Jerusalem Security and Safety

When I worked in a biochemistry lab, I carefully did research dealing in fractions of a millimeter. However, my unscientific observation of the Jerusalem streets at present is that there are more people sick now than in the past two years.

A bit more scientific, the newest stats published for last week, we see in Israel 709 cases per day for 100,000 people, with a +467% increase, which is the highest in the world. Israel was also testing – a lot.

The borders are open. But the crowds of tourists are nowhere to be seen even near Jaffa Gate at the entrance to the Old City. Flights are still being canceled abruptly leaving passengers to scramble to make new travel plans.

The snow predicted did not last more than a few minutes one night. I love getting white snow pictures and ran to check outside often, but the best I could do was grey fog in the morning. Fog so thick the Vert Hotel was not to be seen.

Mostly we had a week of cold rain. Umbrellas were out in Mamilla Mall, but not crowds of returning tourists. Notice what else is missing?

The art and pedestals that lined Mamilla Mall last year have been removed.

It seems they wrote more numbers on the stones, so perhaps a renovation project is planned? In Jerusalem, every stone removed outside of a historical building is numbered and is replaced like a giant puzzle.

When the sun finally came out a few times this past week for a short while, I walked around trying to decide what to share. A military helicopter flew past as the clouds were breaking over Jerusalem’s changing skyline.

Thanks to the US Consulate installing new bollards – no photos allowed there! I got my inspiration, of course, what else, but security and safety!

The original security “Dragon Teeth” display is starting to grow green moss.

The new security bollards at Jerusalem bus stops have grown taller.

Remember the security at the entrance to Balfour Street last year? At least five levels were visible at times blocking the view to the Prime Minister’s residence with a black curtain and four rows of barricades blocking the gate on the public street side.

Now there is simpler security with bollards blocking cars, but people can walk thru again. I have done it a few times, just because I can and to see if there is anything happening there.

And this past week there was action! Two cats were up on the roof. Oh, the jokes I was thinking of as I walked by in the sunny warmth of the day.

However, security and safety on building sites is no joke,

Construction and building renovations are everywhere.

There was a danger warning,

but now people have moved into the renovated building.

How cool to paint new crosswalk lines that look like old ones.

And then there are the safety signs not to use the crosswalk,

but walk around the fenced-in holes in the pavement.

Getting tired of it all? These chairs are ready for you to sit and rock awhile.

This bench on a busy Jerusalem street near a new coffee shop has flowers secured to it in memory of a deceased relative.

This has to be one of my favorite discoveries in the ‘walking the Jerusalem streets and what will you find next category.’ I may even go out when it rains to see the water come out of this drain pipe mouth.

Some people are so clever!

And those masks, worn and not, and discarded near a bus stop, remind us of the newest tiny variant to beware of in order to stay safe and secure in our damp dwellings.

The sun did peek thru the clouds, and ‘I love Jerusalem’ was picture perfect.

Hopefully, the sign and plazas will be filled with people again, day and night, and soon.

Two years is too long, but take care and stay well.

Hope to see you soon, back again on the Jerusalem streets!

10 Facts for Tu Bishvat: All About Almonds:

The blossoming almond tree is the symbol of ט”ו בשבט -Tu Bishvat, the “New Year of Trees.” I love seeing the almond flowers appear to burst, literally overnight, into full bloom. The delicate and majestic flowers of the common almond, in shades of white or delicate pink, gradually envelop the exposed stems and can be observed in cultivated orchards and abandoned open areas.

Love the flowers, but the almond trees? The date of flowering is not always exact and often depends on the weather. This has been a relatively warm winter, and the weather caused this Jerusalem almond tree to bloom early.

  1. The spectacular flowers cover the tree in white or pink. They are fragrant and thus stand out in the landscape, becoming a symbol of Tu Bishvat. The almond is called shaked in Hebrew, which means the fastest or most diligent because it blooms first before all other wild and fruit trees in the country.

