Three Under-Reported Events in Jerusalem You Should Know

Schools are out for the long summer holidays.

The temperatures have risen to uncomfortable highs.

Things feel almost “normal” on the Jerusalem streets.

There is less traffic during the usual rush hour times, but you never know when there will be delays.

The changing season is evident in the pomegranates growing in the garden at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence front garden near Theodore Herzl.

I was at Beit Hanasi twice for events that did not make headlines.

First, the swearing-in ceremony for new Israeli Labor Court Judges, where the diversity was apparent.

Of the seventeen new judges, 13 are women, not only Jewish women.

All the families in the audience were proud to record the moments.

Many sectors of Israeli society were included in this ceremony.

There were more children than usual for official events, and not all appreciated the speeches.

With the controversy around the Supreme Court this year, Uzi Fogelman is “acting” President, not the official head of the Court. But you know I was in the perfect spot to get his photo when the government photographer popped in front.

They all posed for the official photo at the end of the ceremony as usual.

Also this week at Beit Hanasi was an event attended by many rabbis. The Chief Rabbis have finished their official 10-year terms, but new elections have not been held. So they really represent themselves.

The morning was the launch of the publication of the English translation of the works of the former Chief Rabbi Herzog. I think the current President Herzog resembles the grandfather he is named for.

As in the video shown, the photos of the older rabbinic figure were the images most familiar.

As I left Beit Hanasi, a large white truck arrived with a police motorcycle in front and behind. Hot, tired, and wanting to get home, I had to stop and see what happened when they opened the back. No arrest drama, rather, they were just unloading the barriers in preparation for another night of protests.

Most photos from Thursday night were of protests, but in Baka, a new Torah was dedicated.

Hundreds of friends and supporters followed the Goldberg-Polins to the Baka Community Center.

Waiting traditionally were others to welcome them.

But this was not a traditional joyous dedication. The Torah was dedicated to the merit of their kidnapped hostage son Hersh and the other 119 hostages as part of their Week of Goodness.

The ‘Week of Goodness’ is universal and the activities are broad enough that both Jews and non-Jews all over the world were urged to join. Certainly, in Baka, hundreds came in person to join and support. The crowd spilled out from the Baka Community Center into the surrounding Jerusalem streets.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with US President Joe Biden is to take place on Tuesday afternoon; the Prime Minister’s flight will depart tomorrow morning.

May there be respectful events on the Jerusalem streets and beyond…

In Jerusalem Preserving and Presenting the Past in New Ways

In a week when war raged all around, there were still good things happening in Jerusalem, Israel.

We can not predict the future, but in Jerusalem, the past is being preserved and presented in new ways.

Our week began on the Tayelet, with the Old City in view, for a special morning prayer service. Preserving the past through prayer and continuing our tradition with a boy putting on tefillin for the first time a month before his bar mitzvah.

At Yad Vashem, the David and Fela Shapell Family Collection Center opened.

Entering the lobby of the new building, one sees a video art wall created by video artist Ran Slavin, entitled “122,499 Files.” It is a unique installation, showcasing over 100,000 artifacts, artworks, photographs, and documents from Yad Vashem’s collections, many of which are too delicate and fragile to be displayed. The innovative work includes many items being viewed for the first time, explained Simmy Allen, head of International Media Affairs and Communications, who led the tour.

The building is five stories, with four of them underground.

Outside near the entrance, you can look down and marvel at the details that went into the planning.

The advanced laboratories handle all aspects of preservation, from registration to storage to conservation; both for the museum’s use and archival purposes, ensuring that each item is treated with the utmost care and made accessible for future generations.

From textiles and preserving a prison uniform

or a woman’s cherished childhood teddy bear.

There are not many oil paintings of museum quality, as during the Holocaust people used whatever they could find to write or draw on. This large painting from Krakov in 1929 was on a table. Looking at the signature, I was surprised to see my grandfather’s family name before he changed it in the US.

Every item is treated with dignity. Some of the horrors are too difficult to view.

Yad Vashem holds approximately 227.6 million pages of documentation, 2.8 million Pages of Testimony, 541,500 Holocaust-era photographs, 31,000 artifacts, and 14,000 works of art. 

One emerges from the depths of the archives into the daylight and the newly landscaped campus.

Also opening this week was the new contemporary art exhibit at the Kishle in the Tower of David called “Umbilicus,” by curators Dr. Adina Kamien and Malu Zayon. Kishle means prison in Turkish.

The Tower of David Jerusalem Museum has been undergoing extensive renovations to make the ancient fortress accessible.

This was the entrance to the Kishle ten years ago when the public could first see the vast space near Jaffa Gate, following the extensive archaeological excavation in 1999-2000 led by Dr. Amit Re’em. 

Work on a new entrance ramp to replace the rickety metal spiral staircase was visible in 2023.

