Federation General Assembly Goes out in New Style

The 82nd Annual General Assembly of Jewish Federations of North America,

the GA, met in Jerusalem, Israel, over three days this week.

#JFNAGA photo, Netanyahu image, picture Prime Minister speaking

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.

image #JFNAGA, picture from end of Israel general assembly

These chairs and a small stage were set up for GA delegates

and many others in Kikar Safra, Safra Square.

image Naftali Bennett speaking, photo Naftali Bennett at GA

Minister Naftali Bennett was the featured government speaker,

and he showed off his best English for the Anglo crowd.

photo GA, chairmen of GA image, picture from Kikar Safra

Michael Siegal thanked Ronny Douek and

Susie and Michael Gelman for chairing the convention.

And then, 

picture walk to kotel, image GA leaders,

with Mayor Nir Barkat and Natan Sharansky at his side,

he led the crowd out of the government plaza

image GA walk to Western Wall, picture walking to Kotel

 to the sounds of a real brass band.

image walking along Old City walls.

With small US, Israeli and GA flags,

image Palestinian women, picture Israel Arab women, Israel apartheid

they walked along the Walls of the Old City,

picture walk to egalitarian service, GA mixed prayer at Kotel

past Jaffa Gate,

image walking to Kossel, Wailing wall

and up the narrow stone steps,

image women waving flags, picture women going to egalitarian service

with more music and more flag waving along the route.

image going to egalitarian service, image parade through old city.

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.

image view of new section for public prayer, egalitarian section western wall, picture new Robinson's Arch

This metal platform is constructed up against the wall,

photo Robinson's Arch enlarged, new area of western wall for women and men

the same huge wall as the Kotel, the Western Wall.

giant stones photo, image large stones near western wall.

These massive ancient stones have not been moved.

image new section of wailing wall, picture women at wall,

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.

image size of new section of western wall, picture egalitarian area, photo of Western Wall new section

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.

image new area for public at western wall

A plaza open to the public was important for this group,

and the GA ended their conference here, as the sun was setting.

image Old City, photo of Jerusalem,

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.