What a Week in Jerusalem: Presidents, Parliamentarians, Ambassadors and More

The third week in February is always a busy time in Jerusalem, Israel.

Unlike the US, where only one February weekend celebrates President George Washington,

Street sign George Washington in Jeruaslem

here in Jerusalem, Washington is honored all year long, and  Abraham Lincoln is right around the corner. 

The annual Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organization, COP, had over a hundred leaders participating in this year’s mission.

Football numbered shirt presented to President Rivlin in Jerusalem

COP Presidents were greeted by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who received this numbered jersey from a visiting US football player, who were in Israel on a tour.

Malcolm Hoenlein looks up at Jewish football player Geoff Schwartz at CoP dinner in Jerusalem Israel

Jewish football player Geoff Schwartz presented COP CEO Malcolm Hoenlein with a shirt.  Hoelein is looking up, seconds before he stood on a chair to get a better view.

Ambassador Friedman and Tammy Friedman

Also at the opening gala were US Ambassador David Friedman and his wife Tammy.

Dr Leah Goldin with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem

President Rivlin consoles Dr. Leah Goldin, mother of Hadar Goldin z”l, whose remains are being held captive in Gaza.  There was another birthday of Hadar’s this week, 3 1/2 years after Hamas killed him, after agreeing to a cease fire.

Parents of Avera Mengistu at dinner CoP to raise awareness of their son held captive 3 years by Hamas

Also sharing their plight with the Presidents were the family of Avera Mengistu, and their spokesperson.  Over 3 years ago, the mentally challenged Avera wandered over the Gaza border and was kidnapped by Hamas.

Five former Israeli Ambassadors speak to Conference of Presidents at Waldorf Astoria

This was a not just a week for presidents, but for ambassadors too. On the dais in the Waldorf-Astoria Jerusalem ballroom, these five former Israeli ambassadors to the US, Moshe Arens, Sallai Meridor, Ron Prosor, Zalman Shoval and Itamar Rabinovich, shared their experiences.

Israeli Knesset hosts International Parliamentary heads at conference

At the Knesset, over 30 International Parliamentary Heads came to Jerusalem to share their knowledge at a Knesset Conference.

With all these important international leaders in Jerusalem, the most impressive session I attended went unreported.

Insights into Israel Bedouin girl at Israeli University excelling in STEM education

Entrepreneurs Dr. Yossi Vardi and SanDisk CEO Shahar Bar-Or, introduced Sereen to the COP Presidents after lunch at the Inbal Hotel.

Sereen is a 15 year-old Bedouin girl who grew up near Beer Sheva, and is an outstanding STEM student in an Israeli university. Her father’s cousin is a professor in both Stony Brook and Ben Gurion Universities, and promotes good education as key to success. Sereen, seated on the left wearing a dark hijab, is at the table with other promising Israeli young women. Her very proud mother is seen on the right in a tan colored head covering.

African American basketball players in Israel

Presidents, parliamentarians, and ambassadors, and even professional football players, are not the real streets. A new book “Alley-Oop to Aliyah” tells us about over 800 African-American basketball players who came to Israel over the years to play basketball. They loved it. Some stayed and made aliyah, and their children are playing ball and serve in the IDF.

Jerusalem Marathon 2018 huge announcement near Jaffa Gate

Out on the streets, this week’s Jerusalem’s Shaon Horef, Winter Noise, location was Jaffa Gate.

Shaon Horef שאון חורף ן Old City Jaffa Gate

Light projections and music played on inside Jaffa Gate at multiple locations.

Tower of David for Shaon Horef Jerusalem Monday night event in Februrary

Hundreds of people were climbing the steps throughout the Tower of David after dark.

Music and dancing at Jaffa Gate for Winter Noise event

The presidents were so close, they could have wandered over to see the crowds and danced along next to the walls of Tower of David at this free event.

Jerusalem Israel wild flowers growing in Valley of Cross

This was not a week to be cooped up all day in meetings! Look down and you see flowers blooming.

Clouds and colored sky photo Jerusalem sunset over Israel Museum

Look up and you could see magnificent sunsets.

Jerusalem Marathon finish line ready for races in March

A finish line is up next to Gan Sacher, Sacher Park, for the Jerusalem Marathon on March 9.

