Remembering Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz z”l

Remembering Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz z”l

Knowledge is the key to growth in society, not wealth or power.

How do you create a lasting and egalitarian society?

“Giving people access to knowledge,” says Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

Mourners of RAbbi Adin Even Israel

On Friday, August 7, 2020, the 17th day of Av, the funeral of Rav Adin Even-Israel z”l, more commonly known as Rabbi Steinsaltz z”l, was held in Jerusalem, Israel. He was buried in the Chabad section of the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives.

Mount of Olives funeral of Rav Adin Steisaltz on Friday August 7, 2020

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the number of mourners allowed was restricted.  Were it not for those restrictions, thousands would have come to pay respects in person in spite of the blazing sun on a Friday afternoon. These images are screenshots from a live broadcast.

During this past week of shiva, the traditional mourning week, also under coronavirus restrictions, many testimonials have been published. I, too, have also thought back to my encounters with the famed rabbi.

Australian mission at Beit Hanasi listening to Ezer Weitzman speaking -1995

Back in 1995, Ezer Weizman was in the midst of his first term as President of Israel.

Australian leadership mission at Heichel Shlomo with Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau in 1995

Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau was the Chief Rabbi, the Chief Rabbinate was still based in Heichel Shlomo.

Rabbi Bill Altshul and Isi Leibler from Melbourne, Australia with Rabbi Steinsaltz in Jerusalem after a lecture

Isi Leibler, (right) was the president of the Australian Institute for Jewish Affairs and led an ECAJ (Executive Council of Australian Jewry) leadership mission to Israel. One of the most memorable sessions of those full days was a talk by Rav Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz z”l. “Yichus,” the Rabbi told his audience, is like the potato: the best part of the plant lies in the ground.

Rabbi Adin Even Israel at Jerusalem International Book Fair in 2015

A more recent encounter was at the 2015 International Book Fair at First Station in the Hangar, which had sparse attendance. Rav Steinsaltz sat to sign books at the Koren booth, largely unnoticed by the few people in the vast hall.

Rabbi Adin Steinslatz speaking at Beit Hanasi for 929 program

In October 2016, at one of the early 929 Bible Study groups at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence, hosted by President Reuven and the late Nechama Rivlin z”l, Rabbi Steinsaltz z”l had his arm in a sling, and left eye was blackened, but he rose to speak and shared words of Jewish wisdom with the diverse crowd.

Rabbi Adin Even Israel with son Meni and grandson at dinner in his honor at Orient Hotel

However, in June 2018, at the Jerusalem Orient Isrotel Hotel, Rabbi Adin Even-Israel z”l walked into the ballroom escorted by his son Meni and his grandson.

Dinner crowd for Rabbi Adin Even Israel Steinsaltz gala 80th celebration

The room was filled with admirers at a gala dinner to honor the rabbi’s 80th birthday and the success of the Steinsaltz Center.

People greet Rabbi Adin Even Israel at gala dinner celebration

President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein offered video greetings.  A constant stream of well-wishers came to speak with the frail rabbi, men and women, young and old.

MK Zeev Elkin greeting Rabbi Adin Even Israel Steinsaltz

MK Zeev Elkin was one of the many dignitaries present at the dinner event.

Dinner for Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz at the Orient Lord Rabbi Sacks speaking

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks was the keynote speaker.

And what an eloquent, erudite, and inspiring talk it was!

Avrum Fried performing at gala for Rav Adin Even Israel 80th celecration

The musical performance by Avrum Fried was exceptional.

The popular singer sat next to Rabbi Adin Even-Israel z”l near the conclusion of the evening. People stood around. The niggun went on and on as if people did not want the marvelous evening to end.

Steinsaltz Center video screen

Rabbi Arial Holland was of the many people involved with the Steinsaltz Center to appear in the video comments. “Be it children or adults, the work and words of Rabbi Steinsaltz z”l have affected millions.”

Rabbi Adin Even Israel Steinsaltz at gala dinner at Jerusalem Orient in 2018

It was quite a night, a night to remember. Honors were paid to one man who changed the world of Jewish knowledge. His translations, at first criticized, opened up ancient Aramaic texts from the study hall to a larger readership, first in Hebrew, then in English, French, and Russian.

Six years ago for the funeral of the 3 boys, Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali z’l, Rav Adin Steinsaltz’s inspiring words are worth sharing again:

“A dark cloud has befallen our nation today. Our hearts are broken, yet united with the hearts of the boys’ families, as we mourn and we cry with them. We cannot erase the evil. But we can create good. We can transform the world through goodness by living as Jews and acting as Jews, with our Torah and mitzvot.”

We cannot erase death. But we can acknowledge the good.

The life and work of Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz z”l exemplify how one man could transform the world. His life and actions continue to enable more and more Jews to learn Torah and do mitzvot. 

May his memory be for a blessing.

