10 Things to Love About Jerusalem

The sense of uncertainty about what will happen next is ubiquitous.

Israel’s borders are closing again and isolations are becoming mandatory. Will the US be the next to be declared a red country?

Tourists were coming back to Jerusalem and tour buses were seen on the Jerusalem streets. But how many trips have again been canceled? Long-planned meetings put on hold.

In our neighborhood, a school is back on Zoom classroom sessions with so many students sick with corona.

However, there are positive things to share from this week in Jerusalem.

I love that no matter how many times you walk down the same streets, there is always something new to see or a new angle to notice, as you can see here at the entrance to Mamilla Mall.

At Mamilla Mall, I stopped for a moment to take a photo of the men at the mincha minyan, praying outside in the middle of the day. I loved that friends who walked by also noticed and commented.

Amazing how a short walk becomes longer when you stop to talk with friends you have not seen in too long a time.

The construction is just everywhere, as the buildings go up and up.

The noise is often deafening as the digging goes on and on.

Most of King David Street is completed. But the next phase here at Mamilla Junction is beginning. Watch out, this week the extension to King Solomon Street is to be closed as the new water lines are installed.

Won’t we all love it when the roadwork is done?

At last, reconstruction work on the old Knesset Building, slated to become the new Knesset Museum, appears to finally be moving along.

The entrance to Balfour Street was open! It had been without a security guard, an exciting development for those of us who live in the area. We were forbidden to walk down the street, and now there is a sign to pull the pedestrian gate open.

A TV media crew was wandering around and taking a video. At one point in the recent past, there were five layers of security and a huge black curtain. Now, new security cameras have been installed instead.

I had to go back again to check if it was real. The last time I walked down this street was the summer Obama was running for US President (first time!) and Olmert was Prime Minister.

Here you can see what was blocked, under strict security and now is quiet.

Security officers dressed in black jackets on motorcycles were out along Jaffa Road. It was good to see them chatting rather than having serious work to do.

The annual Hanukkah decorations are gone and stowed away.

But Santa near Jaffa Gate in the Christian Quarter is still this month.

Reindeer have lit up the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens for the nighttime show since before Hanukkah.

The YMCA has more decorations and new lights this year.

At New Gate, a Christmas Market is open in the evenings until December 22nd, however, the sign says that it is limited to 500 people.

I am not sure I like it, but I am still amazed to see young children on the Jerusalem streets walking alone, like this little girl walking from New Gate,

or outside along the path by the Old City Walls going towards Jaffa Gate,

or little ones leading even younger ones in Nachlaot.

But for children, I just love the new lion in the Gan Sacher, Sacher Park play area.

This week the 11th Temech Conference was held at the Jerusalem Convention Center. Temech services Jewish businesswomen and entrepreneurs, and the conference is a popular annual networking event. I loved the various areas decorated for women to sit and talk.

The day-long programming was full of excellent speakers, so it was hard to catch up with friends you had not seen in too long. Plus recognizing new acquaintances from online meetings was a challenge. Did she seem so short or so tall, so thin?

When the Hebrew and the Anglo groups merged for a late lunch it was hard to get everyone in one photo, but safe to say most everyone was Energized.

In the Artist Colony across from the Old City walls is Kol HaOt, a studio for art with connections to Torah, and a venue for the Jerusalem Biennale.

During the corona lockdown last winter, 48 artists were able to use the space to create a piece based on one of the 48 ways Torah is acquired.

I loved many aspects of this 5th Jerusalem Biennale, but more another time.

Ready to walk home I heard music, the fountain was on at Teddy Park. The show went on and on – better to share a short video than a photo.

Winter music festivals are back! The 12th Hullegeb: Israeli-Ethiopian Arts Festival, Chaznut Performances, and more – I love the varied cultures.

Chagnival at HaMiffal is this week at The Miffal, however, not sure what it is.

I love what they did in the old abandoned building. Do people know about it?

I LOVE JLM, especially on a sunny winter day or a clear cool night.

I love to take a walk and see what’s happening on the Jerusalem streets.

Here’s hoping those millions of tourists that were expected before corona shut down the skies will be able to return –

and soon.

Jerusalem Making Memories and Building

What a week it was in Jerusalem, Israel!

A week of ups and downs, in the weather and news and events, hard to remember only a week ago was Hanukkah.

The blue sky and light clouds started the week off on a positive note.

Three (very) young musicians were taking advantage of the last day of the Hanukkah time off from school to play for people in Mamilla Mall.

Oh, the Jerusalem streets appear in a constant state of construction. King David Street road work goes on and on. When will this building be only a memory?

The gates were finally open to this Ivory Coast property the city has taken over after a long period of vacancy.

The Beit Hanasi, President’s Residence’ gates were open to welcome new Ambassadors to Israel this past week with the IDF honor guard.

The full honor guard and IDF band were all rehearsed and ready for the arrival of the new US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides on Sunday.

As he got out of the official limousine to the red carpet welcome, drops of rain started to lightly fall on the official reception.

Were his eyes closed for the playing of Hatikvah or did I just catch a blink?

Like all dignitaries, Ambassador Nides signed the official guest book. His son at his side, and the President with his wife at his side.

But unlike other new ambassadors, after lighting candles on the last night of Hanukkah at Beit Hanasi, Nides joined in the singing of Moaz Tzur while the audience was more restrained, despite Herzog’s encouragement.

The last day of Hannukah was a busy one with family parties and trips. Mostly trips in Israel due to the corona restrictions limiting travel.

