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.

Friday Afternoon in Jerusalem

Friday Afternoon in Jerusalem

The sun was shining.

The weather unseasonably warm.

So I went off to see what was happening in the Old City.

Kotel security on Friday near Kotel

Police vehicles lined the area outside of the Western Wall Plaza.

Crowd at Kotel on Friday summer like day

Thousands of people were out in the warm midday sun.

Arab Market near Jaffa Gate.

Outdoor cafes were popular, it was a perfect day to sit and enjoy. As I strolled sipping an ice coffee, I noticed all the people eating ice cream, young and not so young.

On the way home I witnessed one of the nicest acts of kindness.

Female beggar sitting in chair and young woman stops to chat with her

This young woman stopped to chat with one of the people lining the stairs collecting money. I wondered how many ever tried to speak to this woman?

Mamilla Mall was busy. People coming and going, shopping and eating.

Pleasant sights and sounds to end another busy week.

שבת שלום

Shabbat Shalom.

Long and Short of VP Mike Pence Jerusalem Visit

Long and Short of VP Mike Pence Jerusalem Visit

As always there is much happening

on these Jerusalem, Israel streets.

However, local news was overshadowed by

Knesset sign with US flag for Pence visit

the arrival of US Vice-President Mike Pence.

Flags on main streets,

US and Israeli flags on street near Knesset

while large flags, lined his motorcade route.

The visit was for two days.

Pence arrival in Jerusalem

Video cameras were ready at the official welcome

by the Prime Minister’s Office early Monday morning.

Honor guard for Pence arrival at PMO

An honor guard was getting ready for red carpet

greeting of the Tourist of Week.

The Vice-Presidential vehicle pulled in

VP Pence and Israel PM Netanyahu

and Vice-President Pence lined up with

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and

Head of State Protocol Meron Reuben,

surrounded by the watchful eyes of security.

View of arrival on Pence in Israel at PMO

After the White House press entered,

this was best photo I could get over the crowd.

The entire event took minutes,

and everyone went home.

Then in afternoon,

Security outside Knesset for Pence, end of motorcade

the Vice-Presidential motorcade arrived at the Knesset.

Before the Vice-President’s Knesset speech,

Thank you banner outside Knesset before US VP Pence spoke plenary session

supporters with thank you welcome banners lined the road.

Outside Knesset security watching people hold thank you banners for Pence

Security seemed a bit confused,

but did not complain about a positive demonstration.

Tuesday morning as I was walking near Mamilla Mall,

Trump bus in Jerusalem

I finally got my photo, not only of the Trump bus,

Bus painted to welcome US VP Pence to Jerusalem

but also one of the Welcome Pence buses.

Slow going from blocked streets and security,

was theme over the time of Pence visit.

But waiting in security line for the

Kotel, Western Wall,

Display boxes for Pence visit to Kotel

I was able to see these two display boxes,

for the Pences’ visit, carried by security,

also go through security checks.

It is hard to describe the layers of security.

View of white cloth covering view to Western Wall for Pence visit

 Routes to he Kotel Plaza were draped in white,

to block all views.

Pence visit view of Kotel

The entire area was closed to the public for hours.

Since the weather forecast was for rain,

tents and covers were constructed.

A small platform was constructed for media.

Kotel birds on stones

I took advantage of higher and closer spot to admire the birds.

However, the main event was eclipsed,

Male photographers at Western Wall

by female journalists who did not like being behind the men.

Once it was evident it would not be raining,

the white covering was removed.

As a short female photographer who is often blocked,

I was satisfied to stand on a chair supported by the barrier,

but others around me were furious.

More upsetting to me, was to see security blocking

the official White House press travelling with the VP.

White House press trying to get in to Western Wall area for Pence visit

They only had a few minutes to get in position,

we had been waiting for over two hours already.

On entering,

Pence with leaders of Western Wall Heritage Foundation

Vice-President and Karen Pence stopped to watch a video

about the Western Wall, giving

Western Wall as VP Pence arrived

 security and White House cameras time to get in place.

Pence at Western Wall with rabbis

Pence looked at a large book of Tehilim, Psalms,

with the two rabbis from the Western Wall.

VP Pence Jerusalem Western Wall

Blocking my shot (only can use the word now,

with so much insane security all around,

who knows how much trouble I would be in)

was a tall security guy in purple shirt!

Close up of VP Mike Pence at Western Wall

I got the photo, plus

 another 400, if you are interested,

Karen Pence at Western Wall with women saying psalm

but turned my attention to Karen Pence.

She was accompanied first to the display case,

then to another large Tehilim book,

by the two rabbis’ wives and Western Wall spokeswoman.

Karen Pence at Western Wall on visit to Jerusalem

Karen Pence stood alone,

and spent a much longer time

with her hand on the stones of the Wall.

Security for Pence visit to Western Wall

The entire time from when motorcade entered the plaza

until they raced away was 30 minutes.

Pence visit to Western Wall security on roof tops

From rooftops,

Western Wall for Pence visit

to the roads leading to the Old City,

vehicles and pedestrians were stopped.

Karen Pence shops in Arab shuk near Jaffa Gate crowd gathers until she leaves

A crowd gathered near Jaffa Gate as

Karen Pence stopped to do a bit of shopping,

before heading back home.

As I finally headed home,

Streets closed for VP Pence visit in Jerusalem

the road to the King David Hotel was still blocked.

Oh, so different from Vice-President Biden’s 2010 visit.

Azzza Street without cars at sunset on wet day

After the motorcade passed on the way to the airport,

it was getting dark on wet Jerusalem streets.

Some roads were still empty

while others were filled with blocked traffic.

The predicted rain waited and began to fall,

but did not spoil the visit.

Lots of waiting for events lasting minutes,

the significance of which we can only guess,

not your usual week in Jerusalem,

or maybe it really was.