5 Positive Things from Jerusalem You Should Know

High temperatures, weariness from war in the south and north, and too many funerals made last week difficult. However, as always positive things were happening on the Jerusalem streets.

Five years ago, Urban Place opened with a grand event on the fourth floor of the Jerusalem Central Bus Station with the Jerusalem Mayor and crowds of interested people.

The saying, “Adventure begins at the end of the road you know” is still at the end of the hall.

I was back again this week and pleased to see it filled with offices and people.

Looking out a window from Urban Place, I wondered what was that across the way. At home, I realized it was the Jerusalem International Conference Center windows reflecting the bus station. The Israeli flags were blowing in the breeze and other flags lined the booths in front of the main entrance.

The Israeli athletes of the Israeli Olympic and Paralympic delegations for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, were hosted by President Isaac Herzog on the grounds of Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence.

There were sports dignitaries including the Israeli Minister of Sports, but it was very hot by midday.

I left before the posed photos, with a yellow chair that was added to the usual formal photographs.

Back in the evening at Beit Hanasi on Wednesday, for the President’s Award for Volunteerism. It is an annual initiative that began 50 years ago, founded by Israel’s fourth president, the late Ephraim Katzir, in cooperation with the President’s Residence and the Israeli Volunteering Council.

One of my favorite events honoring volunteers, and finding people I know as a pleasant surprise.

Seeing people again with connections years ago though we have lost contact, doing good things.

The Shvuah HaSefer HaIvri – Hebrew Book Week – is back at First Station from June 18 – 29, 2024.

On the night I went it was filled with people as usual, with many families with young children.

Diverse populations arrive and stroll, pushing babies and older folks in wheelchairs.

Different this year there was a booth to purchase yellow ribbons and more, and not only young soldiers walked around with their weapons, but also more mature men out of uniform.

Security was evident, but so were the Arab women who strolled on the Train Track Path as usual.

This and similar signs have brightened Jerusalem streets announcing the Week for Disablities, honoring other Israeli soldiers, and those with disabilities who volunteer their service to the IDF.

A special project was initiated for women aged 25 or over, certified in professions useful to the army, who did national service, but not military service, and who can enlist in shortened boot camps and thus join the reserve army.

Hundreds of new young soldiers affirming service in the IDF were at the Kotel Plaza, Western Wall as their families stood for hours to get a glimpse of them at the ceremony.

May all the soldiers be safe, the hostages return, and the Jerusalem streets again be lined with colorful flowers instead of yellow ribbons.

In Jerusalem, Life After All

Some weeks are easier than others to find good news to share from the Jerusalem streets.

Within 1000 steps from where I live in Jerusalem, Israel, four families have lost their sons in battle since October 7. This week another 15 young men lost their lives fighting for Israel.

The reclaimed President’s Hotel has regular dance classes. The music can be heard in the evening.

Inside there were few people, but the art exhibit, “Life, After All,” lined the walls.

At Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence, the Jerusalem Unity Prize awards were presented

The Jerusalem Prize for the Unity of Israel was initiated by the Yifrach, Shaer, and Fraenkel families with former Jerusalem Mayor MK Nir Barkat, stemming from the deep sense of unity felt throughout Israeli society and the Jewish Diaspora following the kidnapping and murder of their sons Eyal, Gil-Ad, and Naftali in the summer of 2014.

Ten years have passed, and the families have pursued life after their tragedy.

Knesset members were in attendance, even though they were not called to speak.

On most occasions in Jerusalem, a yellow chair stands empty ready for hostages to return.

In time for Shavuot, the Chabad House of Rechavia led by Rabbi Yisroel Goldberg celebrated their new location, with Rabbi Meir Goldwicht as guest speaker.

On Shavuot night, the list of locations and speakers all night long was way too long to list.

Then at dawn, tens of thousands of people walked to the Kotel, Western Wall, to pray.

The Jewish Agency Building was lit with a special Happy Holiday Shavuot message.

Signs are up for the annual June Shavuah Hasafer, Hebrew Book Week.

The Eid al-Adha the Muslim holiday, “Feast of Sacrifice” is on Sunday through Thursday, June 19, 2024.

The government announced an extension for residents who have been evacuated from their homes, in the hotels and temporary housing solutions, financed by the state, until 15 August 2024.

As life goes on, even as the war in Gaza goes on, the northern front continues to escalate and businesses have suffered greatly. The OU Israel hosted a successful fair for businesses before Shavuot.

