New Year New Start

Oh, what a year 2021 was in Jerusalem, Israel, and around the world.

Jerusalem Jaffa Gate should have been filled with visitors this past week. However, it was quiet enough for these young people to film a video.

In Mamilla Mall people were waiting to be checked to enter a store, not for weapons but for a corona-mandated green pass.

As most people can only dream of flying off to Paris for this holiday, a cosmetic company brought the Eifel Tower to Jerusalem’s Mamilla Mall.

We did have some magnificent sunsets to say bye-bye to 2021.

Much of the past year is a one with a time blur, one day running into another. But I can remember where I was standing and who I was speaking with on the phone so many, many years ago when my young son walked in and saw him wearing an IDF uniform for the first time.

“Warrior” / “לוחמת” a new exhibit in memory of Hadas Malka HY’D opened at the Friends of Zion Museum on December 28, 2021.

Hadas Malka, 23, of Moshav Givat Ezer in central Israel, died of wounds sustained in a terrorist attack on June 16, 2017, 22 Sivan 5777, outside the Old City at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate where she was on guard duty.

The exhibit was initiated by her parents David and Geula Malka to illuminate her character, known for diligence and accomplishments.

 Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion, Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, former Ambassador Michael Oren, leaders of the Israeli Police, and Border Police joined the Malka family. 

The opening event included speeches to the seated dignitaries and officers.

“If we don’t protect Jerusalem, there will be no State,” was projected on the screen as the Mayor spoke.

Yes, and also we remember the relief when the army service finally came to an end, very different from the Malka family.

Another Jerusalem event held at the Vert Hotel the last week of 2021, celebrated the vision and legacy of the Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky. 

The first panel was led by Yifat Erlich, on opportunities for young Olim in Jerusalem 2021. Included were successful immigrants Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum and Irina Reider. Plus, Yossi Tsuria, CEO of Hilma – Hitech for Society and Security, which includes Carmel 6000, whose programs encourage advanced tech training. Modern chaluztim, today’s young pioneers given a start in very different fields.

The hotel ballroom was filled. People were repeatedly asked to wear masks.

Oh 2021, what a year it was in Jerusalem! I wondered if that would be the last large event – for how long?

As mentioned before, Hansen House has changed so much over the past 10 years, going from an abandoned desolate shell to a site of culture and tech.

At night after a rain delay, ZER0|1NE the hybrid digital art festival took place exploring the connection between art, technology, myth, and magic.  

ZER0|1NEin 2021 aimed to examine the place of technologies and applications with hybrid programming, live and online zoom options.

“Slowly we are beginning to see the community of digital artists blossoming in Israel, and we are excited to give a platform and place to those artists. We hope to grow from year to year and to expand the stage for other artists, and more original productions, while deepening the connection between the creative world and the technological world here in Israel” stated Danielle Zini one of the artistic directors.

The open courtyard design of Conrad Shick’s Hansen House so long ago home for lepers, the venue for corona events looking toward the future.

Paris Fountain in France Square is one of the hundreds of Jerusalem constructions sites unfinished in 2021, a new sign says May 2022 it will be finished.

Another sign near the full 10th Jerusalem Marathon finish line is a favorite and is still up from the event held in October. Only 200 meters to go!

For those of us who made it through 2021, here’s hoping the year ahead is a good and healthy one. Well done!

Instead of recounting the past year as many are doing, I decided to only review the unique events of the past week.

These signs have been posted over Jerusalem streets. Even though many students are presently back on Zoom school, it’s time to register for next year’s places in nursery and elementary schools.

It’s time to look to the future, to a better and hopefully healthier 2022.

Still hoping to see you on the Jerusalem streets- and soon!

Torah in our Times: 48 Plus 7 Ways to Learn

After a week of wet winter weather in Jerusalem, Israel, the sun came out on Thursday morning, and I finally had a chance to walk to the Old City.

Nothing like the view from above the Kotel, Western Wall, with winter clouds hovering above. Sadly so few people were there to be able to enjoy it.

I was not early enough to see Santa on his camel at Jaffa Gate. But I did spot the last lone tree in the annual giveaway. The Municipality, along with JNF, gives away small pine trees each December to residents who arrive early.

