See Jerusalem as July Ends

It was another week of trying to stay cool in Jerusalem, Israel, with summer temperatures unusually high for most of July.

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Building and construction went on in spite of the temperatures that kept me off the Jerusalem streets during the day.

Disappointing that the new Israel National Library might look finished from the outside, but the special program planned there next week has been moved to another location. Looking forward to finally seeing the inside!

Outside the Ramada Hotel, the announcement board was unusually empty.

However, inside on the Tuesday before Tisha B’Av was a special event sponsored by the OneFamily non-profit organization Welcoming Women.

Not any woman, but women from all over Israel who had experienced the loss of a family member as a victim of terror – and not just Jewish women.

At the same time the Women’s Empowerment Day was beginning young teens from the US were preparing to leave the hotel. They participated in JCC Maccabi Games held this year in Israel. The games are an Olympic-style sporting competition held each summer and state they are the second-largest organized sports program for Jewish teenagers in the world.

I wondered if the young sportswomen I spoke with, from Florida to California, had any idea of the history of the hundreds of women arriving.

It was standing room only for the day filled with exceptional speakers.

Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi started off the day inspiring as always.

To end her talk she asked the women to bless the person next to them with a version of the priestly blessing using the names of Sarah, Rivka, and Leah.

Physical health tips were included in the day, beginning with healthy brunch options and ending with a dairy dinner, with education and laughter interspersed.

The Women’s Empowerment Days have been held before Tisha B’Av for a number of years, except during the pandemic. Hundreds of women have benefited from the group bonding experience.

And how many more received support from the opportunity to speak with someone who has had a similar pain of tragic loss?

More photos from OneFamily Women’s Empowerment Day.

The next day, for Tisha B’Av the sun went down, and the Jerusalem streets were cooler. Once again I decided to walk around the walls of the Old City.

To start the route goes by New Gate, so close to Mamilla Mall that most people do not realize it. There are new night events held inside New Gate sponsored by the Jerusalem Municipality on my to-do list.

Before passing Damascus Gate, participants were stopped by security to walk together and not spread out. Walking was a slow process this year.

Along the way, we walked by road work and construction near Damascus Gate. Since this was such a quiet walk, with no shouting or singing or violent epitaphs, it was a no-news event you may not have heard about.

Families and people of all ages walked around the Old City Walls.

At Lion’s Gate, there were speeches, but not with the usual well-known names as in the past, and not in the same location.

Though people did sit on the Jerusalem stones near Lion’s Gate, the road was not blocked by hundreds of people as in the past.

One reason I go is for the incredible views from the road of the Mount of Olives over the ancient cemetery, on the way to the entrance to Old City.

The views of Jerusalem at night are special on Tisha B’Av when one mourns the destruction, and now sees the new lights, at the Kotel, and all along the Western Wall.

There were reports of a fox running thru the stones of the old destruction, but I did not find one in any of my photos or videos from this year. I did notice people below in the midst of the stones.

I did see people sitting and sleeping on the ground of the Kotel Plaza, alone

or in groups in the Old City near the Kotel,

or in the Cardo, the Roman main street so long ago before they destroyed the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem on Tisha B’Av in 70 CE.

A replica of the Temple’s golden menorah was lit on Tisha B’Av night, in front of the Hurva Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter.

Some of the streets of the Old City were very quiet.

However, all night long on Tisha B’Av, people came and went thru Jaffa Gate.

Thousands of people passed thru Mamilla Mall, but all the shops and restaurants were dark and closed in respect of the fast day.

Not sure I will go again, but this year, I put the various gates and scenes on a short video to give you a feel for the mood and night walking around, which really is a short distance.

I met some fascinating people along the way; a woman and son who recently moved to Jerusalem from the US, a 3-generation family from the Golan who came for the night and planned to drive back, and a young married couple from Utah on their last night in Israel before returning home who were trying to find someone who spoke English to explain to them what was happening in Jerusalem.

More Tisha B’Av photos of the night, during the daytime I stayed inside!