 

 

Jerusalem Moving Outside – but Aquarium?

Jerusalem Moving Outside – but Aquarium?

Jerusalem, Israel has completed most of the spring exhausting holiday season.

A very different holiday season it was!

Sunday, May 3, 2020, slowly some businesses and classrooms reopened.

Jerusalem Knesset at night

Finally, lights were on inside the Knesset Building, not just holiday lights strung on the street.

View of prayer plaza of Kotel divided for COVID-19 prayers

The Kotel, Western Wall was divided into smaller prayer areas.

Gan Sacher park empty on rainy day

Gan Sacher, Sacher Park, was empty for Yom Haatzmaut, Independence Day,

instead of being crowded with families and friends gathered for the usual mangals, BBQs.

Tourism is a huge factor in life in Jerusalem and its economy.

The municipality is looking for ways to slowly get back to “normal.”

Jerusalem Botanical Gardens

Jerusalem Botanical Gardens is one large open area where people could social distance.

Jerusalem Gazelle Valley opening day

Gazelle Park is another large open green space.

Entrance to Jerusalem Biblical Zoo

The Biblical Zoo, as the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens in Jerusalem is called, is another popular open area that could be reopened.

Entrance to Jerusalem Israel Aquarium

However, the new Jerusalem Aquarium which is further down the road from the zoo might be one of the last sites to be fully open again to the public.

At the end of January 2020, I finally got to the Aquarium.

I have had it on my list to share and now seems like the right time.

Remember that cute video of penguins walking around an aquarium after it was closed?

Sorry. It was not the Jerusalem Aquarium but could have been.

Near entrance to Jerusalem Aquarium

The Jerusalem Aquarium is an accessible and temperature-controlled space.

The inside venue would have been perfect for a hot summer day visit for all ages.

Fish tank in Jerusalem Aquarium

Beautiful tanks of fish and underwater flora line the walls.

Sections are divided according to Israel’s local bodies of water.

Dead Sea section of Jerusalem Aquarium

The Dead Sea exhibit will have to be updated.

Recently they have found life in the freshwater sinkholes.

Sea Horses in Jerusalem Aquarium

I could have spent hours watching the seahorses.

Large fish tank in Jerusalem Aquarium

There was an area to take a break and rest and listen to trained guides.

Jerusalem Aquarium long horn cowfish

Have you heard of the LongHorn Cowfish before?

Elmo exhibit at Jerusalem Aquarium

Can you find Nemo? Especially for children of any age or size, there is a special tank. You can get inside to search for and be photographed with the real fish that famous animated feature  Nemo was based on.

Jerusalem Aquarium

Coral reefs provide background in one of the seas.

Large fish in tank at Jerusalem Aquarium

Large tanks of large fish,

Colorful fish in Jerusalem Aquarium

and small tanks of colorful fish are inside the Aquarium.

There’s much more to see and to do to keep all ages engaged.

Jerusalem Aquarium

It was a wet wintry-like day when I finally got to the two-year-old tourist site for the first time.

Sure hope it is not another two years until the giant seahorse outside greets visitors.

Who could imagine that an enclosed and interactive space would be a problem?

Large and small roses in a vase

At least the cold wet weather and this most unusual spring was good for the roses.

Stay well and healthy.

Hope to see you all on the Jerusalem streets one day soon.

 

Yom HaZikaron and Yom Haatzmaut 2020

Yom HaZikaron and Yom Haatzmaut 2020

Seeing the world 20-20 used to be an expression of sight.

Hindsight was considered 20-20. This year 2020 took on new meaning.

This year Yom Hazikaron, Memorial Day, and Yom Haatzmaut, Independence Day, moved from the Jerusalem streets to the clouds, to Zoom, and went online.

Until this year, in Jerusalem, Israel, tens of thousands headed to Har Herzl Military Cemetery to visit graves of fallen soldiers on Yom HaZikaron, then on Yom Haatzmaut people gathered in Gan Sacher, Sacher Park, and every other Israeli green space for a mangal,  a barbeque, a huge family and friend-filled day.

Israeli Independence Day at Gan Sacher in 2017

Crowds and traditions and the plastic boppers for Yom Haatzmaut parties had grown to huge proportions.

And then there was this year’s schedule:

Lockdown until 8:00 pm on Wednesday night.

Independence Day at Israeli President house in 2017

The Presidential reception for foreign diplomats serving in Israel

Diplomat reception at Beit Hanasi in 2017

was an impressive gathering in the Beit Hanasi back garden.

Yom Haatzmaut at Beit Hanasi 1969 Diplomat Reception

Hundreds of dignitaries filled the area for the event.

This year is Israel’s 72 Independence Day celebration.

