Being a Part of History in Jerusalem

Being a Part of History in Jerusalem

Jerusalem, Israel is preparing for Pesach, Passover, in a very different way than usual.

Our lives have changed drastically in a short time of a few weeks.

I decided to take time from my Pesach preparations to share some of the good things happening in Jerusalem and beyond.

The lime tree in the garden started blooming yesterday. In spite of Corona, the cycle of spring has officially begun.

First blossoms on lime tree in Jerusalem garden

In Israel starting on the first of the month of Nissan, on seeing the first blossoms on trees one should say the following blessing:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ אֱ-לֹקינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁלֹּא חִסַּר בְּעוֹלָמוֹ כְּלוּם וּבָרָא בוֹ בְּרִיּוֹת טוֹבוֹת וְאִילָנוֹת טוֹבוֹת לֵהָנוֹת בָּהֶם בְּנֵי אָדָם.

Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, Who has withheld nothing from His world, but has created in it beautiful creatures and trees for human beings to enjoy.

Israeli President Rivlin making blessing on trees in time of coronavirus at Beit Hanasi
Photo credit: Mark Neiman / GPO

President Rivlin went out to the garden at Beit Hanasi to make the blessing.

He and his staff were wearing masks at per official instructions.

President Rivlin selling chamezt in time of corona virus remotely
Photo credit: Mark Neiman / GPO

President Rivlin’s office also sent out this photo of him and Director-General of Beit HaNasi Harel Tubi selling Israel’s chametz in a video call to the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Shlomo Amar.

In Jerusalem, Municipality volunteers handed out over eleven thousand food packages to help the elderly and quarantined residents, three times last week. Thousands of people volunteered daily in Jerusalem delivering food, making phone calls, bringing medicines to the sick, doing good and feeling good, to 12,500 seniors alone at home. Other private volunteer groups have been formed in Jerusalem around the country to assist those in need.

Jerusalem, Israel During Corona Ramada Hotel closed and light shape of heart
Photo credit: Ramada Hotel

Similar to Tel Aviv municipality, the Jerusalem Ramada Hotel, and empty hotels across Israel lit their windows in the shape of a heart to send a message of solidarity and love to the people of Israel during this difficult time. More and more empty hotels are being converted to “melonit,” locations for those with mild cases of coronavirus to be quarantined.

Israeli child being tested for COVID-19 in a MDA emergency van
Photo credit: MDA spokesperson

MDA has set up more and more test sites for testing coronavirus.

A team of over 40 medical experts & engineers from Israel released blueprints for AmboVent, a low-cost, medically tested #COVIDー19 ventilator device, made from off-the-shelf components, to answer the worldwide need for emergency equipment. 

In a recent tweet, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh claimed that Israel and its policies thwart efforts to protect Palestinians from the spreading Coronavirus.

COGAT visual of materials going into Gaza March 22- 28 during corona virus

While around the world countries closed borders, Israel kept the border to Gaza open. COGAT published its information in an easy to read format. In case the small print is hard to read, 145 tons of medical supplies were sent into Gaza by way of Kerem Shalom Crossing last week. Yet Israel haters have not ceased their campaign of lies against Israel.  What they should be questioning is where all the tons and tonnes of materials go.

IDF Twitter image of Palestinian doctors training in Israel for coronavirus
Photo Credit: IDF

This photo of Palestinian Authority doctors training in Israel to learn how to treat COVID-19 did make some news sites.

It is interesting that it made the news because, for years, there have been medical training sessions for doctors from Gaza and Arab countries in Israel.

Australian doctor training medical specialists in Israeli hospital

In November 2017, four pediatric emergency room medical specialists from Sydney, Australia came to a Jerusalem hospital to train medical experts from Gaza, Iraq and other Middle East unmentionables.

Jerusalem hospital were Australian doctors are training in pediatric emergency room procedures.

I have over 500 photos of the Israeli and Arab doctors and nurses working together. The smiling group selfie images to home countries were my favorites. However, for privacy’s sake, I am only sharing this one group photograph.

A big van with loud music playing is making the rounds in Jerusalem as well as other Israeli cities. One day there was loud music coming from the direction of the Israel Museum over the Israeli Scouts base. I tried to get a video for you to hear, but it was difficult over the sounds of traffic and birds.

Truck spraying Jerusalem streets coronavirsu

No moving music truck was spotted on our little street. However, for a second time, the street was sprayed this morning by the municipality.

So I am off the streets for a while, with plenty of Zoom sessions to follow and connect.

GPO Zoom live with Rav Lau and Zvika Klein

Sunday evening Rav Yisrael Meir Lau was the first speaker for a Government Press Office Zoom session live with journalists and rabbis from around the world. Rav Lau stressed we have a common enemy, and with this new enemy the virus, there is no east or west. We have no choice, he said, but to be united. Peace. Friendship. Even love.

View of Nachlaot in Jerusalem Israel

At home with my zoom lens, I can get a decent image of Nahlaot.