Now that the three weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av are over, the weddings, concerts, programs, and festivals begin again as July comes to an end.

The Wine Festival at the Israel Museum is back again this week.

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In addition, a special Under 20 European Olympic competition is to be hosted in Jerusalem at the beginning of August.

Once again there are things happening on the Jerusalem streets.

Photos from my Time in Israeli Prison

 I never thought I would want to be in a prison,

but my week started by spending a morning in Ofer Prison,

which is just a short drive north of Jerusalem.

 I had a chance to observe and take photos in the Ofer Military Court.

 On September 23, 2011,

the day that Mahmoud Abbas was in New York City

 to declare a Palestinian state,

Asher Palmer, a dual American and Israeli citizen,

 and his infant son Jonathan were killed after 

a rock thrown from a moving car crashed through his windshield.

To get into the courtroom where his accused murderers were being tried,

"picture prison gate", "photo security", "Image prison"

 a small group of Palmer family supporters gathered outside

 and waited  to go through the heavy  security.

"picture security door:", "image prison door", "photo check point"

Behind this door were sensitive metal detectors.

 Thanks to my press pass I did not have to undergo a body search.

But no surprise… no photos are allowed in the security area.

"picture jail", "image Israeli jail", "photo prison"

Arriving in a courtyard,

we and other visitors waited to enter the court room.

It was a hot day, the shaded areas may not make for great photos,

but they sure felt good.

"picture jail", "image prison"," Photo security"

No cell phones, bags or bottled drinks are allowed to be brought in,

 but food and drink can be bought in this shop and

"picture cigarette machine", "image smoking", "photo selling cigerettes"

 cigarettes are available 24 hours a day from this machine.

The trial has gone on for some time,  

 more sessions already on the calendar for June and July.

Special for this session was that representatives of the US State

and Justice Departments were in attendance.

"picture Palmer trial", "photo prison yard", "Image Israeli jail"

 They spoke with Michael Palmer, Asher’s father,

 who flew in from the US  for the trial and with his legal consul.

The courtroom, one of many, is seen in the background.

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Finally we were allowed past this last fence and into the courtroom

"picture terrorist", "image Wa'al al'Arjeh", "photo terrorist"

where Wa’al al’Arjeh, the accused driver and ring leader

was waiting for the proceedings to begin.

"picture Adrian Agassi", "image lawyer", "photo military court"

 Adrian Agassi, a retired military judge

who is acting on behalf of the Palmer family, got up on several occasions 

to explain to Michael Palmer what was happening. 

The proceedings were conducted in Hebrew

with simultaneous Arabic translation and much of the time

 it was hard to hear and understand what was happening.

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In the last court session it was ruled that spectators 

may hold a photo of the dead father and his baby son,

as was done by Palmer family supporters.

 US officials sat in the row behind them.

When the judges enter the courtroom photos are no longer allowed.

"Israeli military trial photo","picture Ali" "image in courtroom"

This picture of Ali Saadeh, the alleged stone thrower,

was taken just before they entered.

This trial was to hear his testimony against Wa’al al’Arjeh.

In an Israeli military court a defendant has the right to hear his accuser.

Only Ali was afraid to testify, not because of the Israelis,

but because of fear of vengeance against his family by the al’Ajeh clan.

 The six defendants in this case all come from the same village,

their families were noticeably missing from this trial.

So why is this so important? 

 The 47-year-old man who was convicted of stealing Asher Palmer’s gun

could have been sentenced to 3 years in jail, but got 10 months.

 He had the victim’s blood on his hands, and now he can be tried

for desecrating a body, which carries a longer sentence.

 The earlier testimony of Ali will be used

and his terror of future acts of violence speaks volumes.

Throwing rocks from a moving vehicle is a new terror tactic,

this gang met for a month working on a plan to “kill Jews,”

 making this a premeditated murder.

Michael Palmer wants his son’s and grandson’s murderers

to get a life sentence and not get a plea bargain for a lighter one.

Families of victims of terror suffer for life.

Michael Palmer does not want these terrorists to get off easy.