Today it is an easier climb, but there are plans to make it more accessible in the future.

In my November 2014 visit to the Kishle, the graffiti of the Irgun prisoners was visible on the exposed wall. Built by the Ottoman Turks as a jail in the 1800s, it was used by the British in the 1940s to hold captured Jewish militia members.

Today the archeological markings of excavation are visible, but also pieces of contemporary art. The Red Dream (Window) by Lihi Turgeman is displayed on that wall.

The new steps are more stable and an easier climb, and worth the effort to see 2,800 years of history presented in a new way with contemporary art.

Also this week, the National Campus for the Archaeology of Israel opened its doors for Hebrew tours.

Located next to the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem and across from the Israel Museum, the grand opening was held in October 2016.

The carefully restored artifacts were shown briefly at the time.

There were centuries of glass pieces arranged in display cases.

Construction was well underway.

Landscaping had begun. Then its doors were closed and locked for years.

The proposed library was a mere shell on my first visit in 2016.

The Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein National Campus for Archaeology of Israel library

How good to see the dream of an extensive collection of all archeological works become a reality in 2023.

The trees have grown and the interior spaces are now in use. Now I’d like to see the deep underground lower levels where the most valuable pieces are safely preserved.

At Safra Square, very different memories are preserved and shared.

Veteran Jerusalemites are featured on large posters on each side of the government plaza this summer. This couple born in Ethiopia says “To arrive in Jerusalem was the fulfillment of a dream.” There are other posters with similar positive statements.

Also this summer, there is ice skating to keep cool at First Station, and music in the garden of the National Library of Israel.

The food trucks are back this year at the Tayelet, on Tuesday – Thursday evenings.

The decades-old International Arts and Music Festival will return to the Sultan’s Pool, where summer concerts have begun at night and the Jerusalem Film Festival will open this week.

So, with our thoughts and prayers for the safety of hostages and IDF soldiers, we can drink l’chaim.

Jerusalem, Israel, has much happening to preserve the good times along with its history.

What’s happening on the Jerusalem Streets?

What a busy week, with so much happening!

On Sunday night the Menachem Begin Heritage Center had a long list of impressive speakers.

Over 2,000 people attended the second annual Pulse of Israel Conference, “What’s Next For Israel” in person and via livestream – to learn about key issues in the future for Israel.

Actor Michael Rapaport was recognized with the Pulse of Israel Brave Leadership of Zion Award for his outspoken pro-Israel activism on social media.  “This is my fourth time in Israel since November 2023 – before that trip, I had never been here. There has been so much suffering since October 7…”

Indeed, we wonder daily what’s next.

The next night, I was back again for a special memorial tribute event to Senator Joe Lieberman z”l moderated by Paul Gross, Senior Fellow at the Center.

Representing the family, Hani Lowenstein spoke eloquently of her father,

US Ambassador Jack Lew had a long and special relationship. They were two Democratic, Shabbat observant Jews serving together in the US government over many years.

Gil Troy knows how to speak to the audience during an interview and to keep them engaged.

I was complimenting him after the event outside, and this family passed by leaving Liberty Bell Park.

The Knesset was a busy place the day I attended a special event there.

Too often getting by the security to enter is a headache when your name is not on the computer list.

But once inside the Chagall Hall was impressive as usual.

Finding the Knesset Library was simple enough to arrive on time for the announcement.

Israeli Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana announced for the first time in the history of US–Israel relations the establishment of the Knesset–House Parliamentary Friendship Group. He said it was planned for July 3rd purposely before the US Independence Day.

In progress since 2023, before October 7, Ohana was well prepared with a media presentation.

US Chair of the House–Knesset Parliamentary Friendship Group Congressman David Kustoff was in Jerusalem, Israel for the event.

Ambassador Lew also spoke. I was glad for a chance to compliment his remarks about Joe Liberman z”l before the formal program began. People like to complain. I prefer to compliment when possible.

July 4th is also Entebbe Day, the time to remember the hostage rescue and Yoni Netanyahu, its fallen leader.

The King David Hotel was ready in red, white, and blue for the Newsmax July 4th celebration.

The food was abundant, it was great to see some people again and speak with people in person and not on a screen. It was hard to leave, but I had a previous commitment.

Photos of a few friends are on Facebook

A Counterpoint reunion had been planned at the Yeshiva University Israel Campus.

As with most celebrations in Jerusalem, prayers for hostages and soldiers began the program.

Again too many friends to mention, a few photos also on Facebook. so many friends, so many years.

Back on the Jerusalem streets, SUMMER in the neighborhoods. It’s the long summer school holiday time.

The Jerusalem Street Orchestra if you missed them last week at the Montefiore Windmill, is planning a performance for July 22 in the garden of the National Library.

So what’s next for Israel?

You never know.

But slowly the sounds of music and life are returning to the Jerusalem streets.