What’s New in Jerusalem for Hanukkah?

Hanukkah in Jerusalem is always a busy time, filled with events and family gatherings, nights with candle lighting, and plenty of oily, fried foods.

This year the week started off with glorious weather outside. The stone walls of the Old City were under a blue sky as colorful flags flew over the Cinematheque.

Inside the Isrotel Orient Hotel, on November 29, IMPROVATE launched its first Forum to introduce Israeli future technology to world finance leaders.

Champion Chess Player Garry Kasparov was one of the special guests. The former President of Bulgaria mentioned that after flight delays he arrived in Israel five minutes before the midnight closure to tourists.

Of the 300 invitees, only 3 were unable to attend the live conference which ended with a Black-Eyed Peas performance at the Jerusalem Pais Arena.

Kaf Tet–November 29th in 1947, the UN voted for the Partition Plan of Palestine, recognizing Jewish rights and leading to the establishment of Israel.

In 1977, the UN General Assembly called for the annual observance of 29 November as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

In her opening remarks Irina Nevzlin, Cofounder and Chair of IMPROVATE recognized the importance of November 29 in her life, for she was born in the former Soviet Union and was able to move to Israel – ‘to come home.”

Annually Hanukkah in Jerusalem means sufganiyot, each year new fancy flavors are produced and millions of donuts are consumed.

The large chanukiah (menorah) was back in Mamilla Mall

and at Jaffa Gate near the entrance to the Old City.

The traditional menorah stood at the Kotel, Western Wall.

The new US Ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, lit the candles on the seventh night at the Kotel and tweeted, “As the Hanukkah song goes, we come to banish the darkness,ׁ and together, we shine a bright light. Hanukkah sameach!”

This year, for the first time, a lighting ceremony took place on top of the new Western Wall Heritage Center, built at the back of the Kotel Plaza.

As night fell, politicians and other invited guests who were honored at the ceremony stood on the rooftop overlooking the Kotel.

I was there on the second night when these flames were lit.

MK Miri Regev was impressed enough to share the event with her fans and followers with her phone.

The view of the Kotel Plaza from above was impressive as always.

However, in the new building, the view below was fascinating also. For years the area was a construction site, as archeologists carefully dug down and the site was covered from view. Now those digs are exposed and are seen here in the new educational building.

But there is much more to see underground. New levels of history have been revealed under the Western Wall Tunnels.

Before going on the new Big Bridge Tour there is a video to help explain with multiple drawings.

The blue mark shows where we were standing.

And here is how the area of arches looked in the time of the Romans.

The steps down show the new/old mikvah, but it is not a colorful image.

However, with new technology, the Roman waterfalls flow for visitors.

The arched rooms and columns are impressive, but not easy to photograph.

Workers were finishing up the wooden bridge for the opening the next day.

The main underground area we visited in August 2019 has been prepared for the public to see on the new Big Bridge tour.

This new spacious area of the old Western Wall has been exposed.

Also new is the ‘Chain of Generations’ tour, which begins with stories of Abraham and Sarah, and their descendants,

and continues with the story of the Exodus from Egypt and Moshe

leading the 12 Tribes of Israel into the Land of Israel,

and includes the 70 names of Jerusalem

and the destruction of Jerusalem,

the longing to return, the devastation of the Shoah, Holocaust,

providing names of early pioneers, ending with an inspirational video,

describing the Chain of Generations.

Only sharing a few snippets so you will appreciate the experience when tourists are finally allowed to return!

For those who support the UN’s denying a Jewish connection to Jerusalem, these tours will upset your day and misguided beliefs.

And on the eighth night of Hanukkah, the new US Ambassador to Israeli lit candles at Beit Hanasi, with the Israeli President and his wife.

Hanukkah Sameach!

Jerusalem Lighting up for Hanukkah

The Jerusalem streets were starting to fill up with holiday visitors. English speakers were asking for directions again. “Back to normal” was in the air.

And then – Omicron –

the latest reported corona variant and Israel’s borders are set to close again to tourists in a few hours. Returning Israelis will have to go into isolation.

The future is out of my control, but, I can share what’s new in the present.

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The lights are on at the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens for Hanukkah. The decorated trail is not a long one, but the classical music is lovely, and this display you see over the pond is a real winner.

Thanksgiving night the new Nefesh B’Nefesh Aliyah Center was lit up for a special Thanksgiving dinner for lone soldiers and b’not sherut (volunteers). You could see the festive balloons in the window from the street.

Even the light of the night sky was impressive, but there is much more.

Here at the old Shaare Zedek Hospital on Jaffa Road is the art installation of Yehudis Barmatz-Harris. Notice the mobile on top of the photo – it is made of dryer lint. The artist takes materials others would throw away and uses them in her new media installations. Here she uses light to form the shadow of a woman by the rocking chair – a piece called Hush.

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Only one bit the of 5th Jerusalem Biennale going on this month titled “Four Cubits.” As we again ponder going back to our homes and isolations, 300 artists have created unique expressions from their time spent at home.

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The old hospital is the proposed location of Canada Israel’s future building.

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But meanwhile for the next four years, until they get all the necessary permits, the halls are to be filled with art and artists.

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With the Biennale App, you could have your favorite piece of contemporary art hang in your home, as this woman uses the code on the wall.

