September Begins with Week of Firsts in Jerusalem

September Begins with Week of Firsts in Jerusalem

What a week it was in Jerusalem!

September came in with a blast. Jerusalem, Israel, was hit with a heatwave.

The first time in over a century temperatures soared to such record-breaking September highs.

Balloons the first day of school in Jerusalem welcome to first grade

Despite the heat, on the first day of school with corona restrictions, “Shalom Kita Aleph” balloons welcomed the first-grade students, but celebrations were scaled down. Parents with multiple children need a computer to program to help keep the times straight. Some schools closed after one day, or three days, due to a person diagnosed with the virus, others are struggling along to keep up with changing rules and regulations.

The big news this week was not on the Jerusalem streets, but in the air from Jerusalem to Abu Dhabi. The Israeli and US diplomatic delegations, along with journalists, traveled on an El Al flight. El Al flew over Saudia Arabian airspace, another significant first. OU kosher meals were available for the Israeli delegation in UAE for official meetings, provided by the UAE.

El Al photo of UAE waving good bye to US and Israeli delegation
El Al Photo

From dozens of impressive images of the historic visit, this photograph of the El Al plane leaving to return to Israel was one of the most popular. As the first Israeli-US delegation departed, their hosts waved goodbye at the end of a red-carpet visit.

Thani Al Shirawi, Deputy Managing Director of Oasis Investments, a founding member of the UAE Israel Business Council, is eager for the first open business deals.  As he put it: “It’s easier to do business with our cousins.” The Israeli-UAE business community has had connections for years, but not in the open. Israelis used passports from other countries to enter the UAE.

Technology and tourism hubs to Asia and the world will be available for the first time. Collaboration in agriculture and water technologies between UAE and Israel is another big first for potential in the future.

But, back to the Jerusalem, Israel streets.

The Prime Minister of Kosovo announced he is planning to open an embassy in Jerusalem, establish diplomatic relations and deepen bilateral relations.

Finish line for Jerusalem Winner Marathon placed before race was postponed

For the first time, The Jerusalem Marathon 2020 was canceled this week.  Originally set for March, the finish line was up when the event was postponed until November. Organizers are now hoping for the March 2021 Jerusalem Marathon. Wars, bombs, and stormy weather did not stop the marathon from successfully running for the past decade. However, a tiny virus has stopped travel and curtailed this event and much more from happening.

Jerusalem not to let trucks polluting air to enter

This week Jerusalem announced new regulations for clean air, and polluting trucks will not be allowed in the city.

According to Mayor Moshe Lion: “Since taking office, I have set myself the goal of making the capital of Israel the cleanest city. We will continue to concentrate efforts and work for the improvement of the quality of life of the residents in any way. I call on all residents of Jerusalem to keep our Jerusalem clean – For our benefit! “

Cleaning streets has been an ongoing project during corona.

For the first time I saw how they filled those trucks from active fire hydrants – and oops.

Also this week Moshe Lion announced: “The disabled public bravely faces its challenges every day and we must ask at all times how the city can help and assist in terms of accessibility and belonging. I will continue to work for every person with equal disabilities.”

Jerusalem street near Israel Museum new public seating

And that day I saw these new benches were installed near the Israel Museum.

Public bench in Jerusalem Israel

Seating, social distanced and accessible from the street, is now available across from the Knesset.

Knesset floral clock outside campus

From that bench, you can sit and see the Knesset clock, and really watch the time go by in Jerusalem.

Not sure where the time went, but Rosh Hashanah, the Hebrew New Year, is less than two weeks.

Usually, for Selihot, tens of thousands crowd into the Kotel, Western Wall Plaza. This year for the first time due to COVID-19 restrictions there is a lottery for spots for Selihot at the Kotel. Only 2,500 people will be allowed to attend each night. Hurry, the deadline to submit a request in the lottery is up at midnight tonight.

However, there’s a new option in Jerusalem for Selihot this year.  Yitzhak Meir is to be at Kikar Safra to lead Selihot for a limited live outdoor audience with coronavirus regulations.  But those who cannot attend in person can view the musical service to be shown live on Facebook.

Five years ago, Yitzhak Meir sang for a much smaller crowd in the Beit Hanasi Synagogue invited by President Reuven Rivlin.

Selihot at beit hanasi 5780

I am assuming a big crowd invited to attend Selihot in the Israeli President’s gardens will not happen this year.

However, Selihot tours in the Old City are being advertised.

One of my favorite memories.

Coming back from the Kotel, I heard singing and followed the sounds to this chazan.

As we approach Rosh Hashanah, what a year this has been!

We started off not sure how to write the year 5780 in Hebrew, was it תש”פ  or  תש”ף.

At least this 5781, we know how to spell the New Year – תשפ”א.

