Jerusalem: Busy in July

People are indeed out again on the Jerusalem streets.

Tourist groups are back in Israel.

Some are calling it “revenge travel” – after not being able to move freely for so long during the pandemic, millions of people are now on the move – or trying to if their flights are not canceled. International airport photos show delayed passengers and piles of luggage.

In Jerusalem, in the Machane Yehudah Market, the tourists have returned. Excited to have a photo walk scheduled there for tomorrow with visitors from Australia!

The Jerusalem Design Week “FOR NOW” held at the Hansen House appeared to be a huge success.

The old grounds were filled with activities and people on opening night.

Crowds lingered at night, after eating and touring, and drinking beer.

Some could find a few less crowded spots on the restored grounds.

But it was so crowded I did not even try to get inside to see.

I did go back inside though, as the inner area was set for the final night production “For Now – Time, duration, objects, and material memory.”

The building was full of visitors, so I took just a quick glimpse into one of the many rooms filled with interesting and creative designs.

There was even a pop-up store as one of the exhibits, and so much more.

“Israel’s present persists in constant motion, and the idea of “long-term” is all but non-existent,” a quote from the “FOR NOW” program book, which was in English, Arabic, and Hebrew.

And this week’s events certainly supported that comment.

Only last week in the Jerusalem Orient Hotel at the economic conference,

Yair Lapid was the Foreign Minister of Israel.

And then, in one of the fastest and most peaceful changes of power, Yair Lapid was Prime Minister of Israel and walked in the Beit Hanasi gardens with President Isaac Herzog.

Bennett was still Prime Minister of Israel at the start of the Cyber Week International Conference held in Tel Aviv. He was interviewed by Michal Braverman Blumenstyk, CTO of Microsoft. At the conference, he implied he might go back to the high-tech world and leave politics.

At this conference, the Israel concept of ‘Cyber Dome’ was announced. As physical security has increased with the Iron Dome, international cooperation and the use of governments sharing information were promoted as the way of the future to prevent cyber attacks.

In Jerusalem’s Menachem Begin Heritage Center, however, the International Press Freedom Conference was also held this week.

Here the journalists discussed the difficulties of covering events during war times. The spying on journalists by the governments as in Hungary was highlighted by an interview with Szabolcs Panyi who was one of the journalists targeted and spied on in the Pegasus Affair.

Dan Meridor, Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Jerusalem Press Club has Menachem Begin looking over his shoulder here in the lobby area.

Executive Editor of US Associated Press Julie Pace was a featured speaker in the afternoon and had her photos taken after her presentation.

Conferences were not the only events happening in and around Jerusalem.

The Israel Sports Championships were last week, and now the International Europe Under18 Championships are being held in Givat Ram.

Next week the major international Jewish sporting event, the ‘Maccabiah Games,’ comes to Jerusalem with thousands of athletes and teams.

New buildings still seemed to pop up along the Jerusalem streets.

While older ones are celebrating longevity, the Ohel Rivka Synagogue held a 90th-year celebration last week.

The big news for the new month seemed to be ice cream. But note, not so sweet B&J in English will be removed and only Hebrew and Arabic for us, as those “social issues” are still an issue for B&J.

Cyber, economy, sports, and politics are not your things, how about music?

The Jerusalem Jazz Festival is back from July 5-7 with the Art of Jazz.

Paul Anka (yes – he is 80 years young), with a new generation knowing him from the American comedy-drama television series ‘Gilmore Girls’ from 20 years ago, is to perform live on the Jerusalem Sultan’s Pool huge stage on July 19.

Cat under Israeli and Canadian flags for Prime Minister Stephen Harper visit

Hoping Paul Anka and other Canadians had a good Canada Day on July 1st.

And in the US, July 4th, with or without fireworks, hope it’s a good one.

And here’s to hoping your flights to Israel do not get canceled so we will see you soon on the Jerusalem streets, no “revenge” necessary, there’s plenty to do for everyone.

Sderot: More than Missiles

This week I am taking you way off the Jerusalem streets.

