February and time for Presidents again in Jerusalem

Trying to keep an equilibrium as the weeks after the October 7 War continue.

The down feelings continue on the Jerusalem streets with too many funerals, and shivas to attend.

Can we also celebrate life events with joy when so many are in various stages of mourning?

Despite the unpredictable weather in Jerusalem, Israel, in the past, the month of February was a very busy time for conferences and international visitors.

In the US it is President’s Day. In Jerusalem, we have Lincoln and Washington Streets every day.

We had cloudy February days that made for dramatic skies over the Jerusalem.

We had the return of Shaon Horef, the Jerusalem Winter Noise Festival on Monday nights.

With Purim coming soon, appropriately the first events were held on Shushan Street.

The idea is to draw people to these small, once-neglected, city streets for food and fun.

Monday nights in February were not prime time for outings, even with tourists or conference delegates.

Now for Shaon Horef high tech has advanced from “maps to apps.”

Music, live and recorded, played by DJs, unpredictable as the February weather.

The avant-garde art and music of Shaon Horef are usually hard to describe.

This year there were fewer light projections on the buildings, but a few stores were open. Many with the yellow “Bring them home sign” in the window. Even when celebrating with music, beer, and food, the hostages are not forgotten in Jerusalem.

The volunteerism goes on as strong as ever, with baking, grilling, and the Jerusalem city farmers markets.

The Israeli municipal elections were postponed from the end of October until February 27, 2024.

Will be interesting who gets elected to the new City Council with a disrupted time to campaign.

Current Mayor Moshe Lion continued his city beautification with tens of thousands of flowers planted around Jerusalem.

But, there are locations in Jerusalem with natural beauty and tranquility.

I wanted to get closer to take a better photo of the wildflowers but decided not to bother the women who found the spot before I arrived there.

The weather has been wonderful for the flowers and green grass to grow.

Those yellow ribbons are tied around many trees along Jerusalem streets.

Yet, Muslim women still walk freely and ride public buses as before October 7, even as signs for the return of hostages line many Jerusalem streets.

The protest tent area near Balfour Street has a sign that says “We want them alive.” As of now, 32 hostages are known to be dead, murdered on or after October 7.

Oh, the euphoria last week when two male hostages were rescued by the IDF!

It’s hard to forget Hamas holds 134 hostages captive and 574 IDF soldiers have fallen since October 7.

But, the citrus fruits are ripe for picking along the Jerusalem streets,

and even the simplest flower is a sign of spring beauty and hope.

Balancing the dark days, a simple bat mitzvah celebration with close family and friends brings light.

I will close with the annual – It’s Presidents’ Week in the US and the National Leadership Mission of the Conference of Presidents is back at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem.

The CEO William Daroff, was smiling at the dinner at the Museum of Tolerance.

But notice, that he was wearing a yellow ribbon lapel pin and also one of the dog tags around his neck to remember the hostages in Gaza.

He had the challenge of finding the balance, the equilibrium between hosting a conference during a time of war and advancing good for the future.

Good to see friends back on the Jerusalem streets, hope you will come soon too.

Jerusalem by Night and Day

How was your week?

I found following the news, this past week has been more challenging than usual. It is hard to figure out what is real and what is fake news. Old images from video games were posted as current events in Ukraine, plus not knowing what will happen next. It is just so unbelievable.

Last week RJS shared the photo of the former Putin Pub a few hours after the name Putin was removed from the popular Russian bar on Jaffa Road.

Today, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the third conversation between the two leaders in the past day. Bennett took a flight to Russia on Shabbat to meet with Putin and took Zeev Elkin along to translate.

No way I would dream to predict what will happen next, but I will share what happened last week in Jerusalem, Israel, that you probably missed due to the world situation taking over our hearts and minds.

The new lights on the Jerusalem Great Synagogue brighten it at night.

I was on my way to the Yeshurun Synagogue where a special service was being held in memory of Esther Pollard z”l.

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion was one of a long list of speakers. The entire program was broadcast live and available on YouTube. It was in Hebrew, but Jonathan Pollard spoke at the end in English.

Jonathan Pollard rose from his seat to shake hands with the Mayor.

The synagogue main hall is one of the larger venues in Jerusalem.

The same night, also off of King George Street, was the second week of this year’s Shaon Horef.

The Winter Noise street festival was held on Shatz Street this week.

Again with video animations on buildings and live music, food and drink.

But what was special this winter night was the grand opening of the renovated Gerard Behar Centre and Beit Ha’Am.

There was a silver-studded doorman on the red carpet.

And a golden ballerina inside where invited guests were munching on fancy hors d’overves being passed around on platters in the lobby.

A very exciting event for Jerusalemites and visitors, there’s now a well lit parking lot on the adjacent Menora Street. How long was this street off of Ussishkin Street impassable as a construction site?

Also, this week at the Isrotel Orient Hotel, was the renewed regular meeting of

The Jewish Agency Board of Governors. In the past I had always attended at least one session. The Jewish Agency staff in Eastern Europe is working overtime with the Ukrainian/Russian crisis. This year the Jewish Agency governors were too busy to have meetings open to the media. They still have not selected a successor to Isaac Herzog to be the new Chairperson.

