What a Week in Jerusalem: Presidents, Parliamentarians, Ambassadors and More

The third week in February is always a busy time in Jerusalem, Israel.

Unlike the US, where only one February weekend celebrates President George Washington,

Street sign George Washington in Jeruaslem

here in Jerusalem, Washington is honored all year long, and  Abraham Lincoln is right around the corner. 

The annual Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organization, COP, had over a hundred leaders participating in this year’s mission.

Football numbered shirt presented to President Rivlin in Jerusalem

COP Presidents were greeted by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who received this numbered jersey from a visiting US football player, who were in Israel on a tour.

Malcolm Hoenlein looks up at Jewish football player Geoff Schwartz at CoP dinner in Jerusalem Israel

Jewish football player Geoff Schwartz presented COP CEO Malcolm Hoenlein with a shirt.  Hoelein is looking up, seconds before he stood on a chair to get a better view.

Ambassador Friedman and Tammy Friedman

Also at the opening gala were US Ambassador David Friedman and his wife Tammy.

Dr Leah Goldin with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem

President Rivlin consoles Dr. Leah Goldin, mother of Hadar Goldin z”l, whose remains are being held captive in Gaza.  There was another birthday of Hadar’s this week, 3 1/2 years after Hamas killed him, after agreeing to a cease fire.

Parents of Avera Mengistu at dinner CoP to raise awareness of their son held captive 3 years by Hamas

Also sharing their plight with the Presidents were the family of Avera Mengistu, and their spokesperson.  Over 3 years ago, the mentally challenged Avera wandered over the Gaza border and was kidnapped by Hamas.

Five former Israeli Ambassadors speak to Conference of Presidents at Waldorf Astoria

This was a not just a week for presidents, but for ambassadors too. On the dais in the Waldorf-Astoria Jerusalem ballroom, these five former Israeli ambassadors to the US, Moshe Arens, Sallai Meridor, Ron Prosor, Zalman Shoval and Itamar Rabinovich, shared their experiences.

Israeli Knesset hosts International Parliamentary heads at conference

At the Knesset, over 30 International Parliamentary Heads came to Jerusalem to share their knowledge at a Knesset Conference.

With all these important international leaders in Jerusalem, the most impressive session I attended went unreported.

Insights into Israel Bedouin girl at Israeli University excelling in STEM education

Entrepreneurs Dr. Yossi Vardi and SanDisk CEO Shahar Bar-Or, introduced Sereen to the COP Presidents after lunch at the Inbal Hotel.

Sereen is a 15 year-old Bedouin girl who grew up near Beer Sheva, and is an outstanding STEM student in an Israeli university. Her father’s cousin is a professor in both Stony Brook and Ben Gurion Universities, and promotes good education as key to success. Sereen, seated on the left wearing a dark hijab, is at the table with other promising Israeli young women. Her very proud mother is seen on the right in a tan colored head covering.

African American basketball players in Israel

Presidents, parliamentarians, and ambassadors, and even professional football players, are not the real streets. A new book “Alley-Oop to Aliyah” tells us about over 800 African-American basketball players who came to Israel over the years to play basketball. They loved it. Some stayed and made aliyah, and their children are playing ball and serve in the IDF.

Jerusalem Marathon 2018 huge announcement near Jaffa Gate

Out on the streets, this week’s Jerusalem’s Shaon Horef, Winter Noise, location was Jaffa Gate.

Shaon Horef שאון חורף ן Old City Jaffa Gate

Light projections and music played on inside Jaffa Gate at multiple locations.

Tower of David for Shaon Horef Jerusalem Monday night event in Februrary

Hundreds of people were climbing the steps throughout the Tower of David after dark.

Music and dancing at Jaffa Gate for Winter Noise event

The presidents were so close, they could have wandered over to see the crowds and danced along next to the walls of Tower of David at this free event.

Jerusalem Israel wild flowers growing in Valley of Cross

This was not a week to be cooped up all day in meetings! Look down and you see flowers blooming.

Clouds and colored sky photo Jerusalem sunset over Israel Museum

Look up and you could see magnificent sunsets.

Jerusalem Marathon finish line ready for races in March

A finish line is up next to Gan Sacher, Sacher Park, for the Jerusalem Marathon on March 9.

Happy Purim Jerusalem street posters

But first Purim.  Jerusalem street signs wish everyone a “Happy Purim.”

Preparations for costumes and food and meals are well under way. Young school children can be seen wearing their crowns on the streets. The not so young are also planning their holiday costumes.  There may be presidents this week, but next week there will be queens and kings and many more important personalities.

15 Jerusalem Street Scenes at Year End

15 Jerusalem Street Scenes at Year End

In Jerusalem, Israel,

every year after the holiday season,

I wait for things to quiet down.

However, it never seems to happen.

This year after the Trump Jerusalem announcement,

 the mainstream media reports spewed forth about imminent unrest.

US flag on City Hall in Kikar Safra

But the streets have remained “normal,”

as a huge US flag hangs on the Municipal building

together with flag of Jerusalem and the 50-year anniversary banner.

Before the recent drenching rains,

the weather was warm, almost like summer.

Friday morning, on a photo walk to Yemin Moshe,

Yemin Moshe stairs

there were so many photographers out

it was hard to get an empty street view.

Yemin Moshe view of house

Though weather had been dry for weeks,

the private gardens were beautiful,

with citrus fruit drooping from full trees.

Yemin Moshe shul, birds outside of window

Birds were perched above the synagogue door,

Bird in tree Jerusalem, Israel

and on the bare branches in Teddy Park.

Colorful leaves in Jerusalem, Israel

Fall colors are not easy to find in Israel,

but during a stroll through these Yemin Moshe lanes

you can find a bit of most anything.