The first time, I wrote about Sderot was over ten years ago. Then I wrote again over and over to stop the rockets. In 2012, on the way home from the south we saw the Iron Dome at work in its early days.

Hamas has persisted in firing tens of thousands of missiles and rockets at Israeli civilians and trips to Sderot over the years to see the damage had become a sad but routine event.

However, this past week was different.

Oh, there were the bales of hay along the road as we traveled to the Negev,

along with the signs for fields not planted for the Shemita year.

As we got close to Sderot I was not sure if these were stones or sheep?

Sderot is filled with new traffic circles, sculptures, and vegetation.

And of course, a bomb shelter in the old shopping area parking lot. The cement shelters are located every few meters along the Sderot streets, but most are uniquely decorated on the outside.

Having been to Sderot in the past, it was interesting the display of Hamas rockets and missiles had been removed from outside the police station.

But this trip was to see what was new in Sderot!

Jewish National Fund and private donors have helped to fund a new center for the people of Sderot and the surrounding area to receive support in various therapies in a new protected building. Sad to imagine a child getting trauma counseling in the old venue and having to run to a safe location away from an incoming rocket from Gaza.

When this opens soon, a new level of support will be available.

Also, we saw the Animal Therapy Resilience Center, where the cement shelters were left undecorated, in natural color on the campus.

Animals include the usual dogs and birds, and also a therapy snake,

and a cute little black goat.

One of my favorite signs was “Please touch!” for this mural.

So I asked Avi to oblige and pose for a photo.

Sderot wants tourists to come and see there’s more to the city than rockets.

The new Founder’s Museum is still under construction but hopes to open this summer with a history of the town.

Music – as you enter – a number of Israeli musicians came from Sderot.

Costumes for families to create their own video before leaving in a special theater recording setting. And it’s air-conditioned, important for the summer season in the Middle East.

The next stop required an ID and tags and is not on the usual tourist itinerary. But AMDOCS in the Negev, I thought important for you to know.

AMDOCS I knew was an impressive Israeli startup gone global. But learned that they had been in Sderot for 14 years, 30% of employees are women, and many of the AMDOC workers live locally.

This is one interesting slide from this communication software company that started this branch in the south with four employees in a room at Sapir College.

The variety of painted murals on the shelters is too large to share. All homes have protected rooms now.

And the new large park in Sderot has shelters, along the path.

This play area is a feature, with protection from the sun, and hopefully, time to get to a protected shelter if necessary.

This drawing of Ilan Ramon was on one of the dozens of shelters. They are all locked. If there is a red alert emergency, they all open automatically. Then, only locked again after they are checked by a person to make sure no one remains inside.

There is a toy soldier on guard at the Sderot park 24/7.

And there’s a lake! They have not only made the desert bloom but flourish.

Sderot has over 30,000 residents now, but this park should be popular with tourists as well. One more photo of the painted shelters on the way out.

Next to the Mayor’s office was a display of a few remains of Hamas’s tens of thousands of missiles and rockets. No photos from the “war room” where the city is monitored closely for any signs of trouble on multiple cameras.

Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi is pleased with the new neighborhoods and growth during his 10 years in office. Would cities anywhere else in the world not become a “ghost town” he asked after Sderot’s years under fire?

On a trip in 2018, the Sderot Hesder Yeshiva dormitories were under construction. I remember when the Yeshiva was starting and in the late 1990s, Rabbi David Fendel wanted to send a taxi to Jerusalem for us to come and see the new yeshiva in Sderot.

Now there are hundreds of students learning Torah, serving in the army, and building a growing community with their resilient families.

From the Yeshiva roof, built with layers of cement to protect from Hamas attacks, the view is impressive. Here in one direction, you can see Jerusalem is not the only skyline lined with construction cranes.

Sderot is more than missiles and rockets.

I was glad to be able to see what is new and happening and look forward to going again. Thanks to the host of the day Rabbi Ari Katz, Director of PR Yeshivat Hesder Sderot, Director of the Sderot Media Center, and Joshua Hasten for organizing a meaningful day.