The visit of the new Chancellor in Germany to Jerusalem was a much more public event. Most of his short visit was spent at the King David Hotel on King David Street.

When Bennett met German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the hotel for a press conference and lunch, security was very high.

After Scholz left, the German flags were still lining the Jerusalem streets, but the armed security personnel were no longer posted on the street corners along the route of the motorcade.

As I mentioned last week, it was good to see people out along the walls of the Old City and tourists back on the Jerusalem streets.

Paris Fountain came back this week, but construction is far from over.

The Jerusalem Marathon signs for the March 25, 2022 races are hard to miss. Runners can be seen training for the Friday morning run all over town. Should be interesting to see what happens as March 25 is also the day when the clocks change.

The weather is also up and down, cold and wet, hot and sunny. But a new Spring Festival in Jerusalem, Eat & Show, has been announced on Jerusalem street signs.

Of course, if it’s after Rosh Chodesh Adar, Purim preparations are well underway. Purim for families in Jerusalem is a list too long for now.

Celebrating Purim on Friday again is not my favorite thing.

However, I did put a few favorites together in a short video to share some of the highlights of this past week, from quiet parks by day and dynamic music and dance by night.

The skies are finally open again.

Take care and hope to see you soon on the Jerusalem streets.

Back on the Jerusalem Streets

My grandfather left Russia as a teenager for the US in the early 1900s.

Often I have thought about how different life would have been if he stayed in Odessa with his brother. Families were kept apart for decades by the Iron Curtain. A medical emergency and a “random” encounter involving a neighbor and a photo brought our cousins from the FSU back into our family and our lives.

Especially this week the impact has been hard to ignore.

The sun was shining after days of rain, so glad it was nice to get out again and the first thing I did was walk to Jaffa Road.

Yes, it was true. The Putin Pub had covered over its sign and only a faint ‘P’ could be seen. No, I was not the only one stopping to take photos.

But much more to share of what was happening in Jerualem this past week.

The changing Jerusalem, Israel, skyline will be a shock to those who have not been here the past two years during the pandemic closings.

Though most restrictions are to be lifted on March 1st, there are plenty of tourists walking on the Jerusalem streets now. Tour guides had extremely difficult times during the past two years. It was good to see my friend with a nice group again.

After missing last year, the Conference of Presidents was back in town.

New Conference CEO William Daroff had a lot to smile about.

In one of the sessions on the record and extremely timely, the US, China, and Russia, oh, and Iran situation were discussed. Anna Greifman stated the West does not understand Putin’s ideology and the Russian mindset. Some of those “experts” who said he was merely threatening are those pushing for concessions to Iran.

This was a conference very much still concerned with corona. Hand sanitizer and tea anyone?

Each day a negative antigen test was required to attend.

Networking in the hall while waiting for corona tests results was not so bad.

Back in Jerusalem, Erick Stakelbeck was filming in the Conference Green Room.

US Ambassador Tom Nides attended two nights in a row. On Monday night he was there briefly but sat with Bahrain and Israelis at the feelgood session featuring discussions on the Abraham Accords.

Charge d’affaires Ines Demiri of the Kosovo Embassy in Jerusalem spoke.

The Ambassador from Morocco told of how he had covered most of Israel since he arrived, there are so many Moroccans for him to meet.

The Ambassador from the United Arab Emirates also spoke in English to the dinner crowd, consisting of mainly American presidents and leaders of Jewish organizations.

The positive atmosphere and exchanging of business cards,

and of course selfies. Who would have imagined this two years ago when the CoP last was able to meet in Jerusalem.

They boasted of being the last conference before corona shut the borders and were proud to be the first back in Jerusalem, Israel.

But I did not hang around for dinner or the rest of the night program. While some night spots are still shuttered and dark, the Shaon Horef, Winter Noise street festival was back for the first of four Monday nights.

This colorful light projection was on Shushan Street, advertised as the main location of the event.

Though the evening was cool, thousands were out on the streets for entertainment. This year an app was available with information on times and performances.

Food and drinks were available in the area, not the most fashionable one, as you can see, but that is the idea, to bring people back to these streets.

I was back for a daytime photo to share and he wanted his photo taken.

The fashionably dressed tourists were back in Mamilla Mall.

It has been a long time since I have seen such a large busload of tourists headed to the Monastery of the Cross.

There are protest signs near the Supreme Court building,

and a protest tent near the Knesset,

but next to the Prime Minister’s official residence, it’s quiet enough just to stroll by.

Purim and days of celebration are back soon to Shushan Street.

Jerusalem Marathon signs are being posted for races at the end of March.

Even though the Omicron seems to be hitting many who have been careful for the past two years, the Jerusalem streets are filling with multilingual voices again.

A new Jerusalem photo op for tourists awaits near the Old City.

Hope to see you soon on or off the Jerusalem streets!