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.

In Jerusalem From Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur

In Jerusalem From Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur

In Jerusalem, Israel, before the Rosh Hashana holiday season, the variety of items for sale seems infinite. It is a time to purchase new clothes and pots and flowering plants, and for many also a time to clean.

Window cleaner stories above ground

Entering an apartment building, we looked up to see a window cleaner at work stories above us.

Plans are made either to travel or arrange seats in synagogues to pray and hear the shofar blown.

Annual Rosh Hashana ‘raising the glass’ celebrations were held at business and government offices.

One of my favorites is the reception held at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence, before the Jewish New Year.

Diplomats arriving for Rosh Hashana

The red carpet is laid out. The State Chief of Protocol from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Meron Reuben, greeted the arriving heads of mission for foreign diplomats.

Beit Hanasi diplomats before Rosh Hashana

With so many new ambassadors it is a good time for the international representatives to meet. There are 18 female ambassadors serving their countries in Israel.

Most of the male ambassadors wore business suits, as at the previous reception. 

Cat at President's house in garde

The Presidential cat was on watch, a sign of a special gathering.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister

While waiting in the main room before the president arrived, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Hotovely had a chance to talk with ambassadors.

Ambassadors to Israel from Jordan and Egypt at Presidents house reception

Of note this year in the front row, the only person in military uniform was B.G. Alaa Abu-Rukun, the new Military Secretary to the President of Israel, seated between the Ambassadors from Egypt and Jordan.

Jordan Ambassador shaking hands with President Rivlin in Jerusalem Israel

President Reuven Rivlin entered shaking hands with Ambassador from Jordan and others who stood as he passed to his seat.

Diplomats at Beit Hanasi for New Year reception

The room appeared full. I missed seeing the Ambassadors from Australia and the United States.

Ambassadors to Israel from Thailand and Slovak Republic

But had the pleasure to meet the Ambassadors from Thailand and the Slovak Republic,

New Year reception at Beit Hanasi for diplomatic corps

The head of the Diplomatic corps offered greetings during the formal program.

President Rivlin spoke as well.

Beit Hanasi piano played by 12 year old boy with autism

Musical protege Roi Mor, diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum, has perfect pitch and played two of his compositions on the piano during the event. You could barely see the top of his head as he was seated at the piano.

Wine for New Year's toast at Israeli Presidents house for diplomats

Then it was time to go outside and ‘raise a glass’ to toast the New Year.

Reception in garden at Beit Hanasi for Rosh Hashana

Fruit platters, and of course, apples and honey round out the menu.

Photo of table with Rosh Hashana pomegranates and apples and honey

The presentation was much more elaborate two years ago when this event was last held.

President Rivlin with wine and apples and honey for Rosh Hasahana

President Rivlin put on a kippa to make a blessing on his wine and apples dipped in honey.

Last year because of time or budget, or perhaps Nechama Rivlin’s declining health, this reception did not take place.

Nechama Rivlin in 2016 without oxygen at Beit Hanasi reception

When I went to check previous Rosh Hashana receptions, I realized that only 3 years ago, she walked in without oxygen support.

Ambassador from Jordan shaking hands with Israel President Rivlin in Jerusalem at Beit Hanasi gardens

Ambassadors lingered in the Beit Hanasi garden to wish the Israeli President Shana Tova.

Diplomats at Beit Hanasi in Jerusalem Israel

This is an important time for the diplomats to meet and mingle in a relaxed setting. More modest was fine. Most of those attending were new and did not remember the previous more elaborate affairs.

Gol Kolev with apple and honey at Beit Hanasi

Important are the apples and honey for a sweet year!

Israel President's Residence traffic outside.

As always, when the Presidential Rosh Hashana reception was over.  Traffic on Jerusalem streets near Beit Hanasi slowed to a crawl,  as diplomats were picked up and driven to their next appointments.

Photographers at Israel President Residence

The media ignored this event, but my friend Aleksandr and I enjoyed it.

Four years ago, Aleksandr pushed me into the crowded men’s section at the President’s synagogue so I could to get my shots, we have often worked together.

So to prepare for Yom Kippur 5780 which is Wednesday next week, here are videos from past years of selihot at Beit Hanasi.

With Yitzhak Meir and my close-ups.

Traditional prayers with Chaim Israel two years ago at Beit Hanasi.

Powerful – David D’Or’s Avenu Malkeinu.

The Jerusalem Municipality is sponsoring multiple traditional Selihot, musical selihot nights and tours, and events.

Tens of thousands will fill the plaza for late-night selihot at the Kotel, Western Wall before Yom Kippur.

Wishing all a גמר חתימה טובה,

may you be signed and sealed in the book of life.

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