Jerusalem, Israel Diverse and Democratic

Jerusalem, Israel Diverse and Democratic

Jerusalem, Israel is a busy place in the winter holiday season.

“It is no surprise that both the Jewish and Christian traditions share holidays of light – the light of faith and hope, even in the face of darkness…

As guardians of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, the State of Israel is committed to religious freedom for all,” said President Reuven Rivlin.

“Jerusalem must serve as a model for peace and harmony between religions.”

Jerusalem Israel for Hanuka at Old City Jaffa Gate near Tower of David

This past week Hanukkah was celebrated in Jerusalem, Israel.

Jerusalem lights on Agron Street for Hanukkah

Also this year Hanukkah coincided with the Christmas holiday season.

Neutral lighting lined some of the major streets.

Hebrew University had no classes on December 25th.

construction on Jerusalem Gaza Street backed up in morning

Traffic volume plus street repairs created backups even when the sun was shining.

In the rain? Forget getting anywhere in the usual amount of time!

Jerusalem Israel YMCA Christmas tree in lobby

In the past inside the YMCA was a sure bet for finding a holiday tree and decorations.

Jerusalem Christmas decorations at YMCA

This year the outside tree was decorated and additional lights placed at the entrance.

Suffganiot and Christmas tree at First Station

This year at First Station along with those Hanukkah donuts there was a Christmas tree.

Hanuka and Christmas in Jerusalem Israel

The banner sign at First Station next to the Hanukkah menorah had greetings for Hanukkah and Christmas.

Jerusalem Hotel in Old City with Christmas light

The lights at night in the Old City were bright inside of Jaffa Gate.

Santa in Jerusalem Israel for Christmas

That Santa Claus was not out at night when I looked for him, but he appeared in his annual spot near Jaffa Gate the next day.

Jerusalem Israel New Gate decorated for Christmas holiday

Inside the New Gate decorations greeted the holiday crowds to the Christian Quarter and churches.

Lights on Jerusalem Israel French Hospital at night in holiday season

Outside of the Old City walls, the lights on the St. Lous French Hospital brightened it up at night.

Jerusalem December Holiday crowds

The holiday week crowds filled the narrow streets in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City.

It’s official. A record number of holiday tourists were on the Jerusalem streets this year.

Israeli president cat in Beit Hanasi garden

At Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s residence, the Presidential cat was watching over the grounds at the annual New Year reception for the heads of the Christian denominations in Israel.

An Israeli police officer taking a group photograph for New Year reception

Inside at the reception guests posed and smiled for photos.

Christian leaders in Israel at Israeli President's Residence for annual New Year Reception

Israeli Minister of the Interior Aryeh Deri;  the acting Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem; the representative of the Armenian Patriarchate; head of the Franciscan Order in Jerusalem, the Custos of the Holy Land; and the Melkite Greek Catholic Church Archeparch of Akka (Akko) were among the participants.

Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem spoke on behalf of the religious leaders.

In his remarks President Rivlin invited the Pope to the dedication ceremony for the Land of the Monasteries project in 2020, saying:

“We are about to finish clearing all of the mines from the Land of the Monasteries at the very beginning of the coming year. Already the number of Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land is increasing each year. Just this year, close to 900,000 pilgrims visited the Land of Monasteries. We are working hard to complete the development of the entire area by the end of 2020.”

Land mines placed in old buildings for security near Jordan River Kasser-Al -Yahud

As part of this initiative, land mines laid in the 1970s for security reasons, which prevented access to the area, have been cleared.

Kasser Al Yahud area building of old

The process has been an ongoing project in the ancient area, which has been under development to a new tourist center for years.

Kasser al Yahud Israeli and Jordanian border

The area is called Qasr-Al-Yahud where the Jordan River is divided between Jordan and Israel.

Interior Minister MK Rabbi Aryeh Deri at Israeli President's house for new year reception for Christian leaders

Minister of the Interior, Aryeh Deri: “Freedom of worship and religion in Jerusalem, the Holy City, will be preserved for all and we will continue to preserve Jerusalem as the Holy City for all religions. Unfortunately, we live in an era when antisemitism raises its head around the world, most recently in the terrible incident in Monsey, New York. We must all fight antisemitism wherever it occurs, and we must all reject and condemn it in a loud and clear voice against any outbreak of antisemitism and violence.”

