Jerusalem Sukkot Highlights

Jerusalem Sukkot Highlights

The fall holiday season in Jerusalem, Israel, has come to a close.

Monday night,  the Jerusalem streets from First Station to the Kotel, Western Wall, to the Gur Hassidic Center, and dozens of other locations were filled with live music and tens of thousands dancing with Torahs for Hakafot Shniot.

Fall flowers in Jerusalem

Tourists prepared to go back to their homes, as Jerusalem fall flowers were in full bloom.

In the first year of Reuven Rivlin’s presidency, there was no line on the street outside of Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence, for the annual Sukkah Open House.

This year 8,000 people came. For many, it was their first time inside the usually closed gates.

The theme in the President’s public sukkah was Israeli grapes.

Sukkah at Israeli President Residence for open house 5780

Barrels of wine were in the sukkah this year, but no samples were offered. Artificial grapes hung from the top of the sukkah.  A large wheelbarrow outside the sukkah was filled with a variety of grapes that were consumed before I thought to take a photo.

Zeev and Maria Elkin at Beit Hanasi for Sukkot

MK Zeev and Maria Elkin were at Beit Hanasi early for the intermediary days of Sukkot event.

Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem at Beit Hanasi for Sukkot

Activities for children included making a Bar Kochba coin sponsored by the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem.

President Rivlin at Sukkot at Beit Hanasi

When President Rivlin made an appearance, he was surrounded by media.

Reuven Rivlin in main hall Beit Hanasi on Sukkot

Crowds were both outside and inside the main hall,

President Rivlin on Sukkot with public and man takes selfie

in the big sukkah, 

Sukkot at Beit Hanasi in Jerusalem with President Rivlin

and outside on the back lawn.

Street closings in Jerusalem for holiday os Sukkot

Crowds. Crowd control. Closed streets. All have becomes constants of Jerusalem holiday seasons.

Crowds walking near Old City walls Jerusalem Israel on Sukkot

Even late at night, tens of thousands of visitors walking to and from the Old City is a common Sukkot sight.

Jerusalem on Sukkot holiday people dressed in holiday clothing.

Families dressed in their best holiday clothing, day or night, head toward Jaffa Gate.

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation announced that 2.5 million people visited the Kotel, Western Wall during the month.

Man holding esrog as big as his head in Jerusalem at night on Sukkot

Perhaps not the best, but surely the biggest etrog I saw, was the size of the man’s head.

Sukka in Kikar Safra Jerusalem Israel

The huge sukkah in Kikar Safra, Municipal Plaza, welcomed the public.

Jerusalem Sukkot concert at Kikar Safra

Free, live musical concerts attracted crowds to Kikar Safra on several nights.

The list of free and fundraising concerts and events in Jerusalem was long and diverse.

Restaurant sukkot on Jaffa Street near light rail tracks Jerusalem Israel

Day and night the sukkot lining the light rail tracks on Jaffa Road welcomed the tired and hungry .

Mafidal sign for Jerusalem arts festival

One Jerusalem festival was set for holiday visitors.

Jerusalem cultural festival signs Manofim

The 11th Manofim Jerusalem Contemporary Art Festival opens soon,

Oud Festival signs in Jerusalem

followed in November by the Oud Festival for the 20th year.

The 4th Jerusalem Biennale which opened October 10 goes through November.

There are 14 locations, 200 artists and 500 works in this Jerusalem contemporary art event.

Jerusalem Biennale sukka at Heichel Shlomo

So I will end with another view of Rabbi Yitzchok Moully’s sukkah constructed of reflective plexiglass exterior panels at Heichal Shlomo.

So many photos from Jerusalem Biennale, it needs a post of its own. Coming soon.

So much happened over Sukkot holidays, so much more happening on Jerusalem streets.

Jerusalem Season of Holidays

Jerusalem Season of Holidays

What a glorious week in the neighborhood!

The Jerusalem, Israel, streets were lined with fall flowers bursting with color.

After a surprise early rain on Shabbat the air is clear under a blue sky.

Yemin Moshe fall flowers

The streets of Yemin Moshe are more marvelous than usual.

Yemin Moshe tourist walking down steps Jerusalem I

I hope all those tour groups appreciated the beauty as they walked.

Pomegranates and flowers near Herzl in Beit Hanasi garden

After so many times at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence, for the first time, this week I noticed the pomegranates growing next to Herzl.

Jerusalem Valley of the Cross

What a view from the new lookout point over the Valley of the Cross!

Shana tova on Jerusalem street sgn

Shana Tova! Have a Good Year! say the signs over Jerusalem streets.

Music in the Sultan’s Pool, music in Kikar Safra, and musical selihot and songs in so many locations.

Tens of thousands filled the Kotel, Western Wall, plaza and the entire area for the annual midnight selihot before Yom Kippur. 

Selihot at Beit Hanasi 2019 with 500 people

For the sixth year, President Rivlin hosted a selihot service with music. Bigger every year, this event had 500 guests in the back garden next to the synagogue.

Selihot at beit hanasi 5780

IDF soldiers, students in pre-military programs, and members of the daily morning prayer group were all invited.

Music before the selihot prayers with Shai Tsabari and Akiva Tourgeman.

Music for selihot at Beit Hanasi

The crowd clapped and often sang along.

Large screens showed those outside what was happening inside the synagogue, and the President came out also.

By the end of the service and singing, it was close to midnight

Yom Kippur this year starts the night of October 8 and goes until nightfall on October 9.

According to IDI surveys, 60.5% of Jewish Israelis plan to fast on Yom Kippur, a significant drop from 73% in 1994.

Only around a quarter of Jewish Israelis (23%) plan on attending all the synagogue services.

