Looking To September

While Hurricane Irene soaked the eastern United States last weekend,

it will be some time before there is a threat of rain in Jerusalem.

Seems the only ‘rain’ here are the missiles, grads and rockets from Gaza,

which continue to fall in southern Israel in spite of a Hamas call for a truce.

All was quiet this morning, but last night

  loud music and the sounds of teenagers laughing ended near midnight,

possibly neighborhood complaints of noise were all that dampened

 the end of summer party for a Jerusalem Israeli scout troop.

It was quite a contrast to the terror attack the night before in Tel Aviv.

A man from Nablus carjacked a taxi at knife point, cutting the driver,

 then rammed the stolen vehicle into a police barrier that

 was erected to protect a dance club teenage end of summer party.

Eight people were stabbed as the terrorist yelled “Allah is Great”

August coincided with the Muslim Ramadan holiday this year.

The Eid Al-Fitr, end of month celebrations silence the jack hammers in Jerusalem

and the construction cranes stop flying, while in Syria more people were killed.

In the Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan

the colored lights at night were bright

as were the ones in the Old City.

Colored lights were strung at Jaffa Gate,

 Damascus Gate,

and Herod’s Gate.

Late at night, young men came to sell food and merchandise

and women sat to enjoy the cool night air.

Even young children would be out late at night during the month of celebration.

As the sun set, smoke

and more smoke from the food being cooked to break the day’s fasting

 filled Gan Ha’pa’amon, the Liberty Bell Park .

There is often a rise in violence after this month devoted to Koran study.

A molotov cocktail was thrown at an Israeli ambulance this week,

no one thought to bother this PA ambulance.

As we look to September, security is again heightened near Eilat

and security precautions are in the news.

Hype about a PA statehood vote in September at the UN  is gaining steam,

while the PA and Hamas cannot even agree on one time zone.

As for the real streets, everyone is looking anxiously to September,

  September 1 is the first day of school.

The last week of August there is no regular day care,

  every grandparent, friend and neighbor is called on to help out hassled parents.

Who is the most excited for the first day of school?

The sound of the shofar this morning announced the Hebrew month of Elul,

 Chodesh  tov…

here’s hoping and praying for a good month 

and

looking to a peaceful September!

Restoring Courage

Thousands of people from all around the world

came together on the afternoon of August 23, 2011 to support  Israel

with Glen Beck’s “Restoring Courage” mega-event.

The main event was held at the Southern Wall excavation site

near the Kotel, Western Wall in the Old City, with entry for ticket holders only.

In addition, the event and the warm-up show were broadcast on a large screen

 to a large crowd in Safra Square in Jerusalem at no charge.

The tourists seated in a reserved front section received bottles of water,

when the screen showed the audience at the Davidson Center in the hot summer sun,

the regular seating in the shade at Safra Square seemed much more comfortable.

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin began the program,

and was followed by Dudu Fisher who led in the singing of Hatikva.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat spoke next.

 The event was also broadcast live around the world to gatherings of supporters,

like this one in Charleston, South Carolina in the United States.

Glen Beck spoke passionately of his support for Israel

and the need for good to triumph over evil.

Outside Safra Square there were people waiting for the light-rail trains to arrive

or others just shooting the breeze;

but for many, this was an important, even a patriotic event.

Love him or hate him, understand him or not,

Glen Beck brought thousands of visitors to Israel

and the dire ‘end of days’ predictions did not come about.

  Jerusalem may have been quiet,

but another 20 rockets were fired overnight from Gaza

 aimed at the 1,000,000 people living in southern Israel and a baby was injured.

Israel responded by targeting a weapons factory in Gaza.

Israel needs not only courage,

 but the right to live without the constant threat of terror.

 

Feeling Festive

Over 130 missiles, rockets and grads were fired from Gaza

into southern Israel last week and major cities were hit.

People were killed, injured, shocked, and left homeless.

Meanwhile, 81 US congressmen arrived in Israel and left rather quietly.

With a Hamas request for a cease-fire came a security alert in Jerusalem.

But it is festival season in Jerusalem:  how did the real streets respond?

The last night of annual wine festival at the Israel Museum was held,

though many were not in a much of party mood after hearing

that 8 Israelis were murdered in ambushes that afternoon near Eilat.

Infected Mushrooms performed on Thursday night as scheduled.

The massive stage in Gan Sacher, Sacher Park remained in place until

 for a free concert for young people which lasted until midnight.

The Friday Arts and Crafts Market on Bezalel Street was open for business,

  while the tent protest was nearby and the light-rail had its first public runs.