Israeli president shaking hands at new year reception with christian leaders

In his remarks, the President once again repeated, “We must remember that we are not doomed to live together, we are destined to live together, and we, therefore, must advance initiatives which will benefit all of us.”

“In a few weeks, I will host leaders from around the world at Yad Vashem, to commemorate seventy-five years to the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and to call on all humanity, to preserve the memory of the Holocaust, and fight antisemitism and hate.”

Antisemitism is becoming more blatant around the world.

Meanwhile, the Israeli leadership has become more “relaxed” and welcoming to religious diversity in Jerusalem with more neutral holiday lights and greetings, and enticing more Christian pilgrims to Qsar-Al-Yahud and other locations.

Some will find this very positive.

Others will find it the opposite.

The discussion of Israel, Jewish and democratic and diverse, will not cease with a new government.

But I will end with something new for me, I had to take out the video for this one.

Always something new on the Jerusalem streets.

 

Jerusalem: Signs of Progress

Progress…The Jerusalem light rail system now has power for the entire length of its track.

It’s much easier to cross the intersection of Jaffa and Strauss Streets in the center of town.

A short walk from that intersection is the Bikur Cholim Hospital,

which has provided medical care in Jerusalem for over 140 years.

The privately owned buildings are threatened with closure.

There is a serious shortage of hospital beds and neonatal units in Jerusalem, 6000 babies are born here every year; where will the mothers go?

 Bikur Cholim Hospital was critical in saving many lives when suicide bombers targeted the city center, now 30 million shekel is needed to keep the hospital running.

Signs to rally residents’ support are plastered along the street.

Doctors and staff who are faced with losing their jobs and pensions have recently organized protests.

Knesset Member Ahmed Tibi, who trained as a obstetrician, did part of his residency at Bikur Cholim, publicly supports keeping it open, as do many residents and patients.

There will be a four-hour strike,  and non-essential  personnel will be on the streets in a protest.

All around hospital buildings there is new construction.     Signs of  progress?

The old stone buildings next door have been razed and

the area between the hospital and

and  Ticho House on Rav Kook Street is being excavated for development.

Last week, if one took a short walk along Jaffa Street to the walls of the Old City,

Jaffa Gate Square was once again the place where the city is distributing free Christmas trees.

 Last year these bins were quickly emptied.

Again this year Santa was available to pose with a tree for photographers.

 

The free trees provided by the Municipality and the Jewish National Fund were given to those who showed proper identification.

Organized distribution…a sign of progress!

While we think of those in the northeastern United States dealing with too much snow.

 No snow or much-needed rain here, just sunshine and warm temperatures perfect for jogging,

walking or sitting in the park,

and for thousands of holiday visitors. As 2010, comes to an end, there are no visible signs of progress on the release of Gilad Shalit,

 each morning the numbers on the sign change as the days of captivity increase.

‘Twas the Week Before and More

As in the past the Jerusalem Municipality and the Jewish National Fund distributed free trees to those residents celebrating Christmas. The advertised times were 9:00 am to 12:00 pm at the Jaffa Gate Square, but by 10:30 am this was the scene.

There seemed to be more photographers than trees or customers…certainly more beigelach.

Santa  got his tree and  media attention, but no snow for him or anyone else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the nearby Liberty Bell Park families were out in the sunshine all day.

 

 

The YMCA, located across the street from the King David Hotel,

had a very  modestly  decorated tree and carol service.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thousands of visitors, some going to  Bethlehem, a few minutes drive away, were in Jerusalem for the holiday season.

Thousands of people came to celebrate Bar Mitzvahs at the Kotel,  boys from all over Israel and as far away as Australia and the United States.

 Most of Monday the celebrations kept coming…

But to get to these celebrations everyone had to endure progress.

Work has begun on the infrastructure and development project at Jaffa Gate Plaza. It is to include streamlining of pedestrian traffic alongside vehicular traffic, installation of street furniture,  and refurbishing of street lighting.

For the next year and a half, 24 hours a day…

drivers beware.

Everyone beware!

A quiet November afternoon                                                                                   and now

 

 

 

 

 

 

 This week also marks one year since Operation Cast Lead,

242 missiles landed in the Sderot area in 2009

down from more than 3,200 rockets and mortars in 2008.