Two Trips from Jerusalem On Hot Summer Days

It’s hot.

I know the Middle East is supposed to be hot in the summer.

It’s perfect weather for hanging the washing out to dry on the line, and my cactus plants are thriving. But with these very hot days during a heat wave in Jerusalem, Israel, my preferred routine of walking about during the day has come to a standstill.

I try to venture out at night after it cools off – a bit.

Therefore, a little detour, and instead I want to share two short trips out of Jerusalem.

The changes to the entrance of Jerusalem are impressive. Especially to anyone who remembers those old red rusting vehicles that once lined the hills along Route One into Jerusalem.

On that old winding narrow road stuck behind a slow truck chugging its way up – now that was a lesson in patience.

Even these old relics have been given a fresh coat of paint and moved to make way for more lanes of the new highways into and out of Jerusalem.

We were on a bus to a media tour of the Urban Warfare Training Center, located inside the Tze’elim Training Base in southern Israel. It is built to look like a typical Arab village with its minarets. The base has a new terror tunnel and more.

This is the IDF Code of Ethics we heard about.

The training center was built to train in a Middle Eastern “village” for the challenges of urban warfare, against an enemy hiding within civilian populations.

This was drawn by Bat Sheva, an IDF soldier whose job was to draw graffiti.

In one building there is a replica of a family home, down to photos,

kitchen clutter, Arabic newspapers on the table,

and toothpaste on the bathroom sink.

Simulators are used to practice scenarios the soldier might encounter.

It is used to train not only the IDF but US and UN forces have also practiced and trained on the sand and streets here.

As we were preparing to leave an old white bus pulled into the main square, which was also used as a set for the popular TV series “Fauda.”

However, this was not preparation for a TV production, but a group of reserve soldiers arriving to train on a hot day as the sun was setting.

We were not allowed to record and share the names or faces of the soldiers.

But the reservists who reported for duty were from all of Am Yisrael and requested anonymity as they reported again to serve as in the past.

The one soldier we were allowed to photograph was Brig. Gen. (res.) Bentzi Gruber. He gave the Code of Ethics presentation which concluded with a family photograph taken in Europe. Soon after it was taken, most of the family was murdered in the Holocaust, only his mother and her sister survived as “Mengele Twins.” For him, to serve in the IDF and fight in five wars was a privilege.

More RJS photos were posted on Facebook of that trip south.

On another day, the trip was thru the new tunnel from Jerusalem to Gush Etzion and Alon Shvut to the Yeshivat Har Etzion campus and Herzog College.

Road work is far from completed and traffic still backs up. But anyone who remembers the old route through the refugee camp in Bet Lechem can only marvel at what has developed where there were only rocks and wild brush.

The entrance to the Yeshiva building is well-landscaped and the pond is enclosed now.

The Yemei Iyun, Bible study program, is in its 32nd year and for the past fifteen years has included classes given in English as well.

Rabbi Dr. Yehuda Brandes is the President of Herzog College, a leading teachers’ education school.

Around 4000 people attended in person this year, and deciding which sessions to attend is an annual challenge.

“How can we make Bible study exciting for kids in Jewish schools, and show them that it is still relevant to their daily lives?” was the topic covered at the Jewish Educators’ Day for English-speaking teachers.

 “Head vs. Heart: Understanding the Needs of Our Students” by Mrs. Simi Peters, Rav Shmuel Feld, and Rav Yehuda Chanales, was moderated by Rav Reuven Spolter. 

“Empowering Students as Tanakh Learners” using online research tools was presented by Rabbi Dr. Zvi Grumet from the Lookstein Center at Bar-Ilan University. No more schlepping heavy resource books?

Hot or not, back on the Jerusalem streets, the Jerusalem Israel Festival begins in August, with advertising posters covering more than 6 floors of a building at the entrance of the city.

In the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens, 25 large inflatable Monsters will provide an attraction for families with children on summer holidays.

The barriers are still around on various Jerusalem street corners, but it is good to know that there is more than protests happening.

Last month RJS shared that US Deputy Chief of Mission Stephanie L. Hallett was at Beit Hanasi representing the US. This week it was announced instead of appointing a new Ambassador to replace Tom Nides, she will serve as chargé d’affaires in the US Embassy in Jerusalem. Best wishes to her!

For Tisha B’Av there are way too many programs to mention, beginning on Wednesday through Thursday night this year, with the fast ending at 8:09 pm.

Jerusalem buses to the Kotel, Western Wall will run through the night. The days may be too hot, so the nights are when people come out.

So many summer events are scheduled in August, from the usual big summer night concerts in Safra Square to Ice Skating in First Station, check the website for what else is happening in Jerusalem.

At the end of July, the new Jerusalem Museum will open the ‘Street Games’ exhibition at the Tower of David. Sorry to have to miss the opening events, but after Tisha B’Av is also a popular wedding season, and a wedding involving long-time friends is a priority.

Now only if the heat wave would end soon so we can venture out during the day again to see what else is happening on the Jerusalem streets!

Gush Etzion New and Old Views

During the days before the “Oslo Peace,”

we drove through Bethlehem

to get to Gush Etzion from Jerusalem, Israel.

We visited

Alon Shvut, Kfar Etzion, Efrat, Eleazar and Neve Daniel

many, many times over the years.

The way, lined with rocks and brush, was not cultivated,

and was mostly barren hills when we first drove there.

Jews had settled in Gush Etzion before 1948,

but the Jordanian Legions wanted to conquer Jerusalem,

and the Jews were in their way.

image Kfar Etzion before 1948

The brave defenders of Gush Etzion put up a strong resistance,

but were badly out numbered.

This is the bunker in Kfar Etzion, into which a live grenade was thrown to kill

some of the last of the sick and women.

image Arabs in Kfar Etzion.

Today in Kfar Etzion you can see this stone in memory of the ל”ה,

the 35 men  killed and their bodies mutilated

while trying to save the communities of the Gush.

Now the area is built up, but from 1948 until 1967,

image lone tree. photo lone tree Gush etzion

the only surviving remnant in the area was

 this one lone ancient oak tree.

This past Friday we participated in Gush Etzion Scavenger Hunt.

image water tower AlonShuvt

From this water tower,

image Gush Etzion, photo alonShvut

we had a great view of the Har Etzion Yeshiva

110b View Alon Shvut Gush ETzion

and the community of Alon Shvut.

During the morning, we heard reports that two high school boys

image Gush Etzion, photo

who attended a yeshiva in Kfar Etzion had gone missing the night before.

(Turned out later that there were three teenagers.)

Those boys were somewhere

iamge Gush Etzion

   out there.

image Kfar etzion

On Kfar Etzion we saw one of the first buildings built in the 1940s,

 after 1967 it was rebuilt for four families.

image Kfar Etzion,

This man was one of the children born in Gush Etzion.

The children were evacuated and survived the massacres of 1948,

but that is another fascinating story.

He returned after 1967, made his home in Kfar Etzion

and now tells his life story to visitors.

The Scavenger hunts of the Old City and Nahlaot were fun and educational.

Now with new, faster roads, Gush Etzion, is only minutes away from Jerusalem,

and with the kidnapping of three young yeshiva students,

it is now in the hearts and minds of all Israelis.

That is The Real Jerusalem Streets today.