The 26th Kite Festival at the Israel Museum got off to a slow start.

At noon the water over the Dome of the Book

was the only thing that could be seen in up in the air,

but later in the afternoon breeze there were dozens of kites

and hundreds of families enjoying the annual festival.

The annual Puppet Festival is over,

but the Children’s Film Festival has just begun at the Cinemateque.

The end of August also means that it is time for

The International Arts and Crafts Fair.

 The International exhibits and sales, food, music and performances

fill the area known as the Sultan’s Pool below the Old City walls

and Khutzot Hayoser, The Artists’ Colony comes to life.

It will take more than a security alert to get people to miss

 this popular end of summer event

or to keep them out of Mamilla Mall.

The 5th End of Summer Celebration has begun at the Jerusalem Theater,

with various performances taking place outside on the plaza.

If these events are not enough, 

 the Beer Festival is to be held next week in the Old Train Station.

The security alert may not be readily perceptible on the Jerusalem streets,

but it could be felt in synagogue service this past Shabbat,

with the quiet attention of worshipers during the prayer for the State of Israel

and especially for the prayer for the safety of its soldiers,

and the loud unified response by the congregation of

  “Amen.”

A Paradise Lost

Until last Thursday, Eilat seemed to have little in common with Jerusalem.

Landing in the small airport in the center of town,

was to be welcomed to a peaceful oasis in the desert.

A paradise with water and boats,

free of traffic lights and full of flowers blooming all year-long.

When Jerusalem was freezing, Eilat had a warm beach on the sea,

with clean, refreshing water.

Thousands of Israelis and foreign tourists flock to the beach,

where the sign is “Go in Peace”.

Across a small canal

one can see as planes land in Jordan.

With their huge flag, it is impossible to forget that the Jordanian city of Aqaba

and its border crossing are just minutes away.

Look to the right and Egypt is on the horizon.

In multiple terrorists’ attacks on Thursday afternoon,

8 Israelis were murdered and dozens more were injured near Eilat.

The 25th end of summer Eilat Jazz Festival goes on with new security concerns,

nevertheless, thousands of people have filled the highway driving south to attend.

How terrible the loss of innocent lives.

 A paradise lost?        

 No, the show must go on…

 

 

Mazel Tov

After almost ten years and countless delays, the Jerusalem light-rail system

opened to the public on Friday, August 19, 2011.

Since August 2008 Jaffa Street has been closed to traffic.

On Friday morning, Yehuda the shoemaker was smiling,

his greeting was not good morning, but “mazel tov!”

There were lines to get the RavKav fare cards, but all rides are free for two weeks.

 In the city center trains were often very crowded

and there were still more passengers who were ready to try to push in.

“Zeh lo New York”, this is not New York, said one woman,

but at times it felt like the New York City subway… only with air conditioning.

Special staff was busy trying to keep people off the tracks,

but accidents seem bound to happen in the open spaces.

Passing the walls of the Old City,

the train was not as crowded and you could hear the cell phone conversations.

On many of the trains children sat on the floor,

 for thousands of families the train ride was the day’s entertainment.

Cameras of all types were out to document the day.

Slowly the train went through the Shuafat and Beit Hanina neighborhoods,

some boys hopped on to ride for only one stop.

It took 45 minutes to reach the end of the line, then a long wait to come back.

The train ahead had trouble in the Pisgat Zev station,

providing  plenty of time to look over our driver’s shoulder.

Announcements had warned of possible delays,

people got on and then immediately got off, not sure how long the wait would be.

It was afternoon prayer time as the train passed the mosque on the return trip.

If you really had to be somewhere,

 the bus was the preferred way to go, as regular traffic was light.

Travel through the Machane Yehuda Market, the shuk, area seemed to take forever.

Then, the view from the bridge was impressive,

impressive enough to get some people up from their seats.

The ride over the bridge seemed very quick compared to the rest of the route.

Thousands of people came out Friday for the havaya, the experience…

like an amusement park ride.

More time was needed to complete the entire route,

but I was satisfied to get my shoes fixed and get home before Shabbat.

Mazel tov!

How many passengers will pay to use the light-rail?

Was it worth all the time and cost?

The saga of the Jerusalem light-rail continues…

Disengagement, Six Years Later

In 1976 Yitzhak Rabin’s government initiated the establishment of Gush Katif.

From 10 original families, Netzer Hazani became an Israeli town in 1977.

For 30 years, thousands of hard-working Israelis made the desert bloom.

Gush Katif grew to 23 communities…until August 15, 2005,

 when they became homeless and had to leave their fields behind:

 everything in Gush Katif was destroyed.