Happy Purim Jerusalem street posters

But first Purim.  Jerusalem street signs wish everyone a “Happy Purim.”

Preparations for costumes and food and meals are well under way. Young school children can be seen wearing their crowns on the streets. The not so young are also planning their holiday costumes.  There may be presidents this week, but next week there will be queens and kings and many more important personalities.

See Winter in Jerusalem

Winter in Jerusalem, Israel, is so different than those we experienced in the US. Being used to those long Boston winters with piles of snow into June and New York where tree branches remained bare for months on end, the greenery popping up all around is always a pleasure.

When the rain stops, the sun comes out, and things turn green.

Jerusalem flowers Kalaniot Anemones

The first spotting of wild Kalaniot, anemones, is an annual favorite.

Tourists and locals are enjoying the unseasonably warm weather.

Our Crowd 2018

The OurCrowd Global Summit attracted 10,000 people to the Jerusalem International Conference Center.

Construction Jerusalem Israel no stairs

I had always used this stairway to get to the entrance, but the stairs were gone this time. With so much construction in Jerusalem, you never know what you will find, or not find.

Audience at Our Crowd Global Summit in Jerusalem 2018

The auditorium was full for the opening plenary.

Map of Eretz Yisrael from ancient times.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat was a featured speaker in the morning. Jerusalem of the ancient past appeared in this slide in his presentation, but the focus was on the future.

Mayor Nir Barkat in front of photo of new Jerusalem - Tel Aviv train station

This is a photo of the future fast train station. He promised it would be ready soon, with a ride of 28 minutes from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.

However, beside mega-events like OurCrowd, dozens of smaller events are held nightly.

AMIT-Emunah movie night at Ramat Tahel Monkey Business

On Sunday night, AMIT-Emunah Jerusalem held an annual movie night featuring “Monkey Business,” at Ramat Rachel. The story behind the “Curious George” children’s books, and the Jewish authors journey to survive the Holocaust was fascinating.

Panel Yossi Klein HaLevi with Moshe Boogie Ya'alon at Tmol Shilshom with Anat Mufkadi moderator

Then at Tmol Shilshom, in Nahalat Shiva, Author Yossi Klein HaLevi discussed the Hebrew version of his book on Israel in 1967, “The Dreamers,” with Moshe “Boogie” Ya’alon, with Anat Mufkadi moderating.

Shaon Horef, Jerusalem Israel street festival in February on Monday nights

Monday nights in February, in various Jerusalem neighborhoods, streets are the setting for a cultural festival called Shaon Horef, or Winter Noise.

Winter Noise at Nahalat Shiva Jerusalem Israel culture event

Not only does the location vary, but so does the quality of entertainment. February 5, 2018, the event took place in Nahalat Shiva, off of Yoel Salomon Street. There were light projections on buildings, music, and more.

Acting on Jerusalem Israel streets for Winter Noise cultural festival

Improv acts,  one of the free entertainment events, drew a crowd in this small alley.

Jerusalem Israel Winter Noise Festival activity

Some shops were involved. Bands provided music on the streets late into the night .

Music at Winter Noise festival Jerusalem Israel winter night events

Tmol Shilshom was again filled for musical performances.

As we enter the 70th year since the establishment of State of Israel, get ready for more events and mega-events.

Jerusalem, Israel Knesset gathering of Ambassadors

Ambassadors to Israel were hosted for an annual gathering at the Knesset which also celebrated its 70th. The Knesset opened on Tu Bishvat back in 1949.

Knesset Israel Arab men entering for tour Jerusalem Israel

I wondered if the diplomats from around the world noticed this Arab tour group in the Knesset at the same time?

Sign up for kindergarten and first grade in Jerusalem

However, the real streets did not focus on visitors to the Knesset this week. Signs are up to register for ganim, nurseries and school for next year. For many families, the big event last week was report card week.

Runner in Jerusalem Israel in Valley of Cross

The sun was shining and the weather was warm. Runners have been out training for the Jerusalem Marathon on March 9th.

Will all the construction be done in time for the race? This has been the final few meters in the full marathon in the past.

Even in winter, as always, so much is happening on the Jerusalem streets.