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.

Jerusalem 8 Contrasts in First Week of June

Jerusalem 8 Contrasts in First Week of June

The first week of June in this time of novel coronavirus pandemic has been a week of contrasts.

Scenes of continued isolation versus images of huge protest gatherings.

Cities appearing under siege with rioters breaking windows and burning stores.

Watching educators provide a memorable graduation ceremony for their classes of 2020.

Israel, meanwhile, began to emerge from COVID-19 isolations and lockdown.

Path in Jerusalem Valley of the Cross

Not sure if I should share secrets – but this path is in the Valley of the Cross.

New landscaping along Jerusalem bike path

The new landscaping seems to have burst out in color along the new bike path.

Milton's Way new bike paths in Jerusalem Israel

How many times did I walk this way and not notice “Milton’s Way Bike Path?”

Walking and bike path Jerusalem Israel Valley of Cross

Not the usual wheels one sees on this bike trail. It seems even individuals more at risk took time to get out and exercise in the pleasant weather.

Mask on ground in Jerusalem park path

A sign of the times – a discarded mask on the path in the Valley of the Cross.

Contrast #1 – this peaceful location was a scene of a terror attack.

Prof Menahem Stern memorial in Valley of Cross murdered by terrorist in June 1989

The path where Prof Menahem Stern was murdered by a terrorist in June of 1989.

Path in Valley of Cross Jerusalem Israel

Contrast #2 – the green growth so close to the dried weeds, with the Israel Museum overlooking the stones of an ancient dwelling.

Jerusalem Israel street construction and traffic stopped

Contrast #3 – This intersection of Herzog, Tchnernichovsky, and Haim Hazaz Streets,

Herzog Street being repaired in Jerusalem Israel

with the same intersection two days later. Each image shared tells a different story. With less traffic Jerusalem construction work has proceeded.

Jerusalem Israel pillbox with Scouts banner posted for June event

One sign of normalcy, the Scouts put a banner on the Pillbox at the corner.

Protest sign on Jerusalem Pillbox

Contrast #4 – a protest sign in the same location two days later. This group wants to keep the Jerusalem hills green with no building. Corona or not, protests have continued on a daily basis, for multiple issues.  At least the new “save the hills of Jerusalem” protest was quiet.

Jerusalemschool closed to COVID-19 being sprayed to disinfect building
Photo credit: Spokesperson Municipality

Contrast #5 – Israeli schools reopened after being closed for weeks. However, Jerusalem’s Gymnasia Rechavia closed after two teachers were diagnosed with COVID-19, and many students tested positive also. Crews went into the high school building after it was shut and disinfected everything. Today 22 more schools were reported on the list as closed.

With the spring holiday season over, the Israeli flags have been removed from over the Jerusalem streets, while new colorful signs were put up.

Jerusalem sign for coronavirus summer.

Contrast #6 – Things are to be very different this summer than in past summers. 

Fewer Israelis will be traveling overseas and fewer international tourists arriving.

The hotels by the Kinneret have started advertising for guests to come again.

But wait, Jerusalem wants Israelis to come to spend their holiday time here in the city.

Signs in Jerusalem for summer tourists to come to city instead of going overseas vacations

The new signs are for food, music, street entertainment, and more.

Jerusalem street closed for restaurant opening after coronavirus closures.
Photo credit: Aaron Katsman

One idea was to temporarily close streets to traffic so restaurants could serve patrons outside. Azza Street was one of the first of 13 locations to close.

Unity Prize at Beit Hanasi was one of many Jerusalem events held at the beginning of June.

President Reuven Rivlin hosted, the sixth Jerusalem Unity Prize award ceremony in memory of Eyal Ifrah, Gil-ad Shaer, and Naftali Fraenkel ז”ל at Beit HaNasi on Tuesday, June 2. During the ceremony, Uri Ifrah spoke on behalf of the families and former Jerusalem Mayor, now MK Nir Barkat, one of the founders of the prize, also spoke.

Photo for Jerusalem Unity Prize 2019 at Israel President's Residence

Last year on stage for the final photo, winners stood behind the Israeli dignitaries.

Unity Prize founders three families Fraenkel, Ifrach and Shaar at Beit Hanasi for Unity Awards Ceremony

Two years ago the room was filled with families and guests and entertainers,

Shuli Rand and Guri Alfi were highlighted in the program.

Beit Hanasi for Jerusalem Unity Prize awards in corona-virus masks
Photo credit: Mark Neyman (GPO)

Contrast #7 – This year was a very different scene.

Protest signs not to divide Jerusalem

As the “Trump Plan” and Sovereignty are hotly debated, these posters were posted in Jerusalem.

No one knows for sure what the future will bring.

Contrast #8 – I want to end with something positive.

Muslim and Jewish female United Hatzalah volunteer team
Photo credit: United Hatzalah

This photo from United Hatazalah, with a caption on Tweeter: “a secular Israel, a religious Arab Israeli, and an Ultra-Orthodox Israeli saving lives together on an ambulance shift today in Jerusalem,” mentioned @RealJStreets.

As of now, it has been retweeted 200 times from the original and has well over 600 likes.

Not to worry, the women all wore masks working and only removed them to smile for the camera.

A week filled with contrasts, and highs and lows.

But as always things were happening on the Jerusalem streets.

Which images and contrasts did you see shared?