Israel’s Northern Exposure

Israel’s Northern Exposure

Lebanon formed a new government with Hezbollah approved Prime Minister Hassan Diab.

A quarter of a million residents live within five miles of the northern Israeli border with Lebanon. According to the Confrontation Forum, nearly 70,000 residents have no home security solutions and many more have no easily accessible public shelters. Five billion shekels were allocated for a protection program, but the program has yet to begin.

The killing of Iran Quds Force Commander, Qasem Soleimani, could bring Iran to seek revenge by targeting Israel, through its proxy, Hezbollah, along the northern border. A staggering number of residents within the targeted communities will have no shelters to run to and nowhere to take cover.

Some times you have to get up and get going and see what’s happening in other areas of the country.

Train in Israel ready to go on overpass

On the road north from Jerusalem the train passed going south toward Jerusalem.

Israeli town in Galilee

Arab villages line the main highway Route #6 as one travels north to the Galilee.  

This is a photo summary of a full day of activities, which included meeting Mateh Asher Regional Council (Arab al-Aramshe) Moshe Davidovich, Chairman of the Confrontation Line Forum and Head of the regional council; from Ma’ale Yosef Regional Council (Shtula) Shimon Guetta, Head of the Ma’ale Yosef Regional Council; and  Col. (ret) – Luchy Yossef – Former Commander of the north district of the home front command and CEO of Shlomi.

Water in Israeli field after heavy ran and flooding

After the heavy rains, pools of water remained in some fields even on a clear day.

Cat eating food left over on a table

A Jerusalem cat found its way to the rest stop on Route 6? It is a long trip to the Upper Galilee.

Israel Route 6 Highway Habad House sign

At the rest stop, we saw a sign for the Habad House on Route #6.

Israel Lebanon border fence

At the border fence between Israel and Lebanon, there were few cars.

Bus waiting for sheep to cross the road near Israel border with Lebanon

However, our driver had to wait for a herd of sheep to get off the road.

Israel Lebanon border fences

At the border, there is both new fencing and a bit of the old.

UN Blue Line marker near Israel Lebanon border

A close up of the UN Blue Line, this is the DO NOT TRESPASS marker which marks the Lebanon border.

Israel side of border to take photos of Lebanon

Photographers were lucky to have a perfect weather day on the border for views.

Lebanese village near Israel border

This was the view of Lebanon from the Israeli lookout point over Lebanon.

Buildings near Lebanon border Blue LIne

On a close-up of the view, I wondered how many of those buildings are really residential homes?

Where are the windows? Water tanks? People? Only one satellite dish?

How many missiles and rockets could be fired at us from those open windows?

Hezbollah in Lebanon as seen from Israel

There was Lebanon, with a Hezbollah watchtower and a black-draped ladder against the fence, a close distance just to the left of that “village.”

Israel Lebanon border bus stop for view and food

Israeli-style, a table appeared out of nowhere with cake and fruit and drinks

Upper Galil Israel near Lebanon

along the Blue Line border fence.

Upper Galilee village near Lebanon border

These Jewish, Arab Christian, Muslim and Druze villages are so close, residents have no seconds to run for shelter from a Hezbollah missile or rocket.

Green Galilee in winter in northern Israel

The Upper Galilee scenes from the bus were magnificent, green and lush from the winter rains.

Winter green hills of Upper Galilee as seen from backyard in a moshav

This backyard view from a private Israeli home was one of dozens of impressive landscapes.

Separation wall near Lebanon Israel border

This was what was in the distance, the border with a more serious wall. Israeli forces on the right and Lebanon on the left.

Warning sign near Lebanese Israeli border for IDF army area

This old IDF sign was by an opening in the wall warning of a restricted military zone.

Lebanon as seen from Israeli side of border

Repeated attempts to explain the red and black flag failed. The experts were not sure of its exact meaning.

The posters were said to be of psychological warfare significance. Under the flag was a man in uniform shooting – shooting photographs of us photographing him.

But what I only noticed when trying to get hundreds of images down to this one piece, the photographer was not alone. There is another man dressed in black on the left side of this photo.

They saw us approaching on the Israeli side near the border. Within a few minutes, they appeared to watch us, though we could not see their base.

