In Jerusalem one November week with highs and lows

In Jerusalem, Israel, the last week of November 2023 began with an important visitor.

Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence, was open, but with less of the usual formality: no red carpets and no flowers decorated the stage in the main hall, just flags and two podiums.

The President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier was met outside and escorted in by the President of Israel Isaac Herzog as the media and staff watched.

The cameras were ready early, and I made sure to get a good seat.

Their speeches were broadcast live and are available to the public.

The large delegation that came from Germany was warmly greeted, but more importantly, the solidarity visit included traveling south to see the destruction of the Simhat Torah Massacre firsthand.

I wondered if they noticed the memorial candles for a fallen soldier, the son of Beit Hanasi staff member.

The yellow ribbons are still out.

The dog tags – “Bring them home – now” – are becoming more popular.

While some are so happy to take down the posters of the returned hostages,

the faces of the too many who are still held captive in Gaza are seen as life goes on slowly in Jerusalem.

After its grand opening, the Bezalel building is only open to students.

Haneviim Street was strangely lacking traffic, but the new buildings behind were easily visible over the old, showing the contrast on this old Jerusalem street.

People were on Ben Yehudah Streets and Zion Square, an interesting diversity of people as usual.

HaBoydem was open with their recycled fashions, it seems with all the donations to help southern families, the donated clothing for this charity keeps arriving in the original Talpiot branch.

The Farmer’s Markets keep popping up in various Jerusalem locations. I should have bought those orchids on the right when I saw them, as they were gone when I came back a few minutes later.

Perhaps fewer, but the young hijab-wearing women were also walking on Jaffa Road.

And as always, at Israeli medical facilities, Arabs both work and receive treatment.

Kikar Safra is the home of the Jerusalem municipality that has been working overtime to serve Jerusalem residents and the thousands of people from around the country who had to leave their homes under threat.

It was good to see tour groups as I walked around on a sunny weather day. Things are not always as they seem, as the sign warns that those cushions that look so inviting are made of cement.

Near Tzahal Square there was much less congestion than usual.

I had time to notice the Jerusalem lion on the bollards for the first time.

The view on the way to Jaffa Gate is an old photo favorite as usual.

This man sitting in his usual spot collected charity, a sign of returning to normal.

Traffic below coming and going from Jerusalem, who would have thought it a positive sight?

By Jaffa Gate, the tourists and birds were missing, but, as usual, a Muslim family walked by.

A week, that featured an emotional roller coaster of nights waiting to see which hostages would be released, ended with a Friday Fair at the Tower of David with no entrance fee.

An arts and crafts sale to aid southern businesses, at a time when culture is not seen as a priority.

In a city with too few tourists, there was live music at the popular tourist sight,

sweet treats to be designed and made,

and beer was sold, as well as food, at the Tower of David before Shabbat.

The flags were up on the JVP Margalit campus of Startup City Jerusalem, only I arrived after the Hackathon was over. It was hard to keep up with everything that was happening this past week.

However, from there I could see the sign announcing the Jewish Film Week at the Cinematheque, December 9 – 14, 2023.

Donuts. So hard to believe it will be Hanuka in a few days, as the past 2 months are a blur.

Jerusalem, Israel on Hanukkah 5778

Today the traditional menorah, made entirely of bronze, standing over 2 meters tall and 2 meters wide, was placed in the Kotel, Western Wall Plaza, a popular sight year after year.

The Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem had a poster up along a Jerusalem street. Most museums have special activities planned for the week of Hanuka, especially for children.

Hannukah events in Jerusalem, many in libraries in various neighborhoods, already have begun,

December 2-15, 2023, check the link for registration information on Lights from Jerusalem events.

No idea what will be this year, but here’s a favorite from the past to brighten and lighten the mood.

Hope to see you soon on the Jerusalem streets!

11 Firsts the Week before Purim in Jerusalem

The time before Purim in Jerusalem, Israel, is usually filled with surprises, like seeing teens going to school in pajamas, children with painted faces, or adults dressed in costumes walking down the street.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met in the Kremlin with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week on Shabbat, which was certainly a first.

Firsts. Also, highs and lows filled the emotional rollercoaster week as we watched reports from Ukraine.

Photo credit: Haim Zach (GPO)

The official welcome for Israeli President Isaac Herzog on a state visit to the Republic of Turkey at the invitation of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the official complex in Ankara was a significant first.