2. The common almond tree belongs to the rose family, this large family includes about 120 genera and 3200 species. It is common in most areas of the world, especially in temperate zones. Other members of the family are the fruit trees, plum, peach, cherry, and also rose bushes.

3. Four species of almond trees grow in the wild: Arabian almond, harem almond, small-leaved almond, and common almond. It is difficult to distinguish between them.

4. Although the almond is not included among the seven species in the Bible, it has a respectable place in our sources, mentioned many times in the Bible and the Talmud, as one of the five species of zimrat ha’Aretz, considered “the best produce of the Land,” included in the gifts that Jacob told his sons to take to the ruler in Egypt. (Genesis 43:11)

5. The fruit is wrapped in a green peel and changes its color to brown over time. When the fruit ripens, the peel splits in two and usually falls off. The almond seed remains on the tree wrapped in another extremely hard bark that is cracked only by pressure. Another bark envelops the seed cocoons. This shell is thin and brown in color. The part eaten is the seed. Almond fruits are also eaten whole before ripening when the seed coat is still green.

New almond trees blooming near the old Monastery in Jerusalem

6. But, BEWARE! In abandoned areas and orchards, bitter almond trees usually grow. They are used as a cultivar for the cultivated almond. Bitter almond seeds are dangerous to eat. They contain a substance called amygdalin from which the toxin cyanide is released.

7. However, almonds have long been considered a fine fruit for food and medicine. Maimonides praised them: “Almonds are the finest in fruits.” They have great nutritional value and contain, among other things, fat, protein, and calcium. The almond is considered the healthiest food out of 100 tested foods, including avocado and olive oil, (according to the FDA). It has been recommended to eat 7-12 almonds a day.

8. Do cultivated almonds grow in an orchard or vineyard? Planted almond trees grow in a kerem, “vineyard.” The term kerem “vineyard” usually refers to grapes, olive, and almond crops.

9. The Israeli almond industry is in development. In Israel, over 62,000 dunams of almond groves stretch from the south to the Golan Heights. Some of the new varieties have been developed at the Volcani Center.

Almond growing in Israel takes the environment into account, including low water consumption, and sophisticated and focused mechanization. Israel consumes about 10,000 tons every year. Most of the consumption comes from local crops and the rest will come from the United States.

10. Fast then slow? Almond ripening is very slow, in contrast to its agile flowering, it lasts about six months.

Only 5-10% of all almond flowers bear fruit.

I store almonds in the freezer to keep fresh and to keep them out of the way so as to not grab too many to eat at a time.

Almonds, nuts, and dried fruit have been piled high in the shuk, Machane Yehudah Market, and in supermarket displays and stores throughout Jerusalem, Israel over these past weeks.

The present Israeli Knesset building was opened on Tu Bishvat, but no big celebrations this year like 6 years ago for the 50th.

It was 2 years ago for Tu Bishvat, multiple large events were celebrated. The last event I attended at Beit Hanasi before the coronavirus closed the doors of the Israeli President’s Residence was the JNF-KKL Tu Bishvat celebration.

Here’s hoping next year we can celebrate Tu Bishvat together again!

Tu Bishvat Sameach!

My thanks, as every year, to a wonderful friend Sara for providing the information for all things almond and her amazing website with everything you would want to know about the Wildflowers of Israel.

Jerusalem Making Memories and Building

What a week it was in Jerusalem, Israel!

A week of ups and downs, in the weather and news and events, hard to remember only a week ago was Hanukkah.

The blue sky and light clouds started the week off on a positive note.

Three (very) young musicians were taking advantage of the last day of the Hanukkah time off from school to play for people in Mamilla Mall.

Oh, the Jerusalem streets appear in a constant state of construction. King David Street road work goes on and on. When will this building be only a memory?

The gates were finally open to this Ivory Coast property the city has taken over after a long period of vacancy.

The Beit Hanasi, President’s Residence’ gates were open to welcome new Ambassadors to Israel this past week with the IDF honor guard.

