Jerusalem Season of Holidays

Jerusalem Season of Holidays

What a glorious week in the neighborhood!

The Jerusalem, Israel, streets were lined with fall flowers bursting with color.

After a surprise early rain on Shabbat the air is clear under a blue sky.

Yemin Moshe fall flowers

The streets of Yemin Moshe are more marvelous than usual.

Yemin Moshe tourist walking down steps Jerusalem I

I hope all those tour groups appreciated the beauty as they walked.

Pomegranates and flowers near Herzl in Beit Hanasi garden

After so many times at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence, for the first time, this week I noticed the pomegranates growing next to Herzl.

Jerusalem Valley of the Cross

What a view from the new lookout point over the Valley of the Cross!

Shana tova on Jerusalem street sgn

Shana Tova! Have a Good Year! say the signs over Jerusalem streets.

Music in the Sultan’s Pool, music in Kikar Safra, and musical selihot and songs in so many locations.

Tens of thousands filled the Kotel, Western Wall, plaza and the entire area for the annual midnight selihot before Yom Kippur. 

Selihot at Beit Hanasi 2019 with 500 people

For the sixth year, President Rivlin hosted a selihot service with music. Bigger every year, this event had 500 guests in the back garden next to the synagogue.

Selihot at beit hanasi 5780

IDF soldiers, students in pre-military programs, and members of the daily morning prayer group were all invited.

Music before the selihot prayers with Shai Tsabari and Akiva Tourgeman.

Music for selihot at Beit Hanasi

The crowd clapped and often sang along.

Large screens showed those outside what was happening inside the synagogue, and the President came out also.

By the end of the service and singing, it was close to midnight

Yom Kippur this year starts the night of October 8 and goes until nightfall on October 9.

According to IDI surveys, 60.5% of Jewish Israelis plan to fast on Yom Kippur, a significant drop from 73% in 1994.

Only around a quarter of Jewish Israelis (23%) plan on attending all the synagogue services.

But the streets should be quiet with no buses, trains or vehicles, only cyclists.

Jerusalem Israel holiday signs

New signs are up for the holiday season in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem on Sukkos signs on street

Too many concerts and activities to list now.

Holiday Parade signs on Jerusalem streets for Sukkos

The Jerusalem Parade, with thousands of international marchers and hundreds of colorful costumes, will fill the Jerusalem Streets.

So much happening in Jerusalem, Israel, this season of holidays.

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.

10 Alternatives to Politics and Elections in  Jerusalem

10 Alternatives to Politics and Elections in Jerusalem

If you followed the headlines about Jerusalem, Israel, this week you saw elections, politics and more politics.

Party volunteers outside a Jerusalem voting place for Knesset 22

Our voting place was very quiet midday, though there were more party booths than last time. I went at that time hoping to interview voters in line, but there were none.

Jerusalem streets seemed strangely deserted on election day and the day after.

Israel election voting booth for Knesset 22

There were fewer paper ballots for political parties than the previous election so you might mistakenly think it would be simpler. President Rivlin has been busy working for a unity coalition government.

However, still, could we possibly go to election #3?

Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I have cut an exhausting list down to 10 of many more happenings:

Mossad the movie at Jerusalem Cinema City

  1. GPO sponsored “Mossad the movie” a humorous diversion for invited media.

Palmach building site in Jerusalem Israel

2. But back on the streets, “A new beginning” was posted on this construction site near where we voted. I could write new construction and building posts every week!

President Rivlin hosts beekeepers before Rosh Hashana

3. In honor of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, President Reuven Rivlin had his annual meeting with beekeepers. Three generations attended. The President was presented with new honey, branded with a photo of his late wife Nechama on the label dedicated to her memory.

End of summer at Jerusalem Theatre Israel

4. You know it’s the end of summer, not only by the cooler evenings but also by the Jerusalem Theater festival.

Jerusalem Israel end of summer festival at Jerusalem Theater

On the nights from September 16-19, the plaza was filled with music and celebrants.

Music at First Station after Shabbat by Feter Hendel

5. More music at First Station, with live music before Shabbat at Kabalat Shabbat and after Shabbat, at the Melava Malka celebrations. These are regular free events featuring various musical entertainers.   The group Feter Hendel played for their first time at the open stage venue.

Beit Avi Chai is one of many other locations which has a special music event this week.

Yemin Moshe Jerusalem Israel at night

The streets of Yemin Moshe are usually dark and quiet at night.

6. However, the sounds of the Solomon Brothers’ musical selihot filled the alleyways after Shabbat for the first set of the Ashkenazi selihot, the annual prayers prior to Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

sellichos in Yerushalayim at night in Yemin Moshe

As in the past, the women’s section was filled to overflowing and young women either stood outside to listen or left to find other services.

Jerusalem Great Synagogue on night selichos choir and chazan

At the Jerusalem Great Synagogue, the choir and Chazan led selihot. 

7. Same prayers, but a very different sound than the music of the Solomon Brothers.

Thousands attended selihot services at a long list of locations around Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, cafes lining the streets were filled with diners, and wine glasses emptied.

One couple was sharing a sushi platter, away from the cool night breezes.

Skateboarders were flying through the air in the Liberty Bell Park skatepark.

I passed dozens of tourists walking to late-night activities.

This time of year, before the holidays, weddings and engagement parties are planned.

Jerusalem Israel near Mamilla Mall an engagement site with flowers and lights and music.

But for the first time, I happened upon an elaborate set up for a wedding proposal! It looked like she said yes.

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion with Bonei Zion Prize winners

8. The Tower of David hosted the Nefesh B’Nefesh Bonei Zion Prize Award Ceremony.

Mazel tov balloon

Mazel tov to all!

Colorful Israeli sunset

Headlines were filled with political positioning. But of those sunsets this time of year!

We also hear people are reading fewer books.

9. But in Jerusalem book launches seem more frequent. I shared here about Rabbi Meir Soloveichik’s new book. Recently Freddy Freundlich’s Born on the Right Side of the Tracks was a compelling story. Last week Cheri Tenenbaum launched her personal story in “Woman of Few Words.”

“Palestine Posts” compiled by Daniel Chertoff with a first-hand account of Jerusalem in 1947- 1949 was launched.  Chertoff read from the powerful and beautifully written letters of his father Mordecai Chertoff z”l who worked at the Zionist ‘Palestine Post’ which became the ‘Jerusalem Post’ during the critical years of the founding of the State of Israel.

10. Big excitement in sports – the Israeli Baseball team qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020!

Jerusalem contemporary art festival sign

And what’s next? For Heaven’s Sake!

The Jerusalem Biennale for Contemporary Jewish Art, with 200 artists, 30 exhibitions in 14 venues. The full listings can be found HERE

Table with honey and cakes and Shana tova, New Year Rosh Hashana

From the land of milk and honey, it is time for apples and honey for the new year 5780.

Jerusalem public bus with Rosh Hashana greeting of Shana Tova in Hebrew

Shana Tova!

Happy New Year from Jerusalem!