that on an official visit she had a difficult time

because of the stairs inside.

"picture stairs Jerusalem","photo Yemin Moshe",image Jerusalem steps"

Many places in Jerusalem can be difficult if you cannot do steps.

"Wheel chair at Wailing Wall", "picture Wailing Wall", "photo wheel chair"

The Kotel, the Western Wall can be accessed by wheelchair

"Step Old City picture", "Photo Old City", "image steps Jerusalem"

but until a proposed elevator is built,

getting there from the Jewish Quarter requires going down many steps.

"picture Jerusalem streets", "photo car Jerusalem", "image car"

Some sidewalks are narrow,

"picture narrow sidewalk", "Photo sidewalk Jerusalem","image Jerusalem sidewalk"

very narrow.

"Palestinian woman picture", "image Arab woman", "photo Palestinian"

The new Mamilla Mall

"image Palestinian man", "photo Arab Old City", "picture East Jerusalem"

and the central square in the Rova, the Jewish Quarter, are passable,

"picture sidewalk blocked", "image garbage dumpster", "photo Jerusalem street"

but too many sidewalks

"image bus stop", "picture old bus stop Jerusalem", "photo old bus stop"

are blocked,

"image disabled in the street", "photo traffic", "picture handicapped"

or non-existent,

"picture riding in street", "photo handicapped", "image disabled in street"

forcing wheelchairs and similar vehicles into busy streets.

None of this is news in Jerusalem,

for too many restaurants, synagogues and public buildings

are not accessible to the disabled.

"picture Sacher Park", "woman on walker picture", "image handicapped"

In Gan Sacher, Sacher Park, on Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day

when thousands and thousands of people gathered

"picture restrooms", "image bathrooms"

  …there were NO additional bathrooms provided.

Those women patient enough to wait in line had to navigate steps.

Some women required assistance,

requiring men in the toilet area to help them in and out of a waiting wheelchair.

Outrageous…

there is no excuse for this situation in the center of Jerusalem!

It may be hard to avoid going in the street in some locations,

"photo wheelchair", "picture tourists in wheel chair", "

but one should not have to be royalty to have their basic needs accommodated.

  Outrageous!

Update: April 17, 2012,

"picture new bus stop","Jerusalem bus photo" , "image bus stop Jerusalem"

 New bus stops make walking easier,

 now we need better public toilets in Gan Sacher for Yom Ha’atzmaut.

Catastrophe and Tragedy

Amin al-Husseini, the exiled Muslim Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, recruited Arabs for Nazi Germany,

 and in May 1948,

he called for the Arabs residing in Israel to leave their homes and flee to neighboring Arab countries.

Thus began the ‘catastrophe’  which  today is celebrated as Nakba Day.

 

Space within the Old City of  Jerusalem is very limited.

 The Arab town of Silwan

is really just down the street from the Kotel, the Western Wall. 

The Jewish Quarter of the Old City was attacked in 1948

 by the invading Jordanian forces and destroyed. 

 Jordan did not allow Jews access to the Jewish Quarter for 19 years.  Until June 1967,

the only view available to Israelis of the walls of the Old City was from across a vast No Man’s Land.

Many Arabs still live in the Muslim Quarter in Jerusalem, but the tragedy is that after all this time,

 so many others are still in refugee camps–all second-class citizens

in all the Arab countries to which they fled.

While in Jerusalem, either by day

or at night,

no matter what their attire,

an Arab man can freely walk alone

or with his family.

Even on the recent Fridays of  the “Days of Rage” in Egypt, Libya and Syria, men of all ages

  did not encounter security or check points in the Old City on the way to prayers.

Public parks are used for playing soccer with the kids

or school outings.

Space may be limited and tight, but if Arab leaders would stop inciting hatred,

stop spending their money on weapons and invest in education,

peaceful co-existence could be achieved.

 When 900,000 Jews were expelled from Arab countries in1948, they were forced to leave their fortunes behind,

they resettled around the globe and built new lives.

Today, hundreds tried to get through the border to Israel today from Syria in the North…

 where would you rather be?

 

Yom Ha’atzmaut 5771

As the sun sets and the many solemn Yom Hazikaron observances come to an end,

the varied and diverse celebrations of Yom Ha’atzmaut, Independence Day, begin.

In some communities, the holiday begins in the synagogue with

with a special evening thanksgiving service, as this one in Rabbi Benny Lau’s Ramban synagogue.

 Beginning at nightfall, stores and businesses close.

The mangals, BBQs  and charcoal have been hard to miss this week,

because as early as sunrise people are out looking for a good spot

to start grilling.

There were so many people headed to nature trails that the list of parks

that were closed for lack of space got longer as the day went on.

But in the center of Jerusalem, as usual, it was Gan Sacher, Sacher Park,

 where thousands of families and groups gathered-

some camping out from the night before,

others arriving early to get the perfect place,

 and a few lucky ones succeeding to find both privacy and shade.

There were  blue and white flags,

lots of blue and white flags, 

new and improved plastic hammers, 

 

and tee shirts,

lots of tee shirts.

Three helicopters flew over in formation.

followed by five F-16 fighter planes,

but it was the huge El Al jets that got the most attention.

Smoke filled the sky and cars were everywhere they could find a spot, legal or not, until late at night.

A day which started with the televised International Bible Quiz competition,

ended with the televised presentation of Israel Prize Honors.

Getting through the layers of security to sit in the audience took time, patience and a special ticket.

Certainly not the ‘real streets’ in the International Conference Center

 with government leaders at the dais waiting to congratulate the 10 distinguished honorees…

but what a way to celebrate Israel at 63.

Happy Independence Day!