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

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 Biggest and Best of Hanukkah

Jerusalem Biggest and Best of Hanukkah

Jerusalem, Israel, for Hanukkah is a very special place.

This year, more than in past years, there were more tourists and more things to do.

New events were planned, though some got rained out.

As the eighth-day ebbs, here are some favorites of the biggest and best Jerusalem happenings.

Hanukkah paper goods for party in Jerusalem

Jerusalem paper goods stores were ready long before Hanukkah, with all you needed for your table and parties.

Hanukkah suffganiot rising in a bakery in Jeremiahs Israel

Jerusalem bakeries had sufganiyot, donuts rising by the tens of thousands.

Hanukiah at Beit Hanasi

Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence had a large hanukkiah, Hanukkah menorah, ready outside for all to see.

There were dozens of hanukkiot, Hanukkah menorahs. placed on street corners.

Around Jerusalem and the world, Lubavitch-Habad emissaries put a hanukkiah in public squares.

Chabad chanukiah in Jerusalem near Israeli President's Residence

This one near Beit Hanasi was at Schneurshohn Square on the third night of Hanukkah.

Photo of Lubavitcher Rebbe with Chanukah in style of Ramban yle of Rmaban.

These Hanukkah menorahs come in all sorts of styles and shapes now, but this style hanukkiah was preferred by the late Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Jerusalem candle lighting at Mamilla Mall

At Jerusalem’s Mamilla Mall a large one has been lit for the past eight years.

Mamilla Mall Hanuka candle lighting crowd with live music

Huge crowds come to Jerusalem for the lighting and live music and free sufganiyot.

Jerusalem’s Mamilla Mall was full of tourists and holiday celebrants most nights.

Mamilla Mall on Hanukkah woman with puppet taking video with musician

Musicians, in more than one location, even a woman with a hand puppet making a video were entertaining holiday-goers in Mamilla Mall.

Hanukkah cafe with Arab women sitting and eating.

With tens of thousands of people crowding, pushing, standing in line to buy sufganiyot, these Arab women found a quiet table in a Mamilla cafe.

Jaffa Gate at night in Jerusalem Israel

Jerusalem’s Old City is an annual best-of Hanukkah. Near Jaffa Gate, the signs were up for special events.

Hanukkah in the Old City lights on wall of Tower of David

Light projections of a hanukkiah were screened on the wall of the Tower of David.

Large Hanukia outside a home in the Old City Jerusalem

In the Old City at night,  hanukkiot both large

Jerusalem Old City on Hanuka street with four hanukiot on wall as boy walks past

of more modest size are lit outside of homes. These four were in special boxes mounted on the stone wall.

Hanukiah at the Kotel for Hanukkah

This large hanukkiah was again placed next to the Kotel, the Western Wall.

I tried to get a clear view, but men and boys were posing continuously for photos.

Kotel Plaza on Hanuka with crowd and sign on Western Wall building

The crowds on the Kotel Plaza, both by day and by night, were impressive.

Wedding on Hanuka and couple gets photos at Kotel

But crowded or not, wedding photos were taken. Many weddings were held during the busy holiday time, to be celebrated with international guests.

Signs outside Aish Hatorah building on Hanuka

One way to get a view of the Kotel and area is from the Aish HaTorah building. This Happy Chanukah Bear was at the entrance to the rooftop observation deck

Jerusalem Old City man on bike with a menorah riding through narrow street

On a street in the Jewish Quarter, there was even a hanukkiah on a bicycle.

Hanuka menorah on top of train in Old City Jerusalem

If you looked carefully, there was another one on top of the Old City tourist train.

Free shuttle bus from Old City to First Station in Jerusalem

That train cost money to ride, but the shuttle vans from First Station to Old City are free.

They could be the only thing in Jerusalem that runs on time, on the hour, and every 20 minutes.

But they do not make stops, and they go from First Station straight to the gate nearest the Kotel.

Oh, I felt sorry for the tourists from England who found out too late and were taken far away from where they wanted to be.

Indoor activity in Jerusalem Israel new for Hanuka

At First Station, there is a new attraction. Jump Up opened before the holiday season.

Jerusalem First Startion Jump in Hanger

With rainy, rainy days of Hanuka and holiday from school, Jump Up should have been really jumping.

Fast train from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem ticket from one of first riders

The big excitement this Hanuka! Another miracle. The fast train from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was running. It took over 10 years. But the ride was 32 minutes!

Jerusalem residents one hour free parking sign at Kikar Safra

Another excitement for Jerusalem residents, one-hour free parking! This sign was posted on the main municipal building below the Mayor’s office.

Orange Lamborghini in Jerusalem parking lot on Chanuak

Perhaps free parking is not the first thing this car owner thinks of?

This orange Lembourgini matched nicely with the graffiti art.

Could it be the priciest Hanukkah gift of all?

Hanukkah events for Jerusalem nights ad signs

Big signs for a new Hanukkah Festival of Lights were displayed around the center of town.

Hanukkah Sameach on Museum of Tolerance for Hanuka

This festival light projection was shining on the yet to open Museum of Tolerance.

Across the way was a new larger than life hanukkiah with music.

Shuk on Hanuka and candles lit in a store

A more modest hanukkiah in the Machane Yehudah Market shop had candles burning.

Jerusalem Israel rainy night on Jaffa Road

Outside, the rain had kept away the crowds and dampened the streets.

But inside the restaurant was full and candle lighting added to the warm party atmosphere.

Lighting Chanukah candles at dedication of Studio of her Own on Hanuka

At Jerusalem gatherings of all sorts, as this dedication of Studio of Her Own, a women’s art center, candles were lit.

Suffganiah on Hanuka at Jerusalem family holiday party

Ah, that first bite on the first night,

First candle, first night of Hanuka as child watches the flames

or the first light on the first night.

The Greeks are long gone.

Scene of Jerusalem Cardo in time of Rome

The Romans of the Cardo are long gone.

But the Jerusalem streets and crowds at Mamilla Mall on Hanukkah were going strong.

Much more was happening over Hanukkah on the Jerusalem streets.

Jerusalem Hanuka menorah near Friends of Zion Museum

I hope you enjoyed a few highlights and this the biggest of Jerusalem Holiday of Lights.

Remember last year’s favorites?

Many are the same, to see you can click  HERE