What a week!
The 82nd Annual General Assembly of Jewish Federations of North America,
the GA, met in Jerusalem, Israel, over three days this week.
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.
These chairs and a small stage were set up for GA delegates
and many others in Kikar Safra, Safra Square.
Minister Naftali Bennett was the featured government speaker,
and he showed off his best English for the Anglo crowd.
Michael Siegal thanked Ronny Douek and
Susie and Michael Gelman for chairing the convention.
with Mayor Nir Barkat and Natan Sharansky at his side,
he led the crowd out of the government plaza
to the sounds of a real brass band.
With small US, Israeli and GA flags,
they walked along the Walls of the Old City,
past Jaffa Gate,
and up the narrow stone steps,
with more music and more flag waving along the route.
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.
This metal platform is constructed up against the wall,
the same huge wall as the Kotel, the Western Wall.
These massive ancient stones have not been moved.
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.
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.
A plaza open to the public was important for this group,
and the GA ended their conference here, as the sun was setting.
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.