But not all is a stroll through the park around here.

Much touted before it opened,

Alma Cafe shut and empty in Jerusalem Israel public park

the cafe in Gan Haatzmaut, Independence Park,

is now an empty shell.

Access ramp to bank on Azza Street in Jerusalem Israel

This new access ramp for the bank was just completed.

Now, after weeks of work,

one can enter without going up steps.

But so much for optimism about progress,

New ramp on Azza in front of bank removed

yesterday it was ripped out.

I have no idea why,

or how long will it take to rebuild.

Poster of things to be built in Jerusalem at City Hall

At Municipal Hall there are large posters of photos

displaying future building projects in Jerusalem.

Any bets when they will be completed?

Walking yesterday I saw

Walls of Old City, man sitting in sun reading

a man sitting and reading,

against the walls of the Old City.

Outside cafe along light rail line on Jaffa Road on sunny day

While along Jaffa Road,

people were sitting outside in cafes.

For winter, it was not such a bad day,

even though I was wearing a winter coat and boots.

Two men on Jaffa Street, one in shorts other religious musician

This bloke in shorts said he was from Australia.

Well, it is summer there.

metal sculpture near Mamilla Mall

No time to fiddle away,

this was part of an art piece at Mamilla Mall.

There last week, but gone yesterday.

Public square piano with man and little girl Jerusalem, Israel

This large piano is still outside in Zion Square,

for the use of young and old.

It is still December,

Jerusalem Marathon sign for March 2018, near walls of Old City Tzahal Square

but large signs are already up, this one  in Tzahal Square,

near the Old City of Jerusalem, Israel.

The Jerusalem Marathon is set for March 9, 2018,

and tens of thousands from near and far,

young and not so young, are getting ready

to again enjoy and race through the Jerusalem streets.

Favorites from Jerusalem Marathon

Favorites from Jerusalem Marathon

The International Jerusalem Winner Marathon 2017

was run on Friday morning, March 17.

The Jerusalem streets were closed and traffic was blocked

Jerusalem marathon runners

as 30,000 runners participated in the full marathon

and a number of other shorter races.

As the full marathon runners were going by

full marathon runners Jerusalem marathon

at least one man on the right wanted attention,

Jerusalem marathon full marathon runners

as did the two runners in tams and kilts.

Over 60 countries were represented,

Jerusalem marathon runners

but I only saw one French flag.

Jerusalem marathon runners 2017

Women were in the crowd running the full marathon.

Jerusalem marathon 2017

Tens of thousands ran through the streets,

as the route looped around and through the Old City.

Last year’s #1 was again #1 this year.

Jerusalem Marathon winner

After kissing the ground,

full marathon winner Shadrack Kipkogey was congratulated by

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who was dressed for a 10 K run.

I took 500 photos and it was hard to decide which ones to share.

Jerusalem marathon

But thousands of selfies were taken at the starting line

Jerusalem marathon 2017

and at the finish line.

One of my favorite photos and stories:

I posted a photo of a family from South Africa

dressed in red on Facebook at night after the race,

Jerusalem marathon runners from South Africa

and by morning all the names had been tagged.

Water stations were located along the route,

Bottles of water lined up for runners at Jerusalem marathon

plus this one where runners re-entered

Gan Sacher, Sacher Park, after their race.

Gan Sacher for Jerusalem marathon

Tens of thousands were in the park

musicians at Gan Sacher for Jerusalem marathon

enjoying music

Gan Sacher for Jerusalem marathon

and the activities provided.

Jerusalem marathon entertainment

There was new entertainment at the starting line,

Jerusalem Marathon shalva

but many participants were so excited they hardly noticed.

Jerusalem marathon

Just getting to the starting line took a long time,

because of security and  crowds

walking anywhere took longer than usual.

The 10 K race had 3 different starting times and groups

Jerusalem marathon start 10 K race

for the thousands who participated.

Jerusalem marathon 2017

Brightly colored shirts from dozens of charity organizations

were worn by thousands of runners,

Woman who walks for Shalva in Jerusalem Marathon

and this woman who walks for Shalva,

 was back again this  year.

Remembe I commented how I never saw the mayor running?

Jerusalem marathon Nir Barkat starting at 10 K

Well, this year I saw him at the start

Jerusalem Marathon Mayor Nir Barkat at 10 K finish

and again at the end of the race at the finish line.

Jerusalem marathon Moshe Lion

I even spotted the man who wants to be the next mayor

at both the starting and finish lines.

The numbers attending the Jerusalem Marathon

have grown so large it is hard to find family or friends.

One of the reasons the numbers have grown

Family run starting line in Jerusalem marathon

is the participation in a special Family Race.

 At 10:30 am, 6000 were waiting to start the last race of the day.

I did not stay for the starting gun,

as I was racing back to the 10 K finish line.

But the family members I was looking for?

I did not see any of them!

While walking home, I passed those taking

Three girls completing 10 K walk in Jerusalem marathon

  a slower pace nearing the finish line.

Some streets opened early to traffic this year.

Barefoot Rick running Jerusalem marathon without shoes

And there was Barefoot Rick,

still smiling as he finished up another marathon.

Not sure if this was 84 or 85, of the over 100 marathons

 he has run without shoes to raise money for charity.

Tens of thousands ran through the Jerusalem streets,

millions of dollars were raised for charity.

There are people who still hate it,

but look for an even bigger and better one next year.

 The date is set for the next Jerusalem Marathon:

March 9, 2018.

By then I had better get an app for my phone

so I can know how many kilometers I walked.

It could be way more than a full marathon.

To see more Jerusalem Marathon photos,

which were posted on Facebook,

please click HERE.