Israeli President and Foreign Minister raise a glass in toast with foreign diplomats for Independence Day
photo credit: Mark Neyman (GPO)

Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz joined President Reuven Rivlin at Beit Hanasi before the holiday and raised a glass to the diplomats who watched from a safe distance at home on their screens.

Monday, April 27

8:00 pm – one-minute siren
8:01 pm – ceremony from the Kotel, Western Wall
9:00  pm- Songs and readings in remembering the fallen

Screen shot of Kotel cleared before Yom HaZikaron

For Yom HaZikaron, the Kotel, Western Wall is cleared as usual for the main national opening ceremony.

military guard at flame for Yom Hazikaron at Western Wall

In the past, as seen for many years, the honor guards stood in dress uniform.

Memorial Day at Western Wall 3 in uniform with masks

Again in 2020, the uniforms, but with masks, and the huge crowd was missing.

Western Wall for yom hazikaron

The memorial flame was lit and the Israeli flag lowered.

Western Wall for Memorial Day state ceremony

The ceremony filled the plaza and was televised live.

It can be found on YouTube.

Israeli President Rivlin wearing a mask at Yom Hazikaron ceremony at Western Wall

Seeing President Rivlin stand wearing a mask during Hatikvah after speaking,

Kotel for Yom Haatzmaut ceremony beginning Yom HaZikaron

and honor guard standing with social distancing – was surreal and 2020 strange.

The siren sounded as usual, but even masks could not hide all the emotions.

Crowd and stage in Sultan's Pool for night of music on Yom Hazikaron

The huge musical events in the Sultan’s Pool – not this year.

Tuesday, April 28

11:00 am – two-minute siren
11:02 am – national memorial ceremony from Har Herzl
1:00 pm – a memorial ceremony for victims of terror

5:00 pm – a full lockdown – only leave home for an emergency

7:40 pm – ceremony ending Yom Hazikaron and the beginning of Yom Ha’atzmaut, the annual torch-lighting ceremony

Grave on Israeli Memorial Day with flag and flower

Israeli Memorial Day with flags and flowers was held but no visits to graves this year on the day.

To remember fallen soldiers and victims of terror

Yizkor memorial ribbons and pins and crowds might have been fewer in number,

but the number of online live and video opportunities has never been greater.

And at sunset on Tuesday night, Yom Haatzmaut celebrations started.

Israeli Independence Day signs, celebrating Independence at home 72

New signs lined the Jerusalem streets, “We are celebrating Independence at Home 72.”

The official state ceremony is broadcast annually on Israeli television before a huge crowd.

Israeli Independence Day stage at Har Herzl

This year the colorful sets and 12 honored torch lighters were prerecorded and available on social media outlets.

Still, lots of lights, but the number of performers was greatly reduced.

Coronavirus reduced IDF march of flags at Mount Herzl for Independence Day Yom Haatzmaut 5780

The IDF flag parade had fewer participants but marched again with social distancing.

Yom Haatzmaut at Tower of David

Jerusalem’s official municipal event was held at the Tower of David, a very different event. The Mayor welcomed the audience at home. Rachaeli Fraenkel spoke and musicians sang prayers. No production numbers or dancers, simple and no pulsating lights.

Late-night music was provided by performers who rode around to various neighborhoods.

Wednesday, April 29

10:00 am – annual Jerusalem broadcast from Beit Hanasi
11:00 am – annual World Bible Quiz

3:22 pm  – IAF flyovers saluting medical workers

7:30 pm – Israel Prize Ceremony

I did not go to the President’s house today as I had wanted.

Israeli President House on Independence Day

The big Outstanding Soldiers of the Year event is to be at some future time.

Israeli President Rivlin

However, this year the President came to my house for Yom Haaztmaut.

His official presentation “All Israel from Jerusalem” ended with the Israeli Philharmonic playing Hatikvah.

However, I liked this prayer group gathered outside on the streets also ended with Hatikvah.

Yom Haatzmaut Google with Israeli flag

This was the year Yom Haatzmaut went online, from Jerusalem out to the world.

You can just google it from anywhere now.

Tanach Hidon on Yom Haatzmaut from Jerusalem Israel

Or watch the popular International Bible Quiz competition HERE.

Yom Haatzmaut flyover in Jerusalem Israel

The annual airshow did not happen, but an IAF did flyover the Knesset and Israeli hospitals to honor hospital workers.

The 2020 Israel Prize Award ceremony at the end of Yom Haatzmaut was also prerecorded and broadcast online.

After Israel Independence Day IDF band on Facebook

And at night after Yom Haatzmaut 2020, the IDF provided more music on Facebook with”Party like it’s 1948.”

Now you can join in anytime to celebrate Israel’s 72 Independence Day at home.

It’s possible from your homes around the globe this year.

Jerusalem Independence Day dinner for two

We’re celebrating and staying off the Jerusalem streets, this year 2020.

Let’s hope we can all celebrate together, next year in Jerusalem.