Shelter in Israel small village near the northern border

After two stops at border locations, we came to meet Israeli residents. The older members of this community are upset. This community shelter is not accessible. There are too many steps and the distance too great for their security needs.  Warfare has changed in the past 14 years of quiet. These old shelters have not been updated.

Northern Galilee view in Israel

Another view from the bus of the Upper Galilee.

Northern Galilee road near Lebanese border

Driving this far up north you can forget about modern highways. We entered this one-lane road with a cement barrier at the side ready to block it, just in case.

Oops, our bus took a wrong turn and met military vehicles going the other way.

iDF vehicle and bus on narrow road

While our driver backed up slowly for quite a distance, to a spot wide enough for the IDF vehicles to pass, I had time to take a photo.

Shlomi municipal center in northern Israel

Shlomi – where nature and city coexist-was the last stop of the day.

Map of upper Galilee Israel near Lebanon border

This map was in the security center of growing area with a population of 7000 residents.

Photo of Habad Rebbe in Shlomi command center security room

After a long day of hi-tech security projections, I was amused to see a photo of the Lubavitcher Rebbe on the wall.

Farms covering looking like water in northern Israel

We emerged from a Shlomi bomb shelter in drastic need of modernization to meet today’s needs. In the distance there appeared to be a large body of water.

No, we were not near any sea or a lake. Those were covers over agricultural fields glistening in the late afternoon light.

Shlomi sunset in winter northern Israel

As the sun was setting, we headed back to Jerusalem. A beautiful day trip to the most northern and a gorgeous part of Israel.

Quiet for fourteen years. But the IDF must constantly stay on guard.  Hezbollah is just over the Blue Line. UNIFIL is supposed to be watching. However, under their watch, terror tunnels were dug down and into Israeli territory. The known terror tunnels were recently destroyed.

What will happen next? We will have to wait and see Iran’s next moves.

A few hours drive, so near, yet so different from the Jerusalem streets.

Digging Up and Cleaning Up the Jerusalem Streets

Digging Up and Cleaning Up the Jerusalem Streets

Oh, Jerusalem,

Jerusalem, Israel where the very old and new come together.

Where the ancient and the future collide on the streets.

Israel Museum in Jerusalem Israel as seen over the Valley of the Cross

Winter clouds drift over the Israel Museum overlooking the Valley of the Cross.

Old street morning scene in Jerusalem Israel

A street scene in Mea Shearim is another classic image.

Jerusalem Israel sign for construction of Gateway project

However, the Gateway Project at the entrance of Jerusalem seems to be constantly changing.

Jerusalem Israel street near entrance to city

Indeed, new roads and traffic patterns have been a topic in the past. 

Construction in Jerusalem Israel

Rising above a road out of Jerusalem are new housing projects of Ramat Shlomo.

Jerusalem Israel hills where new roads have been built

To build many of the roads, large sections of the Judean Hills have to be blasted away.

Jerusalem Israel tree preservation

When there is a tree to be saved, it is tagged for preservation.

Jerusalem Israel old Kraft Stadium

Remember Kraft Stadium, the scene of countless night football games and the Woodstock Revival?

Digging for new project at site of old Kraft Stadium in Jerusalem Israel

It is now only a memory as digging has begun on a massive municipal project.

The old Kraft Stadium was next to Jerusalem’s Gan Sacher, Sachar Park.

New paths in Jerusalem Israel Sacker Park

The new biking and walking path in Gan Sacher is now complete.

Jerusalem Israel Park pedestrian tunnel painted with colorful graffiti

At night the path is well lit and much more pleasant to use.

Gan Sacher Park with construction

However, the other side of Gan Sacher is one big construction site.

Jerusalem Park Gan Sacher

The clock is ticking for a new memorial to be ready in the park for its dedication with Vladimir Putin attending.

Jerusalem Israel Sache Park

The Russian President is to arrive with 39 other world leaders for a special Holocaust commemoration at Yad Vashem on Thursday, January 23rd.

Jerusalem residents have been complaining and bracing for major traffic delays for days already.

Presidents, the King of Spain, and Prince Charles of Great Britain and their extended entourages are among the expected guests.

Israeli President Formal hall ceiling

The President is hosting a major dinner reception in Beit Hanasi, the official Israeli President’s Residence, on Wednesday evening for the world leaders.