I was on my way to see what was happening in the Old City, during what usually is a very busy time of year.

I decided not to share the empty streets this week. The lack of tourists, the closings, and corona news are all well known by now. The latest bad news – bird flu – may cause an egg shortage.

Looking into the Beit Midrash at Aish on the way to the roof view, the study hall was an impressive scene filled with young men studying.

The Torah has guided the Jewish people for millennia.

Exploring new ways to integrate its ancient words and writings into the skeptical 21st century has become a topic of lively and varied discussions.

Thursday Bar Mitzvahs were being celebrated in the egalitarian section of the Western Wall. It was good to see this section being used.

Jerusalem Western Wall near Robinson's Arch on Tisha B'Av

As you can see, the repair scaffolding has been removed. This is where a stone fell in the summer of 2018. Afterwards, the entire section was checked and the wall repaired.

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In the Artist Colony, Kol Haot strives to impart Jewish values, texts, and history using a creative synthesis of the visual and performing arts.

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Kol Haot was another venue for the 5th Jerusalem Biennale. The exhibition for Jewish Contemporary Artists concludes at the end of December. 

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Lining the gallery walls were works from 48 Jewish artists done last year during the time of the corona closings and quarantine.

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There were various media used and artists with various experiences, backgrounds, and locations, but the subject of the Creative Quarantine was the same – Torah is acquired in 48 ways.

What connected them all together was a list found in the sixth chapter of Pirkei Avot in the Mishnah – a list of 48 ways to acquire the Torah. Each artist began by taking an item from the list.

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Number 1 was Talmud, study, followed by attentive listening, proper speech, an understanding heart, awe, fear, humility, and joy, and so on.

One evening in the gallery surrounded by the 48 artistic works, two more recent approaches of this generation relating to Tanach were discussed.

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Yael Unterman explored the technique of Bibliodrama, first-person group role-playing based on a text. Rachel Sharansky Danziger demonstrated how modern Israeli authors are using the Hebrew Bible to join in an ancient conversation and at the same time rebel against it.

Both women contribute to 929, the program began seven years ago to read Tanach: one chapter a day, every day, in sequence. 929 is the number of days to study a complete cycle of all the books. Now there is an English 929 version as well.

929 Shir Hashirim study at Beit Hanasi

BC, before corona, President Rivlin hosted large 929 groups regularly.

This week on Thursday evening, the Herzogs, at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence, are slated to host Rabbi Benny Lau’s 929 for the 38th time.

Each night at midnight, the chapter on the 929 website changes, and the next chapter appears, along with interesting information, brief explanations, video clips, pictures, and even narration of the text, for those who prefer to listen.

The project to learn a page of Talmud a day, Daf Yomi, has grown in popularity.

In addition, there is a new cycle to learn two Mishnayot a day, Mishnah Yomit, and finish the entire six orders of the Mishnah in under 6 years.

And for those new-gen and tech fans, there’s an All Mishnah App, that you can download for free to help you stay on track with your study.

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The Tiferet Israel Synagogue was destroyed by the Jordanians in 1948. Today work on its reconstructed dome can be seen rising over the buildings in the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City.

From the innovation of outreach to the young and unaffiliated to Talmud study begun by Rabbi Weinberg z”l in the Old City at Aish HaTorah, times have changed, moving to online groups and apps.

Will the young audiences on Tik Tok, Instagram, Netflix, and YouTube in the new generation attend synagogues and have the Jewish knowledge to appreciate their history and Torah sources? They will, if they take advantage of the seemingly endless digital resources at their disposal to study Torah.

Menachem Begin announced he would lead a “Jewish style” government.

Will future generations be Jewishly literate?

From Jerusalem, Israel Shabbat Shalom

Feeling down by the uncertainty of the current situation and the Jerusalem winter weather, I decided it was time to walk to the Kotel, Western Wall while the sun was shining for a little while.

Trying to keep thinking of the glass as half full, and not half empty (all this rain should help with that) on these grey days.

Remembering this image would have been impossible in days past, and looking forward to good days ahead.

שבת שלום

Shabbat shalom