Photo Credit: Haim Zach (GPO)

The Herzogs were hosted by the Jewish community on Thursday morning at the Neve Shalom Synagogue in Istanbul.

While at the Presidential Library in Turkey, accompanied by the First Lady of the Republic of Turkey, Emine Erdoğan, Michal Herzog gifted a number of Hebrew books to the library during the visit.

Certainly, there were other firsts in Turkey and the international scene, but now back to Jerusalem the week before Purim.

This was not the first visit of Mike and Karen Pence to Jerusalem. Three years ago as US VicePresident they received royal treatment. This time their visit to Hebron got more attention than to the Kotel, Western Wall. Former US Vice President Pence received an award from the Friends of Zion at the beginning of the week.

Pence with leaders of Western Wall Heritage Foundation

I never found out what video they were shown last time at the Kotel.

Karen Pence at Western Wall on visit to Jerusalem

But the photos of Keren Pence I took that day are still a favorite of mine.

  1. For the first time, I got a good view of the Jerusalem Gateway Project from above with a look at how they are working around the old cemetery. The housing projects in the distance have expanded considerably.

2. First time I got a tour of the Jerusalem Report, courtesy of editor Steve Linde and the Jerusalem Post, and saw editor-in-chief, Yaakov Katz, at work in his office.

3. First time seeing the new art displays are back in Mamilla Mall.

4. The new Paris Fountain at French Square was revealed. It is not the same fountain, similar and larger.

The area will look very different than before, larger and with seating and landscaping. They started planting flowers today.

Twenty years ago, at this spot was the Moment Cafe, where a suicide bomber blew up himself, killing 11 people. Today a new residential building has been completed and the cafes have closed. Families have come every year to remember their murdered relatives and friends, with posters, flags, and memorial candles.

5. For the first time this year, a special box with spaces to hold 11 candles was in place. I have not seen that elsewhere and there are way too many of these memorial plaques at other terror sites.

Not a first, but unusual, to have thunder and lightning storms over the Jerusalem streets. Thanks to Facebook memories I saw in March, the weather extremes changing by the hour are an annual occurrence.

6. The lightning flashes are too fast to capture. However, this storm went on long enough for me to get a few shorts to make a stormy night video.

And from the video to get an image of one of the lightning flashes to share.

After the storm, Mamilla Pool was half-filled. Lovely photo, though a few minutes later I had to run home in heavy rain, not such a pretty picture.

7. I have seen several tourist buses, but this was the first welcome back sign in a very, very long time. Today I stopped to talk to a couple from Luxembourg with a tour guide and a group from New York City who had been here all week. The women were shopping before going home tonight.

8. Love signs are up along the walking/biking path at First Station

and this heart-shaped sculpture is now in First Station, moved from near the Jerusalem Old City Walls at Tzahal Square.

9. Who does not love those first buds and signs of spring?

Ok. Perhaps those suffering from seasonal allergies are not that excited. At least all the rain is washing away the pollen.

But oh the variety and colors lining the Jerusalem streets.

Even sprouting up from the ancient rocks, a favorite sign that winter is waning.

These purple ones are very common to see on many Jerusalem streets.

10. But this was the first time I saw a sign for ‘Purple in the Armon’. The south has the Darom Adom, Red South for fields of red wildflowers. The Jerusalem event is to promote the local hill filled with purple lupines.

But Purim? Not new, the Hansen House has hosted continuous events and plans for Purim, and on Shushan Purim, it sounds like a place to stop and see.

These new signs at first I thought were for Purim but later realized are for an educational conference in Jerusalem after Purim.

Also, signs are up for the sports EXPO held before the Jerusalem Marathon. It is back at Cinema City, similar to the EXPO before the races in October.

And, a nice winter view of the Knesset, which is now closed for a two months intercession, from the newly developed walking path.

11. And to close, another first. An RJS video recap of some of the sights and sounds on the Jerusalem streets of the last week before Purim.

More upcoming Purim events in Jerusalem – Purim in Disguise

Safra Square on Shushan Purim – Friday, March 18th this year.

Certain early events have already been postponed due to the changing weather. So check back next week for the real story of what happened on the Jerusalem streets for Purim.

You never know what you will find on the Jerusalem streets.

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.