Federation General Assembly Goes out in New Style

The 82nd Annual General Assembly of Jewish Federations of North America,

the GA, met in Jerusalem, Israel, over three days this week.

#JFNAGA photo, Netanyahu image, picture Prime Minister speaking

The first night Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was main speaker

at the Jerusalem International Convention Center – ICC.

I spent two days inside the ICC, following a program called

“The Global Jewish Shuk: A Marketplace of Dialogue and Debate,”

so it was great that the farewell ceremony was held outside.

image #JFNAGA, picture from end of Israel general assembly

These chairs and a small stage were set up for GA delegates

and many others in Kikar Safra, Safra Square.

image Naftali Bennett speaking, photo Naftali Bennett at GA

Minister Naftali Bennett was the featured government speaker,

and he showed off his best English for the Anglo crowd.

photo GA, chairmen of GA image, picture from Kikar Safra

Michael Siegal thanked Ronny Douek and

Susie and Michael Gelman for chairing the convention.

And then, 

picture walk to kotel, image GA leaders,

with Mayor Nir Barkat and Natan Sharansky at his side,

he led the crowd out of the government plaza

image GA walk to Western Wall, picture walking to Kotel

 to the sounds of a real brass band.

image walking along Old City walls.

With small US, Israeli and GA flags,

image Palestinian women, picture Israel Arab women, Israel apartheid

they walked along the Walls of the Old City,

picture walk to egalitarian service, GA mixed prayer at Kotel

past Jaffa Gate,

image walking to Kossel, Wailing wall

and up the narrow stone steps,

image women waving flags, picture women going to egalitarian service

with more music and more flag waving along the route.

image going to egalitarian service, image parade through old city.

These children waiting to cross the street in the Old City parking lot

got an eyeful as colorful entertainers joined the GA participants.

The route took them to the new area at Robinson’s Arch.

My challenge is to share with you what it looks like now.

image view of new section for public prayer, egalitarian section western wall, picture new Robinson's Arch

This metal platform is constructed up against the wall,

photo Robinson's Arch enlarged, new area of western wall for women and men

the same huge wall as the Kotel, the Western Wall.

giant stones photo, image large stones near western wall.

These massive ancient stones have not been moved.

image new section of wailing wall, picture women at wall,

From this platform one can reach up to place a note in the wall

from an area where men and women are not separated and can pray together.

image size of new section of western wall, picture egalitarian area, photo of Western Wall new section

This is the new area, the large platform on the upper left,

that Naftali Bennett talked about at the farewell ceremony,

 part of a temporay plan while Natan Sharansky

is trying to work out as a compromise

for Women of the Wall to have Rosh Chodesh singing

and other egalitarian prayer services.

image new area for public at western wall

A plaza open to the public was important for this group,

and the GA ended their conference here, as the sun was setting.

image Old City, photo of Jerusalem,

I passed thousands more tourists from around the world,

coming down the stairs to the Kotel, to the Western Wall,

to experience the ancient and holy place.

 I started to walk home,

after two days of going to exhibit booths,

listening to speakers, meeting new people, running into friends,

and talking and talking, talking too much,

and taking way too many photos.

One woman told me as we were walking, and yes, more talking,

that once she got to Israel, she has not been afraid even once.

I am so glad she also got to know the real Jerusalem streets.

New Warnings in Jerusalem Shuk

In 1997, 16 people were killed by suicide bombers and

over 175 wounded at the Machane Yehuda Market, the Shuk.

Ten years ago another 7 people were killed in a terrorist attack at the Shuk.

Six years ago during the Second Lebanon War, 

I made aliyah and moved a short distance from the Shuk.

At first, every time I ventured out to the center of town or to the Shuk, 

it felt like a big deal, with fear of it being my last trip.

What if today another suicide bomber was out for a midday murder mission?

However, what I found in the Shuk was very different from what I expected;

"arab women" "Arab woman", "muslim woman"

Arab women strolling freely and shopping,

"picture fresh garlic"

mountains of garlic before it is dried,

"photo Natan Sharansky"

and Natan Sharansky buying fresh pita.

This month’s Balabasta Festival has brought more people to the Shuk.

 There is security at the entrance, but now a new warning is needed:

 the crowds have returned, so hold on to your kids!

The Mystorin Theater Group has some of the most clever performers. 

They performed two nights last week near the Shuk.

It is hard to describe what they do with costume, light and color.

This scene in the amphitheater was projected on to a large screen


and was created by hand with sand sprinkled on a light table

The ‘Sea in Jerusalem’ show also had several dance performances.

 People walking by also stopped to look at the larger-than-life actors.

However, be warned:


 this show was not appreciated by everyone as it was way ‘out of the box.’

These new warnings for the Jerusalem Shuk may be amusing, 


 this caterpillar, constructed of cement pipes, is located in a park in Sderot

to provide immediate shelter for children who play in the park.

When Hamas decides to send a kassam rocket from Gaza,

the children of Sderot do not always get a warning.

Last night another rocket landed in southern Israel.

 No one was killed.

How can there be any excuse for trying to blow up children,

with or without warning?

Facing Tomorrow, Closing

‘Conversion-Who Keeps the Gate for the Jewish Nation’,

 was one of the closing sessions that confronted controversal subjects

at the 2001 Israeli Presidential Conference.

 ‘The Israeli Palestinian Peace Process:

How far away are we from a Peaceful Tomorrow?’ was another.

One of the participants, Mohammad Dajani has published material on Jerusalem.

Was he the one who walked out the previous day,

when Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat began to speak on ‘My Vision of Jerusalem’?

Dr. Ruth Westheimer is not controversial, as everyone seems to love

Dr Ruth and wants to be photographed with her.

 ‘Where is Jewish Philanthropy Headed’ attracted a large crowd,

however, there were plenty of seats at ‘The Jewish Dimension of a Peace Agreement’.

From opening to closing, the Hebrew University hosted exhibits,

with enthusiastic students anxious to show off their impressive research.

When it was time for the Closing Plenary in Teddy Hall,

everyone had to leave the building and reenter

 through multiple layers of security checks.

Plenty of jokes in the slow line about the great photo opportunities, but

I decided to not to take pictures as security does not always have sense of humor.

Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyhu was the first speaker, followed by

 Natan Sharansky, who was not thrilled to have to speak in English right after Bibi.

In closing, President Shimon Peres got in the last word,

however he repeated much of what he had said earlier in the day to the bloggers.

Not exactly the real streets, but as in the game of Monopoly, to land on

  Park Place or Park Lane, in the British version, can be fun for a change.

After the singing of Hatikva, buses took everyone back to their hotels.

Summer is here and school’s out.

A delivery man was almost lynched in an Arab neighborhood near Hebrew University.

Police were busy last night with demonstrators burning tires

that closed the main road into Jerusalem and caused rush hour chaos.

Flotillas and Glen Beck are their on the way.

‘Cottage’ is still a crisis, goods are high and salaries low.

The doctors’ strike keeps getting bumped to the back page.

It was great to see old friends and make new ones,

but there is always something happening on the Jerusalem streets

and as Sarah Silverman said in a TV interview, Israel has “crappy pr”.

So it’s time to get back to the real Jerusalem streets.


More photos on The Real Jerusalem Streets Facebook Page