Summer in Jerusalem: Building, Books, and Paisley

It’s feeling like summer on the Jerusalem streets.

The sun blazes down from a cloudless blue sky.

Walking during the day, shade can be hard to find.

Though with the new construction rising higher and higher above the Jerusalem streets that situation is changing.

Finding a parking space in Jerusalem is more of a challenge. These men had blocked off spots to save at their construction site on a busy street.

On our moving day, a big challenge was finding a spot for the truck to park to be loaded. Out early on the street, I was upset to see broken glass on the ground by the garbage dumpster probably from a discarded frame of ours.

But by 8:10 am, it was gone.

If I hadn’t been out before 8:00 am I would never have known that this man had cleaned up the area. Plus, he seemed surprised when I thanked him.

Cleaner Jerusalem streets and lots of construction will greet visitors to Jerusalem this summer.

The old ivy is long gone, as the Beit Hanasi entranceway gets renovated.

The President’s Residence visitor tours are back. The new red cord seems to be a physical reminder not to walk thru the president’s garden but stay on the path.

The WaterGen machine is a recent addition. I was able to drink 4 kinds of water – made from the air, from the old cooler, bottled water, and from the caterer’s ice-filled cooler. When it’s hot, water is good for you, right?

The garden stage area in the back of the Beit Hanasi garden was being set for ceremonies of awards to reservists soldiers this week, and the next day for three projects from the IDF, the Mossad, the Shin Bet, the Ministry of Defense, and the Israel Defense Industries. 

Reservist one is open to media, but the special Project Awards stay secret.

I went to Beit Hanasi for the swearing-in of the two new Supreme Court Judges. There were more than the usual number of photographers, but much less media coverage. I decided not to get on the floor with the guys.

So I was able to get the 5 newest judges’ reactions to President Herzog’s joke.

The ceremony itself is very brief. The new judge reads a short statement and receives his certificate from the President, the Minister of Justice, and the President of the Supreme Court.

It’s their speeches that fill the time, while their very proud families fill out the audience along with the Judicial selection committee.

President Herzog had connections with not only the newest judge but her family also from their days in New York at Ramaz School. Surprise, the other judge he did not have connections to talk about, that could have been the first time a Herzog was not connected to an honoree.

Here are the women currently serving on the Israeli Supreme Court,

and the two newest Judges of the Israeli Supreme Court are Yechiel Meir Kasher and Ruth Ronnen.

Education and opportunities for women was an RJS feature last week.

This week the popular Hebrew Book Week is back from June 15 to 25.

It is hard to even give away some Hebrew books. Especially encyclopedias, no one will take them, so they get left out for the Jerusalem street cleaners.

The love of books starts with the young. Beit Avi Chai is having special programs for children and families this week. One story session is to be in English for the children’s Hebrew Book Festival.

But much more than books can be found on the Jerusalem streets.

Paisley: A Princely Pattern is the name of the new exhibit at the Museum for Islamic Art, with a purple paisley pattern now featured on their wall.

The 11th Jerusalem Design Week will be held on June 23-30, 2022, at the nearby Hansen House with installations on the street light pole already going up.

The Jerusalem Symphony and the Jerusalem Beer Fest are advertising for July events. Summer in Jerusalem, the holidays are over, but plenty to do.

Or just stroll and take time to notice the flowers in bloom, thriving in the hot summer sun. However, there was little time for that this short week.

After ordering two closets (for those who do not know Israeli apartments usually have bare walls and you need to get something to put your clothes in) I had to stop for a second and get the sign over the exit door.

It says in Hebrew – Go in Peace! under a view of the Kotel, Western Wall.

The end of the school year events and summer weather were mainly what was happening on the Jerusalem streets this after the holidays week.

Hope you can come soon and see for yourself, summer in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Streets Busy Again

The Jerusalem streets are busy again–the traffic is unpredictable with backups and street closings. Ah, to be “normal” again.

An annual biking event was held for those up early enough to ride through the Jerusalem streets as the sun was rising on Friday morning.

This year it seems like people are trying to make up for lost ‘corona’ time by packing in events and programs and trips to Jerusalem.

With President Guillermo Lasso of the Republic of Ecuador and First Lady María de Lourdes Alcívar on their state visit to Israel, the sounds of official motorcade sirens returned to the streets.