They even cleaned up the panels on the ceiling in the main hall.

Ceiling of Israeli President Residence

The brightness of the colors so noticeable, I had to take a photo.

Road work on Jerusalem Israel street CAT piece of equipment

Jerusalem is famous for its cats, but a new bred of CATs are now all over the Jerusalem streets.

Electric bus on Jerusalem Israel streets

One of the new Jerusalem electric buses went by.

Construction of new sidereal in Jerusalem Israel

Drivers try to maneuver around closed intersections during the construction of new sidewalks.

Ambulance in Jerusalem Israel construction area

Walking along Azza Street has been a challenge. With work done day and night and in the rain, even for emergency vehicles, it is challenging.

This bus stop was removed the next day, people had to stand and wait in the rain.

Jerusalem Israel construction site Muslim man using work vest as prayer rug

But while walking, I discovered an alternative use for those safety vests, a handy substitute for a Muslim prayer mat.

Clean up street in Hebrew on Jerusalem Israel street

Oh, the new Jerusalem streets, and trying to keep them clean.

Jerusalem Israel feel good signs along main road

Feel good signs have been posted along the main street.

Jerusalem Israel cleanup poster to keep city clean

“Jerusalem is your home, keep it clean,” reminds the new bus stop sign.

Oh, there is more, the light rail construction has whole neighborhood streets dug up.

Fire performance on Jerusalem Israel Ben Yehudah Street

You never know what you will find next on Jerusalem streets – this fire dancer was new to see.

Jerusalem Ben Yehudah at night

However, along Ben Yehudah Street and Zion Square – music, a common sight.

Jerusalem is ever-fascinating and changing.

Yemin Moshe Jerusalem Israel young woman taking a photo

We had a wonderful time in Yemin Moshe on a photo walk.

Tourists on top of Jerusalem Tower of David

Old or new, day or night, whether you look down or up,

millions of tourists have found what’s happening on the Jerusalem streets.

Come see for yourself.


A Tale of Two Hadrans in Jerusalem: Talmud Torah

A Tale of Two Hadrans in Jerusalem: Talmud Torah

Jerusalem, Israel.

This week we had heavy rain and flooded streets.

View of Jordan from Jerusalem Israel

But after the rain, the air and sky were so clean and clear, from a building in downtown Jerusalem you could see the mountain ranges in Jordan in the distance past the Old City walls.

No Hate No Fear in Jerusalem Israel at Jewish Agency Building on King George Street

In a week of international antisemitic attacks, the Jewish Agency building on King George Street was prepared for hundreds to attend a rally coinciding with the NO HATE, NO FEAR rally in New York.

There were Israeli political and religious issues, election dramas and more.  But as antisemitic incidents were ongoing and being reported in New York City, a major event at MetLife Stadium also caught media attention. There were Israelis who traveled to New York to join the 90,000 celebrants of Siyum HaShas on January 1, 2020, in the cold open-roof sports stadium.

For those who do not know, the Siyum HaShas, was a celebration at the end of learning all the volumes of Talmud, one page a day, which takes over 7 1/2 years.

In Jerusalem and other Israeli cities, there were multiple celebrations, large and small, held for more than a week.

Mizrachi audience at International Conference Center

At the Jerusalem International Conference Center – ICC, thousands attended a Siyum HaShas program held in English.

The Keynote address was given by Rabbi Ari Berman, President of Yeshiva University.

Jerusalem Israel audience of one Siyum HaShas at Binyunei HaUma

The Religious Zionists gathering heard from multiple speakers, male and female, all Torah scholars and popular teachers.

Rav Rimon in Jerusalem speaking about halaka and new AI technoolgies

One was Rav Yosef Rimon who in his short allotted time connected the Torah to not only science but AI – artificial intelligence in our daily lives. I do not think he has a robot loading a dishwasher in his kitchen, certainly not in my old Jerusalem stone dwelling.

Jerusalem Conference Center sign in Hebrew for Siyum HaShas

After the opening sessions, everyone, including the hundreds of overflow room participants who had watched a live-streamed video of the speakers, went upstairs to the main auditorium.

Reserved seating at front of Siyum HaShas in Jerusalemsrael

On the main floor were men, with senior rabbis in the front in reserved seats with their names.