And today where are they?

Travel the highway from Jerusalem towards Ashkelon

and there is a new sign directing you to Netzer Hazani.

On the left side of the road is a welcome sign to Yesodot, a moshav founded in 1948.

On the right there is a gas station which is closed for the holy Sabbath.

A beautifully landscaped fountain greets visitors;

 the sign warns to look, but not to enter.

A blue security gate opens

 

  to the new

 Netzer Hazani.

Six years after being forced from their homes in Gush Katif,

one house is near completion, while many others are still being held up by red tape.

For many reasons, most home plans are much smaller than the original ones.

The main hall of the community center

is under construction.

This is its new kitchen.

Meanwhile, construction of the synagogue

has been stopped due to lack of money.

Afternoon tea hosted by Anita Tucker in her new home is quite a treat….

well… on the site of their new home.

Today these formerly productive people are still trying to re-establish,

some on the land bought from the religious Moshav Yesodot.

 Nahal Sorek, does not look like a river in summer, but if you follow the road

you will find a recycled water pond, which serves as a haven for migrating birds. 

The irrigation ditches for the new Netzer Hazani fields are in place

and the fields are being prepared for organic produce and new hot houses.

The infrastructure is ready,

with plans set for the first stage of 130 families to move in by August 2012.

This sign hangs at the entrance of the new Netzer Hazani,

it is a reproduction of one made and hung by their children in Gush Katif.

The sign proclaims a full belief in God.

After the ordeal of the last six years…that is an accomplishment.

Disengagement was supposed to bring peace…land for peace.

Instead, Israel has been bombarded by

 thousands and thousands of missiles and rockets from Gaza.

The “tent city” protest which began in Tel Aviv is entering its fourth week

with ‘”building crisis” and “social justice” as its headlines.

Bus loads of people are trying to spread the protest to the “periphery”.

How many think of the 9000 people left homeless by the disengagement?

How many of the tent protesters have even heard of Yamit?

 

For more information  see:   www.netzerhazani.org

 

After the Fasts

Not eating or drinking is called a “fast,”

but without water and morning coffee…”slow” would be more accurate for me.

 The Tisha B’Av fast started on Monday, August 8, 2011 at nightfall,

this post should have been out on Tuesday, but even after the fast…sorry–still slow.

 Mourning the destruction of Jerusalem in the reunified Jerusalem

is a unique experience.

 Tens of thousands of people gather at the Kotel, the Western Wall,

and sit on low chairs or on the stones to recite the sad verses of Eicha and Kinot.

For so many centuries,  The Book of Lamentations asks…Alas, how could it be?

Some opt to sit

 alone,

while others prefer to sit in small groups.  Many stay all night.

As the Jewish Quarter closed for the fast day,

 much of the Muslim Quarter was open

with colorful displays of food to break the Ramadan fast.

Colored lights lined the way of most

but not all the alleyways.

For the seventeenth year in a row,

  Women in Green assembled a large group in Gan Ha’atzmaut, Independence Park

 for prayers and speeches, followed by a walk around the walls of the Old City.

This year they shared the park with the “tent city” protesters

and the night with Ramadan celebrations.

 The march was to begin at 11 pm, much later than usual because of Ramadan.

 For the first time the marchers had to watch out for an empty light rail train.

  It was well after midnight when the group arrived at

Sha’ar Shechem,  the Damascus Gate.

Street vendors and Israeli flags filled the sidewalk and on to the street

 and families and more vendors kept coming.

 Security personnel watched the quiet scene.

After passing Herod’s and Lion’s Gates


the end of the route was in sight.

Dozens of idle buses lined the road ready to transport

 the hundreds of people still coming and going after 1:00am.

The Kotel entrance plaza was a busy place all night.

Near Jaffa Gate a new table was set up to sell photos of the Baba Elazar z”l.

While tens of thousands of people were out on Tisha B’Av in the Old City,

a few minutes away this normally busy intersection was deserted.

This year, Ramadan coincides with the month of August,

so devout Muslims will fast all day and at night crowds will gather to eat and shop.

Abu Sharif, a member of the PLO and former advisor to Arafat,

has called for “Friday intifadas during Ramadan”.

Walking around the Walls on Tisha B’Av concluded peacefully.

Last year thousands of Muslims prayed in Jerusalem every Friday of Ramadan.

It is possible to share the streets of Jerusalem peacefully.

 After the fast, as Israelis head to the airport and up north on vacation

…at least the streets should be a little less crowded.

 

More photos of  Walking around the Walls on The Real Jerusalem Facebook Page.