Besides official meetings and a State dinner at Beit Hanasi, with the Israeli President and Michal Herzog, Ecuador opened an Innovation and Trade office in Jerusalem at Hebrew University, with a large delegation of ministers and business people.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kosovo Donika Gërvalla-Schwarz had a motorcade escort as she attended official events, such as going to Yad Vashem and meeting the Israeli Foreign Minister.

Though it was not on the official state list of events, she was accompanied by Israeli protocol and greeted warmly at the Kosovo Embassy in Jerusalem.

She was hosted at a reception held at the Jerusalem Embassy in Israel, where she spoke briefly to invited guests.

In her remarks, she called Charge d’affaires Ines Demiri ‘Ambassador,’ a title I believe she deserves for the work she has done this past year to promote Kosovo and joint business and travel prospects between the two countries.

Here we are in the middle of May and the week with Yom HaZikaron and Yom Haatzmaut is always a busy time, but there was more this year.

The Michael Levin Base for lone soldiers and Bnot Sherut received a Sefer Torah dedicated by the Michael Levin Foundation based in the United States. Former Ambassador Ron Dermer was the featured speaker.

I loved how the crowd builds, as people come out and follow the Torah as it is carried joyously around the Jerusalem streets.

On the same day was the Nefesh BeNefesh Bonei Awards, this year held at Beit Hanasi for the first time. Olim, immigrants, who have contributed to Israel and its growth in various categories were honored.

Not all the honorees were able to attend. Dr. Jonathan Rieck was home sick with Covid, so his two sons accepted his honor. Entertainer Josie Katz also was not able to attend.

I got stuck standing in one spot for the entire program and was not able to get different angles of the speakers or the event.

I remembered a previous time I was in that one spot unable to move because of a live broadcast, but that time I did not complain.

As President, Isaac Herzog seems to enjoy greeting attendees after the events.

No longer under a news embargo is the news of the new state-of-the-art MDA blood collection center in Ramle.

On a media tour before the dedication, we watched as they prepared the facility.

The massive facility is so impressive I did a short video with some of the clips I took as we descended deep underground to see the new storage vault and largest door in Israel and much more.

The 2022 Jerusalem International Book Forum and Mishkenot Sha’ananim Writers’ Festival is back from May 15 – 19. Opening events at the YMCA.

Every Thursday, the Israel Museum’s Illustration Library is offering stories from its collection of thousands of children’s books from all over the world. Ages 3–8 | 4:30 pm Special activity | 5 pm Story hour | Free

The Israeli Ministry of Education is hosting the inaugural Education Innovation Conference on behalf of the OECD and reps from 18 countries are expected to arrive in Israel at the end of this month.

Flags are up for Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day on May 29, 2022, and Jerusalem has prepared a long list of public events to celebrate 55 years.

But first, we have Lag B’Omer this week. With all the building and construction and park renovations, where will the kids make those huge bonfires?

After two years, much more is happening again on the Jerusalem streets!

Hope you can join us in the celebrations soon.

The Best of Jerusalem, as Israel turns 74

It was 21 years ago that I was in Israel for Yom HaZikaron and Yom Haatzmaut for the first time. We arrived after a March of the Living trip to Poland and a visit to Auschwitz on Hitler’s birthday. 

Terrorists were blowing up buses on the Jerusalem, Israel, streets in 2001. Our group was sent to Arad and Beer Sheva instead of Jerusalem, which was thought to be too dangerous during those Intifada days.

The irony – after traveling by bus through Poland, and then being afraid of walking the Jerusalem streets, its buses, and eateries!

On Yom HaZikaron, Israeli Memorial Day, we remembered 24,068 Israeli soldiers who fell in battle and the 4,216 civilians who were murdered by terrorists.

To begin the busy week, The Michael Levin Base had a Sefer Torah dedication Monday night with former Ambassador Ron Dermer the featured speaker. These Torah covers were made specially from the tallis bag Harriet Levin had made for her son fallen soldier, Michael Levin z”l.

“You can’t fulfill your dreams unless you dare to risk it all” he had stated.

Photo credit: Kobi Gideon GPO

The official opening state ceremony is held annually at the Kotel, Western Wall Plaza, with the President of Israel speaking the lighting of a memorial torch with an honor guard, it is similar each year.