Yedidya Meir mc of Siyum HaShas in Jerusalem

The moderator was Yedidya Meir, whose wife Sivan Rahav Meir had spoken earlier downstairs.

Chazan Shai Abramson singing with choir to open Siyum HaShas

Chazan Shai Abramson sang accompanied by a male choir and band as the audience was finding assigned seats.

Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau speaking at Siyum HaShas in Jerusalem Israel

Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau spoke in Hebrew about the significance of the event.

Siyum HaShas audience in Jerusalem Israel

Men and boys filled the main auditorium, while some women were seated upstairs in the balcony.

Music at the Siyum HaShas in Jerusalem Israel

The musical interludes were popular Israeli male performers. At the end of the evening, the audience was up and dancing to the lively Hebrew songs.

Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau at Siyum HaShas

I left early but had the pleasure of helping Rabbi Lau find his way out to a taxi.

The construction near the ICC is ongoing, and each visit is a challenge to find where to enter and exit with the constant changes. But that topic will wait for next time.

Jerusalem Israel crowd in lobby for Siyum HaShas for women

Three days later I was back at ICC for another Siyum HaShas. Same venue, very different crowd.

Jerusalem Israel Siyum HaShas for women

This Siyum HaShas was for Women,  organized by an organization called Hadran.

For 7 1/2 years, women also were opening the pages of their Talmud’s daily to study every day, in small groups, in study halls of seminaries, with online courses led by female scholars.

Jerusalem Israel Siyum HaShas for Women Rabbi Riskin in video

Rabbi Steven Riskin was one rabbi featured in the video presentation.

Rabbi Chaim Brovender at Siyum HaShas for women in Jerusalem

Rabbi Chaim Brovender, with a white page in his hand, was also one of the first rabbis to teach Talmud to women.

Rav Benny Lau at Siyum HaShas in Jerusalem Israel

For this Siyum HaShas, Rabbi Benny Lau introduced himself as Noa’s husband. He started 929, which studies a portion of the Bible each day. He is the nephew of Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau.

Siyum HaShas Esti Rosenberg and Mikhal Tichonskinky

The names were reversed for two prominent female teachers of Torah and Talmud for women. Esti Rosenberg mentioned her grandfather Rav Soloveitchik z”l who was one of the early leading rabbis to teach Talmud to girls. Most of the impressive female educators on stage spoke in Hebrew, with English surtitles projected above.

All-day before the evening event was a day of learning for women at the ICC, with female scholars presenting in English and Hebrew.

Rav Yonaton Sacks speaking in video message to Siyum HaShas

One of the only things, other than the venue, the programs had in common was a video greeting in English by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

Michelle Cohen Farber

The founder of Hadran, Michelle Cohen Farber, has led an online study group for the past 7 1/2 years and propelled this unique first-time event.

Rachelle Fraenkel at Siyum HaShas with women hadran

Rachelle Fraenkel, an expert educator, was an impressive moderator. She called representative women of various organized learning groups on stage for the concluding ceremony.

Woman who did Daf Yomi in Jerusalem Israel

Women who completed the study cycle of learning a page of Talmud a day were asked to stand.

They were cheered and applauded for their accomplishments by the mostly female audience.

Koolulam at ICC for Women's Siyum HaShas man taking photos

There were men in attendance, even the man doing the video was impressed enough to take some video on his phone.

Siyum HaShas in Jerusalem Israel sign for Men's Entrance

Oh, there were other Siyum HaShas events, even at the ICC on another night. This sign was left up pointing to the Men’s Entrance. I did not go looking for the Women’s Entrance. The Pais Arena also held one of the largest gatherings.

In a week of troubles and protests, and more happening in Jerusalem, we also had a week where the study of Jewish law was valued and celebrated.

A week where women stood proudly on the ICC stage to celebrate learning Talmud.

No Jerusalem event is complete without music!

For this Siyum HaShas Koolulam was there, so watch out for their video.

And as Rachelle Fraenkel said at the end of the evening, this event had to conclude with Hatikvah.

Please note as one study cycle ends, the new one begins the next day. For some of the women, it was their first, others have started learning Talmud again and again, while others are just beginning on their journey.

More photographs of the National Mizrachi Siyum HaShas  HERE

More photographs of the Hadran, Siyum HaShas for Women HERE