Israeli Lebanese border wall section painted

With the attacks by Hezbollah from Lebanon increasing, it seemed like a good time to go back and look at a trip to the northern border 4 years ago, Israel’s Northern Exposure. The only thing that has changed is that those tens of thousands of residents have been out of their homes for over 8 months.

Man on Lebanese border with Israel

Oh, and missiles, rockets, and deadly drones are being shot at Israelis rather than photographs.

The funeral of Eliyahu Moshe Shlomo Zimbalist לוויה של אליהו משה שלמה was on one of the hottest days of the year. Har Herzl has seen too many fallen soldiers whose families will have the task of going on after the loss of the finest these past months.

May their memories be a blessing

May we see joy, music, and life return to the Jerusalem streets.

What you did not see in Jerusalem this week

The Real Jerusalem Streets was started because what was reported in the media was not what I saw every day walking around the Jerusalem streets.

So what was happening in Jerusalem that did not make the international headlines?

Eight months into a war – this week in Jerusalem, Israel.

Buildings in Jerusalem are rising higher, as seen from the Nefesh BeNefesh Campus at Cinema City.

Road construction is challenging as one never knows what will be open or closed.

At NBN the audience was filled with young adults at the evening session of a financial conference on Sunday night. Seeing all the English-speaking Olim asking questions and learning how to live financially smarter lives in Israel was an impressive way to begin the week.

There are colorful quilts exhibited at the Jerusalem Theater, art, and culture with music each night.

Colorful lights line the footbridge over the Hinnom Valley at night.

New signs are posted for the upcoming events, on the right is for Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day.

Yom Yerushalayim is celebrated for more than one day, as there are events most of the week. One program at night was held at First Station, Takhana HaRishona.

These two women strolled through the audience, as the music began after speeches.

As usual, the crowds at Damascus Gate get international attention.

Since most of the reports on Jerusalem Day over the years are critical and negative, I again walked the entire route to see for myself.

The FlagDance/Parade/March (whatever you want to call it) begins for the men on King George Street.

The street was so crowded I decided not to walk down to the Great Synagogue as usual.

As usual, I found the number of baby strollers to be the most dangerous part of the route.

Spectators lined the route along Gan Haatzmaut, Independence Park.

Security was heavy with many roads closed. My neighbors were on the way to dinner and not allowed to walk this way on the day of the Pride Parade last week.

At the corner near Mamilla Mall, a sound truck was blasting music, with young men dancing on top.

As we turned toward Damascus Gate, a woman dressed as a bride was being photographed in the middle of the road and groups would sing and dance around her.

Emergency crews were prepared and ready to respond.

The gorgeous horses were ready and watching also.

As thousands and thousands of people, many with Israeli flags, walked quietly and peacefully.

At Damascus Gate security was visible from all angles.

Yes, the crowd was large and loud. I think much larger than in recent years that I have walked the route.

I got an early start, the way narrows, it’s very crowded, and is not so pleasant to be in.

Inside Damascus Gate, where each year media photographers wait to find trouble, was a female clown blowing bubbles and giving out little red heart stickers. This area is known as a “flash point” so anyone wanting trouble knows where to be and when, and again I missed violent interactions.

The security along the Via Dolorosa where the Flag Parade goes was lined with security.

When I say security, I mean police, border police, and more.

Walking were not rowdy teens, but individuals and school groups.

I wondered if they knew this young man was videoing everyone from a small camera.

I was told a YouTube influencer was doing a video here.

A father and son originally from the US stopped to pose with their flags.

Here you can see the extra layer of security this year.

Shops were closed. But many shops have had little business for the last 8 months because of the lack of tourists, because Hamas started a war on October 7.

While many places were selling bottled water, one woman poured cups of water to drink for free.

At the narrowing near the Kotel, Western Wall, I was relieved not to be stuck in a crowd.

At the Kotel Plaza, groups were dancing and singing for hours before the main event.

So the real news this year was the size of the crowd. Possibly 100,000 people celebrated the reunification of Jerusalem 57 years ago. The media focused on 18 rowdy individuals who were arrested and ignored the big picture.

As I headed home early, I passed these girls arriving by way of Jaffa Gate on the Armenian Way.

Thousands and thousands of young women, some louder than the boys.

They kept coming and coming

and coming, as I walked back on Agron Street.

The Jerusalem Flag/March/Parade was not about a few troublemaking male teens, but tens of thousands of people out on a warm day celebrating Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.

And on the way home, celebrations for the holiday of Shavuot this week had begun with these cheese tortes ready in the bakery window.

Chag Shavuot Sameach

Am Yisrael Chai!