However, there are also thousands of smaller community ceremonies held throughout the country and by various groups. For the past two years, Covid severely limited all the major large community commemorations. The ceremony in Arad was well done and still, a vivid memory of a community united in mourning their fallen soldiers.

This year we attended an English event at Givat Tachmoshet, Ammunition Hill, led by The Michael Levin Base and supported by Norman Blaustein, in memory of his wife Sarah z’l who was murdered over 20 years ago. A terrorist sprayed their car with bullets, on an Israeli highway on the way to Jerusalem. One-shot to the back of her head was fatal. She had made aliyah nine months before.

A total of 28,284 men, women, and children have been killed in terrorist attacks and in defense of the Land of Israel since 1860, the year that the first Jewish settlers left the secure walls of Jerusalem to build new Jewish neighborhoods.

Since the last Memorial Day, 56 new names have been added to the roster of those who died defending the country.

A memorial siren sounds at night and again in the morning. There are official events at Har Herzl most of the day with families of soldiers and in communities throughout Israel as well.

This year the Netanyahus attended the program at the school where Sara works. In many Jerusalem neighborhoods, a ceremony was held at the local memorial site with the names of fallen residents.

Memorial Day ended on Wednesday evening, ushering in Israel’s 74th Independence Day with a multitude of live events with music and dancing.

Musical prayer services public and private could be heard walking along the Jerusalem streets after sunset ending the day of mourning.

Examples of the Blue and White themed plastic boppers, balloons, and glowing headbands were available for sale at First Station.

The musical prayer service attracted a huge crowd, while next to it at First Station the annual main event from Har Herzl’s live broadcast was seen.

People coming and going, and the crowd was so large it was hard to find friends. There were too many Jerusalem large events to attend, they included fireworks, and live musical entertainment, with some lasting all night long.

Annually at Beit Hanasi, the President’s Official Residence, the military honors start the daytime events, while in many synagogues the Hallel prayer is added to the morning service.

For thousands of Israelis, a highlight of Yom Haatzmaut is watching the Tanach Chidon or International Youth Bible Quiz on television.

This was the first time I was able to attend the annual and popular event held at the Jerusalem Theater, and fortunate to be there for the exciting finish. It ended with a tie between two young Israelis. The US representative came in third – first for the Diaspora communities.

The President, Prime Minister, and Jerusalem Mayor were honored to ask a question, but, the event is under Education Minister Dr. Yifat Shasha-Biton who was escorted to the stage to speak.

The full recorded broadcast is available online if you want to check your knowledge with that of these impressive youngsters.

I want to add this audience was the most enthusiastic, yet respectful group I have seen, they and we should all be proud.

In the afternoon the annual President’s Diplomatic Reception was back again after the corona limitations of the past two years,

with the traditional photos of representatives of international armed forces,

and religious leaders based in Israel in attendance.

At the colorful event, I love the military hats on the table as in the past.

New this year was the new Israeli President and Michal Herzog hosting, and featuring a variety of Israeli boutique wineries,

and cheese adorned with miniature Blue and White flags.

Ladies dressed in traditional costumes and men in uniform also enjoyed the Israeli ice cream cones or cups offered at the afternoon reception.

I noticed, as always, the diversity of the attendees,

and the large flags near the outdoor stage,

and wished I could have indulged in more wine with the diplomats who were hosted at Beit Hanasi.

But I wanted to get to the Jerusalem International Conference Center for the Israel Prize ceremony. This was the only decent image I could get. This was one event I should have stayed home and watched live on TV. It was much different than in past years when the live crowd filled the big auditorium.

Walking there thru Gan Sacher, Sacher Park, where people were enjoying family get-togethers on Yom Haatzmaut, some of the smallest flags were the cutest and I did see long time friends, so it was worth the time.

Much more happened this past week, but I will conclude with a brief quote from Dermer’s exceptional remarks which I hope to share in full soon.

The Torah gives us purpose. Israel gives us power.

Purpose without power is a lethal combination…

But power without purpose also cannot secure the Jewish future.   The mightiest of Empires and the greatest of civilizations have crumbled when their people lost their way when they lost their sense of purpose.”

The intense week of the Yoms, Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron, and Yom Haatzmaut, with its extremes of highs and lows has concluded.

The Power of the IDF and the Purpose of the Torah were exemplified this week, and hopefully, we will continue together to build and celebrate Israel at 75 next year in Jerusalem.