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,
here in Jerusalem, Washington is honored all year long, and Abraham Lincoln is right around the corner.
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.
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.
Also at the opening gala were US Ambassador David Friedman and his wife Tammy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Out on the streets, this week’s Jerusalem’s Shaon Horef, Winter Noise, location was Jaffa Gate.
Light projections and music played on inside Jaffa Gate at multiple locations.
Hundreds of people were climbing the steps throughout the Tower of David after dark.
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.
This was not a week to be cooped up all day in meetings! Look down and you see flowers blooming.
Look up and you could see magnificent sunsets.
A finish line is up next to Gan Sacher, Sacher Park, for the Jerusalem Marathon on March 9.
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.
Jerusalem has seen extreme highs and lows over the last three millennia.
Since the establishment of the State of Israel 70 years ago, Jerusalem has grown and changed.
Our theme, that you never know what you will find on the Jerusalem streets, is continually reinforced. Recently while driving home near the Jerusalem Theater, it seemed like a huge spaceship had landed.
Rising from the grounds of the old Hansen House grounds was this illuminated object.
Was is from another planet?
No it wasn’t, and by day, it proved much less mystifying. It is a large wooden sculpture called an Ester Tower.
In honor of 70 years of State of Israel and 100 years of Czechoslovakia, a Czech firm built its fifth project in Jerusalem. Hansen House, the former leper hospital, has become a center for innovation.
For those not afraid of heights, inside you will find a winding staircase as in a lighthouse, which goes up to a platform, from which there are some spectacular views of the city. And as in so many Jerusalem photos, when you look down, there is a cat on the scene.
The 32nd annual International Mayors Conference in Jerusalem began with a program at Kikar Safra, in the large municipal government meeting room. Over 30 mayors from around the world attended this week long gathering.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat walked around to greet fellow mayors as they were introduced. During the week, they will see innovation and discuss security and ways of working together. A mayor from Taiwan brought a team of businessmen looking for collaborative opportunities.
In his remarks, Barkat emphasized that Jerusalem is always viewed under a magnifying glass. In reality it is one of the safest cities in the world. What happens in Jerusalem spreads throughout the world.
Last week on a Friday Walk in Jerusalem, it was a lovely day, and I decided to just wander around to enjoy the weather. Jerusalem certainly has its highs and lows in weather!
The road was unusually empty outside Mamilla Mall. The street was clear of cars, which usually happens only when traffic is blocked for special events or visitors.
As usual, musicians were performing along the Mall. It was unusual was to see a young Muslim woman put money in their case. The two stood for a while listening and took their toddler out of the stroller to dance.
Thousands of pieces have been displayed and changed in Mamilla since the opening. But this was a first, to find the artist with their work. Yardena Yizoker posed next to her ‘Zionist Pioneers’ with her partner.
Walking through the Rova, the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, I decided to take a photo of those towering palm trees. I wondered how much longer they will be standing?
Trees have been removed from here, opening up new views of Mount of Olives from these steps in the Old City.
All around Jerusalem, trees have been removed and construction is at work, as new foundations are laid deep in the earth.
After many months, construction at the site of future National Library is finally above ground.
A new construction fence is in place for the future Government Center. Those living and spending time around Jerusalem’s Rechavia neighborhood will not be sorry when the Prime Minister moves to this new abode and new location. Unpleasant street closings, traffic stops and pedestrian searches should become much less frequent.
One thing swimmers in Jerusalem will miss, however, is the pool on Emek Refaim, which is now history. It was torn down to provide space for new luxury buildings for those who can afford to buy.
Not all old buildings are coming down. Here, the old Post Office on Jaffa Road, near Kikar Safra, is illuminated at night.
Old and new, highs and lows, the police vehicles are parked and waiting. When it is a quiet, as on a regular Friday in Jerusalem, there are no reports, no news.
On my way home I saw a pro-Israel counter protest group has started demonstrating near Paris Square on Friday afternoon.
It is hard to tell what will pop up here. This store between the Waldorf Astoria Hotel and the US Consulate is now available for short term rental.
Can’t wait to see what will be happening next on the Jerusalem streets.