The full honor guard and IDF band were all rehearsed and ready for the arrival of the new US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides on Sunday.

As he got out of the official limousine to the red carpet welcome, drops of rain started to lightly fall on the official reception.

Were his eyes closed for the playing of Hatikvah or did I just catch a blink?

Like all dignitaries, Ambassador Nides signed the official guest book. His son at his side, and the President with his wife at his side.

But unlike other new ambassadors, after lighting candles on the last night of Hanukkah at Beit Hanasi, Nides joined in the singing of Moaz Tzur while the audience was more restrained, despite Herzog’s encouragement.

The last day of Hannukah was a busy one with family parties and trips. Mostly trips in Israel due to the corona restrictions limiting travel.

But PM Bennett was able to welcome the Prime Minister of Greece and the President of Cyprus to Jerusalem for important meetings.

Also on the last night of Hanukkah, Rabbi Aharon Katz was asked to light the candles to start the opening of the World Championship Flag Football games at the Ramada Hotel.

Close to 900 people from 23 countries participated. The US won both men’s and women’s gold medals as expected and Mexico placed second in both. Where else do you find football players wearing a kippa than Jerusalem?

Mayor Moshe Lion made a grand entrance when he arrived late to the event, which ended with a loud and live band rocking the ballroom. For many of the participants, it was their first time in Israel but very limited due to the corona restrictions. Hope they have good memories and come back soon to see much more of the Jerusalem streets.

On a very different note, another meaningful program was held at the Jerusalem Theater on Wednesday evening as the weather turned cold and windy.

Artist Jacob Jay Garfinkel’s work lined the theater’s lobby walls with his photographs, special images of an item from a loved one lost too soon. His only son Elon z”l died at age 43, and this grieving father initiated an endeavor with OneFamily to make memories with victims of terror.

Families arrived to see the images posted on the walls.

A large crowd gathered for the opening night program as it started to rain.

The Minister of Culture and Sport Chili Tropper and Deputy Mayor Hagit Moshe sat in the front row and spoke. Miriam Perez, one of the grieving parents, sat in the crowd on the steps, wearing a royal blue jacket.

Friends and relatives of the Garfinkels were also in attendance.

Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg, the father of Rivka Holzberg z”l spoke on behalf of the survivor families who participated in the Heirlooms: Memory and Cherished Objects.

This photo of OneFamily organizers includes Chantal and Marc Belzberg.

Jay (full disclosure: we have known the Garfinkels for many years) spoke movingly about his son and his work and the process of minimalism in photography.

His work very much broke a tenet of keeping emotion out of the photo.

Perhaps without reading, but beside each picture in Hebrew and English was a text of powerful explanation.

Gaston Perpinal, 15, of Ra’anna, immigrated with his parents from Argentina. A Palestinian suicide bomber detonated himself at a shopping mall in Kfar Sava, killing him. Gaston was the driving force behind his parents’ moving to Israel. Six months after their Aliyah, he was murdered. With the objects of his youth gone, “there is one way in which I keep Gaston’s memory alive. A tattoo…”

The images were also on display up the stairs on another level.

One more caption by the photo of a uniform – AIMAN.

Staff sergeant Aiman Sharuf, 20, a border policeman from the Druze village of Ussifiyeh, was one of 14 persons killed on October 21, 2002, when a bus was blown up in a suicide attack by a terrorist driving an explosives-laden jeep near the Karkur junction. Aiman’s uniform still hangs in his bedroom in the apartment of his parents. His mother never washed it because “I want to smell it, and it still has his odor.”

Each of the 33 “simple” photographs in the exhibit packs not only powerful memories but messages of lives cut short.

Signs like these line too many Jerusalem streets, they remember the victims of terror murdered at various Jerusalem locations.

The sign has been placed on the wall of the new building that has risen on the site of Moment Cafe where a suicide bomber blew himself up in 2002, killing 11 people.

From terror and tragedy, making memories, and building on the Jerusalem streets. Hope you can see for yourself – and soon.