The Jerusalem Biennale artists were so impressive I plan to write up as many of them as possible individually to highlight their creativity.

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Here Motta Brim is showing one of his books – want to take a guess? The designs are baking papers from challah! And I throw mine out each week?

As you have heard many times, I love the night lights at the Tower of David.

Avi Lavian at Tower of David for Jerusalem Biennale

In one of the recently renovated rooms is another Biennale exhibition, this one curated by Ariel Lavian.

Necklace in Tower of David for Biennale

Turkish and Israeli designers joined during the pandemic to create a contemporary jewelry exhibition in a guardroom of the Ottoman-built citadel at the Tower of David.

After many months the lights are on in the Gan Sacher play area.

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The long slides and accessible play areas in the public park were empty before the Tuesday grand opening, but full when we walked by Thursday evening.

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This specially designed Jerusalem lion is one of my favorites.

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There were lots of entertainers, and this pair managed to impressively balance in the grass at the opening event.

The Jerusalem Mayor and Deputy Mayors and representatives of the Kraft family were present for the ribbon-cutting as children crowded around.

The Sacher Park Kraft Family Sports areas were lit up at night. Anyone for tennis? The new courts were empty and the gate was open when I went by.

The entrance to Balfour Street and the official Prime Minister’s Residence was also empty as I went by last night. Oh, how different from the past.

The lights are ready to return to Liberty Bell Park and the Train Theater.

The new campus for the Train Theater is ready to open on Hanukkah with multiple shows and new theater venues, large and small, inside and out.

The large theater has this impressive seating ready to roll out when the lights go on for entertaining hundreds of children over the holiday week.

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So there you have it. Life has become a balancing act. The goal is to keep going and stay healthy as the variants rage and change.

I will leave it to this guy on his unicycle to entertain at the traffic lights.

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Jerusalem is ready for holiday visitors with signs of Hanukkah lights – November 28 – December 6, 2021, festivals, light tours, and more,

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and for drivers, there are warnings not to drink and drive.

I thought to conclude with more colorful lights in the Botanical Gardens.

As children begin holiday week, hopefully, filled with lights and wonder,

may all be blessed with color and lights and good health.

May we see you soon on the Jerusalem streets.

Jerusalem Inside Look at Open Houses

Time to get back to the Jerusalem streets! The past few weeks RJS posts shared the Samaritan life in Har Gerizim and Circassians in Kfar Kama.

Construction in Jerusalem, Israel, seems to be everywhere. The building up and down could be every week. Construction mess and dust are a constant. Tunnels are appearing now and going underground for new highways.

Plus mountains. Literally, mountains of the earth are being moved for new roads and the new light rail train extensions.

This week it’s time for – בתים מבפנים – Houses from Within or Open Houses.

Still, an impressive sight is Jaffa Gate when the lights go on as the sun sets.

What’s happening in the Tower of David is the #1 of 126 open house locations.

Work at the new entrance outside the Tower of David Museum is ongoing, but inside, new excavations have been exposed.

The new Nefesh BeNefesh Aliyah Campus had a grand opening on November 15 with food and drink and music and speeches, including one from Israeli President Isaac Herzog and too many dignitaries to list here.

Not on the official Open House list, but here is a peek inside one of the NBN office spaces.

Here is a look inside the gift box everyone was to take home – all products of companies of Olim.

Hansen House was my very first Open House – House from Within in 2010.

On the list as #55, Hansen has changed so much over the years and is now a site with tech and cultural events, no longer abandoned and neglected.

The current ‘Equalizing Matter’ exhibition attempts to bring outside inside.

I love the way new technologies are used in the Hansen old stone spaces.

Not on the tour, but how about the interest in this outside book shop?

This house had no sign. The garden gate was open, so we shrugged shoulders and followed each other into this open door.

A woman was showing off the house to the people who had ventured in.

How many times have I passed this closed gate?

And now I was able to see it from inside, from the other side.

At the next nearby open garden gate, I heard a voice. Oops, the house was not on any tour, but a man preparing a YouTube video of his weekly Torah portion.

And then there was this Open House off of Emek Refaim Street.

This was the kind most of us are familiar with, a real estate company open house. This is as far as I went, assuming it was not within my budget, and it was Friday, and I needed time to get home before it started raining and to cook for Shabbat.

Really wanted to get to see this one, but later when I checked the written program at home, I saw it was only open on Shabbat afternoon.

I would have liked to share more now, but this would get too long.

Winter is finally here. The Train Theater is opening before Hanukkah.

Plus, those new Hanukkah street lights are up, it’s disappointing that I have yet to get a good night shot.

And the long-awaited playground in Gan Sacher, Sacher Park, is to open on Tuesday afternoon with great fanfare, the Mayor, and balloons.

Jerusalem Israel playground in Jerusalem Park

Remember what it looked like before the area was leveled and redone?

A quick look inside Beit Hanasi where four new military judges were sworn in–they include a woman and a Haredi man, both significant appointments.

Israeli military judges have their ceremony in the main hall of the President’s Residence, similar to the judges of the Supreme Court, Dayanim, and the Muslim Qadis.

Lots more happened this week, inside and outside, on the Jerusalem streets.

Next time more on the Tower of David, the old Shaare Zedek building, and other interesting new and historical happenings from the Open Houses and the 5th Jewish Contemporary Art Jerusalem Biennale.