Jerusalem Israel Knesset and Crown Plaza

The Knesset is quiet, as is the Crown Plaza Hotel behind it.

Sorry, still no new unity government to report.

President Reuven Rivlin has gone into a grandfatherly Saba Ruvi mode with another story time.

At least we can all learn the classic Israeli children’s stories and with the English translations, a bit of Hebrew too.

Photo Credit: Micha Mitch Danzig

These lights in Tel Aviv were of the Azrieli Tower windows illuminated with “Shema Yisrael HaShem Elokeynu HaShem Ahad – Listen Israel, the L-rd is Our G-d, the L-rd is One.”

Pesach this year coincides with Easter, and Ramadan begins right after.

Tens of thousands will be disappointed not to be on the Jerusalem streets for these religious holidays.

However, here’s hoping for a happy and healthy holiday to all, and one day we can retell the stories of the time of the historic pandemic.

 

Jerusalem After Holidays Now What?

Jerusalem After Holidays Now What?

What’s new in Jerusalem after the holidays?

Looking back at last year it seems much is the same. 

The universities are back in session.

A rocket from Gaza hit a home in Sderot.

Again, thankfully, the family was able to get to shelter and was not physically hurt.

View of Old City Jerusalem from other side of Yemin Moshe

Winter clouds hover over Jerusalem and the Old City as seen from Mishkenot Sha’ananim.

View from Yemin Moshe of Old City and road to Zion Gate

Holidays are over but tour buses line busy streets, coming and going from Zion Gate.

Houses Within in Jerusalem at Hansen House

The annual Jerusalem ‘Houses From Within’ was held at the end of October.

The sign was up for entry to the old leper hospital grounds, one of 200 sites open to the public.

But it is so different now, unlike the first tour nine years ago when it was in ruin.

Nine years ago the price of tomatoes made headlines, this year it is the scarcity of butter.

Jupiter and Moon in sky over Jerusalem Israel

Jupiter was in line with the moon. Crazy–this photo received hundreds of likes on Facebook.

Amazing. It is so fascinating what gets attention on social media.

The new moon and conferences galore begin as the holidays end.

The Herzl Conference on Contemporary Zionism ‘From Vision to Reality’ was a first-time event.

Jerusalem Har Herzl grave at night

The opening was held at night on Har Herzl close to Herzl’s final resting place, with the gravestone illuminated.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin

Former US Senator and Vice-Presidential Candidate Joe Lieberman was on the opening program, mentioning proudly that he has children and grandchildren who made aliyah.

Stanley Fischer at Herzl Conference in Jerusalem
Dr. Stanley Fischer was another featured speaker on the program, along with President Reuven Rivlin.

Leaders of Jewish Agency Board of Governors after showing of video remembering Pittsburgh

The annual Jewish Agency Board of Governors opened on a somber note with a powerful video remembering those murdered in Pittsburgh one year ago.

Prime Minister Netanyahu at Begin Center for Jewish Agency Board of Governors

PM Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the Jewish Agency Board of Governors at the Begin Center.

Begin Center security for Jewish Agency Board of Governors

There was security for the Prime Minister, this time I got a photo as they were taking it away.

Stephen Harper in Jerusalem for gala dedication for Hula Lake Park Visitor Center

Security was at a high level at the Waldorf Astoria. But, unlike most events, security let guests at the KKL-JNF Gala get close enough to photograph former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper seated next to the Netanyahus. The new KKL-JNF visitor center in Hula Lake Park is dedicated in Harper’s honor.

Though busy with government and election drama, President Rivlin hosted a special meeting on antisemitism at Beit Hanasi, the President’s Residence.

Elan Carr and President Rivlin at Beit Hanasi

US Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Antisemitism Elan Carr attended.

Panel on antisemitism at Beit Hanasi

The panel also included the UK – Lord Eric Pickles, France – Frederic Potier, Germany – Dr. Felix Klein, and European Commission – Katharina von Schurbein. The consensus was that education is the key to combating antisemitism. Opinions once considered fringe are becoming mainstream on campuses and they are spreading. The problem is not a Jewish one, but one for all humanity.

BLMJ Glorious Martyr exhibit

The Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem shared important finds from an excavation in Beit Shemesh. Though no one knows exactly who the ‘Glorious Martyr’ was, the dig exposed a large Byzantine church, filled with hundreds of glass pieces and stone lamps.

Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem opening of Glorious Martyr

On opening night invited guests arrived to see the exhibition and hear from experts.

Seat of donor or high church official from Glorious martyr exhibit in BLMJ

A favorite object was this marble piece, probably the ‘seat’ of a high church official or donor.

Who knew hundreds of years ago donors had names on plaques in churches?

International Science Centers and Science Museum Day is November 11.

Jerusalem Science Museum play area

Look for free admission to the Bloomberg Science Museum and again the end of November.

The annual Piano Festival at the Jerusalem Theater is from November 13-16.

AniNation in Jerusalem street poster

But first will be the annual international Animation festival in Jerusalem – AniNation.

Science and tech and start-up conferences–always more happening on Jerusalem streets!