May it be a good and healthy new year for all.

 

 

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: Summer 2020 Starting Ready or Not

Jerusalem: Summer 2020 Starting Ready or Not

Skies over Jerusalem, Israel, were not as bright this morning, with a partial eclipse of the sun. Sadly, my attempt to get a photo failed.

June clouds over Jerusalem Israel skyline

However, the clouds over the Jerusalem streets last week were amazing.

June clouds over Jerusalem Israel streets

Here’s another image of clouds with a view of the center of town.

Summer is a time for a vacation in Israel. After inbound tourism to Israel had reached a historic high of 4.55 million tourists at the end of 2019, the industry expected to break another new record of 5 million tourists in 2020. But as a result of the global tourism crisis, the tourism industry in Jerusalem has been hard hit.

Some smaller venues and the Tower of David Museum have started to open.

Israel Museum in Jerusalem closed because of coronavirus regulations

But the Israel Museum gates are shut. It stands empty at the start of summer. In the past, it would be a time filled with people of all ages from around the world.

Israel Museum no people grounds empty midday in June COVID-19

I always wanted a photo of the Israel Museum’s  ‘Turning the World Upside Down’ by Anish Kapoor without people standing around and in my way. Certainly, I never imagined it would be finally possible with the world turned upside down due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. As people around the world Zoom into funerals, conferences, and weddings, standing outside the Israel Museum all I needed was a simple zoom lens.

Construction on Israel National Library progress even during coronavirus restrictions and closings

However, across the street, the National Library construction was proceeding and visible well above ground. Interesting to compare to what the library site was like five years ago. 

The larger hotels, like the King David, Crown Plaza, and Orient are still closed.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Israel’s first international state visitor at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Jerusalem. In the framework of the G2G meeting between the governments of Israel and Greece, he met with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Greek and Israeli flags at Beit Hanasi for official state ceremony

Before COVID-19, Greek officials were received at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence with blue and white flags.

And an honor guard red carpet welcome, with national anthems, and media invited to attend and record.

But, the current smaller-scaled reception resulted in the signing by ministers of three MOUs – on cyber, agriculture, and tourism. Plus, it was announced that it will be possible for Israeli tourists to travel to Greece and possibly return from Greece and Cyprus without a quarantine requirement by August 1, 2020.

Prime Minister of Greece and President of Israel at Beit Hanasi
Photo credit: Mark Neyman (GPO)

Besides the important agreements, there was an official photo with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of Greece and President Reuven Rivlin at Beit Hanasi.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of Greece:and Israeli President at Beit Hanasi bump elbows
Photo credit: Mark Neyman (GPO)

And the new coronavirus greeting of bumping elbows and not shaking hands.

There was also to be an official visit from Cyprus, but it was postponed as the numbers of coronavirus cases has started to rise again in multiple Israeli locations.

Knesset in 2017 opening session Tzipi Hotovley

It was announced that MK Tzipi Hotovely is leaving the Knesset to replace Mark Regev as Ambassador to the United Kingdom. The usual anti-Israel sources are protesting the appointment. Remembering when Brazil would not accept Dani Dayan?   The best thing that happened to Dayan was when he went to New York as Israel’s General Counsel and has done an outstanding job.

View of Gaza from Israel where IDF monitors border

Back in November 2018, we were on a media tour near the Israeli border to see the IDF view of Gaza.

Israel Gaza border Tehilla Friedman on tour

There was Tehila Friedman in her signature red hat having a private guided tour. With the new Knesset arrangements, Tehila is one of the newest Knesset members. As Knesset members, the two female politicians are from different parties with very different political views, but both are concerned with the welfare of Israel.

New Jerusalem Israel summer tourist hamburger food trucks

The red food truck came back, with labeling for burgers, both meat and vegan burgers.

I love the name of Beyond Burgers in Hebrew – ביונד מיט-הדור הבה

In time for today’s International Yoga Day, Abraham Hostel announced rooftop Yoga.

What a contrast to two years ago and the big events for the first day of summer.

Man praying in Valley of Cross park area

Now a man praying alone in nature is more likely scene than group yoga.

Wildflower in Jerusalem Israel park area

The summer flowers around are blooming.

The sights and smells of summer abound.

Wild flower in Jerusalem Israel

Even this bead tree or Indian lilac flowers were pretty, though it’s toxic and intrusive.

The pleasant senses of nature will have to suffice.

This summer of 2020 the large annual festivals are not happening.

Protests from the cultural community, one of the daily protests near the Prime Minister’s Office and Knesset, could be heard from kilometres away.

I will leave you with one of the favorite sights and sounds from the Jerusalem Light Festival of 2018.

Here’s to hoping next year – or better – this year to see you on the Jerusalem streets.