But the streets should be quiet with no buses, trains or vehicles, only cyclists.

Jerusalem Israel holiday signs

New signs are up for the holiday season in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem on Sukkos signs on street

Too many concerts and activities to list now.

Holiday Parade signs on Jerusalem streets for Sukkos

The Jerusalem Parade, with thousands of international marchers and hundreds of colorful costumes, will fill the Jerusalem Streets.

So much happening in Jerusalem, Israel, this season of holidays.

The Unintended Effect with Rabbi Meir Soloveichik

The Unintended Effect with Rabbi Meir Soloveichik

“Whenever you present your work to the public you open yourself up to their “stuff,” was the reply I received from a friend about a negative comment to something I posted.

You never know when you do something or publish something, especially online, what will happen, what the unintended effect might be.

Where will it end up?

Who will see your words or when they will see them is impossible to predict.

The photograph of Sheryl Sandberg with women volunteers from United Hatzalah, took days until it was noticed and shared.

The blog 15 Real Photos of Arab Girls published in 2012, received close to 30,000 views in the past three years.

Rabbi Meir Soloveichik spoke in Jerusalem at the August launch of his new book Proclaiming Liberty Throughout the Land: The Hebrew Bible in the United States, at Beit Avi Chai.

Rabbi Soloveichik mentioned several of the US Presidents. John Adams is to have said that he “longed to see the Jews of Judea as an independent nation.”

Jerusalem book launch Meir Soloveichik

Harry S. Truman had a decades-long time relationship with his friend Eddie Jacobson. From their early interactions in the US Army, to their failed haberdashery business, to Jacobson going to the White House to plead with President Truman to meet with Chaim Weizmann.   Many years passed before Jacobson’s relationship with Truman would play such an important role in the establishment of the State of Israel.

Truman was presented a Sefer Torah by Weizmann as a gift which is now displayed in Truman’s Presidential library.

President Abraham Lincoln wanted to visit the Holy Land but was assassinated before he could do so.  However, his Secretary of State William Seward did visit the Holy Land and recounted a scene that he witnessed at the Western Wall.  Seward wrote in his journal that every Friday was like Tisha B’Av with Jews standing for hours mourning for the destruction of the Temple.

Those US leaders who were familiar with the Bible were influenced by it.

Soloveichik spoke for close to an hour elaborating on his theme: the Founding Fathers’ knowledge of the Hebrew Bible was important in the establishment of the new republic.

Including baseball and historical references, he thoroughly entertained the full-house audience which consisted mostly of Anglo Olim, most were familiar with the rabbi’s family and his reputation as an excellent speaker.

Jerusalem audience for book launch for Meir Soloveichik

However, one person sitting in the next to the last row did not fit this profile.   Her name is Kay Wilson. Kay is the Jewish tour guide who was hiking with her Christian friend, Kristine Luken, who was murdered by terrorists.

The two women went for a walk in December 2010, in a forest area near Beit Shemesh when they were savagely attacked.

Kay was hacked 13 times in the vicious machete attack and left for dead. Amazingly, with her hands tied, bleeding from multiple wounds, with broken bones, barely conscious and barefoot, Kay was able to travel 1200 meters to a parking lot to get help.

The night before the book launch of Proclaiming Liberty Throughout the Land,  I found out that Kay wanted to meet the Rabbi and I offered to try to make it happen.

“Wow! That’s epic!! … I hope I get to meet him, I want to give him my book and thank him for (unknowingly) helping me through stuff” was her response.

“Why do you want to meet the rabbi,” I asked? “Because of something he wrote” she responded.

In February 2003, Rabbi Soloveichik published an essay, “The Virtue of Hate.” It was this piece, which was helpful to Kay in her recovery.

“I meet a lot of people from all creeds and color, and sometimes, albeit well meaning, they suggest I should forgive – for my sake, they like to say.

When I read Rabbi S’s article, it was like the room lit up. His essay not only validated my own rage towards those who tried to murder me, it helped me understand that hating evil is the only right response.  Rabbi Soloveichik’s essay gave me moral clarity, to understand that “he who is cruel to the kind shall be kind to the cruel.”

As soon as the talk was over Kay and I worked our way to the front of the room.

Kay Wilson meeting Meir Soloveichik at book launch in Jerusalem Israel at Beit Avi Chai

The Rabbi and Kay met, smiled, and posed for photographs.

As the rabbi autographed his new book for fans, Kay’s new book The Rage Less Traveled: A Memoir of Surviving a Machete Attack was on the table waiting for him to take home.

Kay’s message of accepting the past, choosing to see light and find good, performing random acts of kindness, and surviving, is inspiring.

In this month of Elul, the season leading up to Rosh Hashana, the New Year, I am sharing Kay Wilson’s powerful presentation at AIPAC

A drop of the terrorist’s blood on her penknife led to their capture.

PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh recently wrote: “The leadership, headed by President Abbas, and the government, are committed to paying the full allowances of martyrs’ & prisoners’ families and reject receiving incomplete, deducted tax funds by Israel.”

Those who attacked Kay and murdered Kristine are paid over $3000 per month, an “execution stipend” Kay calls it. Raising awareness for the “Pay for Slay” policy of the Palestinian Authority has become British-born Kay’s social media cause.

The amount paid to terrorists, convicted murders serving life sentences in prison, the “Pay for Slay” salaries have been increased. European and British governments and media are silent on this travesty.

The beginning of a new year is a time to recall the past and prepare for a better future.

Some memories might be difficult, however, hopefully, their reflection will be used for good.

Where work and words will end up is hard to predict, and their unintended effect is beyond our imagination.

Shana tova  שנה טובה