In honor of Aliyah Day, celebrated this week, time to share an old favorite.

Sign about learning to speak Hebrew

No government and elections looming.

Years of rockets from Gaza.

Serious threats from Lebanon and Iran.

Jordan, a very cold peace partner.

Rush hour traffic reaching nightmare levels.

Miracle in our times,

Am Yisrael Chai. 

 

In Jerusalem From Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur

In Jerusalem From Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur

In Jerusalem, Israel, before the Rosh Hashana holiday season, the variety of items for sale seems infinite. It is a time to purchase new clothes and pots and flowering plants, and for many also a time to clean.

Window cleaner stories above ground

Entering an apartment building, we looked up to see a window cleaner at work stories above us.

Plans are made either to travel or arrange seats in synagogues to pray and hear the shofar blown.

Annual Rosh Hashana ‘raising the glass’ celebrations were held at business and government offices.

One of my favorites is the reception held at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence, before the Jewish New Year.

Diplomats arriving for Rosh Hashana

The red carpet is laid out. The State Chief of Protocol from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Meron Reuben, greeted the arriving heads of mission for foreign diplomats.

Beit Hanasi diplomats before Rosh Hashana

With so many new ambassadors it is a good time for the international representatives to meet. There are 18 female ambassadors serving their countries in Israel.

Most of the male ambassadors wore business suits, as at the previous reception. 

Cat at President's house in garde

The Presidential cat was on watch, a sign of a special gathering.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister

While waiting in the main room before the president arrived, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Hotovely had a chance to talk with ambassadors.

Ambassadors to Israel from Jordan and Egypt at Presidents house reception

Of note this year in the front row, the only person in military uniform was B.G. Alaa Abu-Rukun, the new Military Secretary to the President of Israel, seated between the Ambassadors from Egypt and Jordan.

Jordan Ambassador shaking hands with President Rivlin in Jerusalem Israel

President Reuven Rivlin entered shaking hands with Ambassador from Jordan and others who stood as he passed to his seat.

Diplomats at Beit Hanasi for New Year reception

The room appeared full. I missed seeing the Ambassadors from Australia and the United States.

Ambassadors to Israel from Thailand and Slovak Republic

But had the pleasure to meet the Ambassadors from Thailand and the Slovak Republic,

New Year reception at Beit Hanasi for diplomatic corps

The head of the Diplomatic corps offered greetings during the formal program.

President Rivlin spoke as well.

Beit Hanasi piano played by 12 year old boy with autism

Musical protege Roi Mor, diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum, has perfect pitch and played two of his compositions on the piano during the event. You could barely see the top of his head as he was seated at the piano.

Wine for New Year's toast at Israeli Presidents house for diplomats

Then it was time to go outside and ‘raise a glass’ to toast the New Year.

Reception in garden at Beit Hanasi for Rosh Hashana

Fruit platters, and of course, apples and honey round out the menu.

Photo of table with Rosh Hashana pomegranates and apples and honey

The presentation was much more elaborate two years ago when this event was last held.

President Rivlin with wine and apples and honey for Rosh Hasahana

President Rivlin put on a kippa to make a blessing on his wine and apples dipped in honey.

Last year because of time or budget, or perhaps Nechama Rivlin’s declining health, this reception did not take place.

Nechama Rivlin in 2016 without oxygen at Beit Hanasi reception

When I went to check previous Rosh Hashana receptions, I realized that only 3 years ago, she walked in without oxygen support.

Ambassador from Jordan shaking hands with Israel President Rivlin in Jerusalem at Beit Hanasi gardens

Ambassadors lingered in the Beit Hanasi garden to wish the Israeli President Shana Tova.

Diplomats at Beit Hanasi in Jerusalem Israel

This is an important time for the diplomats to meet and mingle in a relaxed setting. More modest was fine. Most of those attending were new and did not remember the previous more elaborate affairs.

Gol Kolev with apple and honey at Beit Hanasi

Important are the apples and honey for a sweet year!

Israel President's Residence traffic outside.

As always, when the Presidential Rosh Hashana reception was over.  Traffic on Jerusalem streets near Beit Hanasi slowed to a crawl,  as diplomats were picked up and driven to their next appointments.

Photographers at Israel President Residence

The media ignored this event, but my friend Aleksandr and I enjoyed it.

Four years ago, Aleksandr pushed me into the crowded men’s section at the President’s synagogue so I could to get my shots, we have often worked together.

So to prepare for Yom Kippur 5780 which is Wednesday next week, here are videos from past years of selihot at Beit Hanasi.

With Yitzhak Meir and my close-ups.

Traditional prayers with Chaim Israel two years ago at Beit Hanasi.

Powerful – David D’Or’s Avenu Malkeinu.

The Jerusalem Municipality is sponsoring multiple traditional Selihot, musical selihot nights and tours, and events.

Tens of thousands will fill the plaza for late-night selihot at the Kotel, Western Wall before Yom Kippur.

Wishing all a גמר חתימה טובה,

may you be signed and sealed in the book of life.