But PM Bennett was able to welcome the Prime Minister of Greece and the President of Cyprus to Jerusalem for important meetings.

Also on the last night of Hanukkah, Rabbi Aharon Katz was asked to light the candles to start the opening of the World Championship Flag Football games at the Ramada Hotel.

Close to 900 people from 23 countries participated. The US won both men’s and women’s gold medals as expected and Mexico placed second in both. Where else do you find football players wearing a kippa than Jerusalem?

Mayor Moshe Lion made a grand entrance when he arrived late to the event, which ended with a loud and live band rocking the ballroom. For many of the participants, it was their first time in Israel but very limited due to the corona restrictions. Hope they have good memories and come back soon to see much more of the Jerusalem streets.

On a very different note, another meaningful program was held at the Jerusalem Theater on Wednesday evening as the weather turned cold and windy.

Artist Jacob Jay Garfinkel’s work lined the theater’s lobby walls with his photographs, special images of an item from a loved one lost too soon. His only son Elon z”l died at age 43, and this grieving father initiated an endeavor with OneFamily to make memories with victims of terror.

Families arrived to see the images posted on the walls.

A large crowd gathered for the opening night program as it started to rain.

The Minister of Culture and Sport Chili Tropper and Deputy Mayor Hagit Moshe sat in the front row and spoke. Miriam Perez, one of the grieving parents, sat in the crowd on the steps, wearing a royal blue jacket.

Friends and relatives of the Garfinkels were also in attendance.

Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg, the father of Rivka Holzberg z”l spoke on behalf of the survivor families who participated in the Heirlooms: Memory and Cherished Objects.

This photo of OneFamily organizers includes Chantal and Marc Belzberg.

Jay (full disclosure: we have known the Garfinkels for many years) spoke movingly about his son and his work and the process of minimalism in photography.

His work very much broke a tenet of keeping emotion out of the photo.

Perhaps without reading, but beside each picture in Hebrew and English was a text of powerful explanation.

Gaston Perpinal, 15, of Ra’anna, immigrated with his parents from Argentina. A Palestinian suicide bomber detonated himself at a shopping mall in Kfar Sava, killing him. Gaston was the driving force behind his parents’ moving to Israel. Six months after their Aliyah, he was murdered. With the objects of his youth gone, “there is one way in which I keep Gaston’s memory alive. A tattoo…”

The images were also on display up the stairs on another level.

One more caption by the photo of a uniform – AIMAN.

Staff sergeant Aiman Sharuf, 20, a border policeman from the Druze village of Ussifiyeh, was one of 14 persons killed on October 21, 2002, when a bus was blown up in a suicide attack by a terrorist driving an explosives-laden jeep near the Karkur junction. Aiman’s uniform still hangs in his bedroom in the apartment of his parents. His mother never washed it because “I want to smell it, and it still has his odor.”

Each of the 33 “simple” photographs in the exhibit packs not only powerful memories but messages of lives cut short.

Signs like these line too many Jerusalem streets, they remember the victims of terror murdered at various Jerusalem locations.

The sign has been placed on the wall of the new building that has risen on the site of Moment Cafe where a suicide bomber blew himself up in 2002, killing 11 people.

From terror and tragedy, making memories, and building on the Jerusalem streets. Hope you can see for yourself – and soon.

What’s New in Jerusalem for Hanukkah?

Hanukkah in Jerusalem is always a busy time, filled with events and family gatherings, nights with candle lighting, and plenty of oily, fried foods.

This year the week started off with glorious weather outside. The stone walls of the Old City were under a blue sky as colorful flags flew over the Cinematheque.

Inside the Isrotel Orient Hotel, on November 29, IMPROVATE launched its first Forum to introduce Israeli future technology to world finance leaders.

Champion Chess Player Garry Kasparov was one of the special guests. The former President of Bulgaria mentioned that after flight delays he arrived in Israel five minutes before the midnight closure to tourists.

Of the 300 invitees, only 3 were unable to attend the live conference which ended with a Black-Eyed Peas performance at the Jerusalem Pais Arena.

Kaf Tet–November 29th in 1947, the UN voted for the Partition Plan of Palestine, recognizing Jewish rights and leading to the establishment of Israel.

In 1977, the UN General Assembly called for the annual observance of 29 November as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

In her opening remarks Irina Nevzlin, Cofounder and Chair of IMPROVATE recognized the importance of November 29 in her life, for she was born in the former Soviet Union and was able to move to Israel – ‘to come home.”

Annually Hanukkah in Jerusalem means sufganiyot, each year new fancy flavors are produced and millions of donuts are consumed.

The large chanukiah (menorah) was back in Mamilla Mall

and at Jaffa Gate near the entrance to the Old City.

The traditional menorah stood at the Kotel, Western Wall.

The new US Ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, lit the candles on the seventh night at the Kotel and tweeted, “As the Hanukkah song goes, we come to banish the darkness,ׁ and together, we shine a bright light. Hanukkah sameach!”

This year, for the first time, a lighting ceremony took place on top of the new Western Wall Heritage Center, built at the back of the Kotel Plaza.

As night fell, politicians and other invited guests who were honored at the ceremony stood on the rooftop overlooking the Kotel.

I was there on the second night when these flames were lit.

MK Miri Regev was impressed enough to share the event with her fans and followers with her phone.

The view of the Kotel Plaza from above was impressive as always.

However, in the new building, the view below was fascinating also. For years the area was a construction site, as archeologists carefully dug down and the site was covered from view. Now those digs are exposed and are seen here in the new educational building.

But there is much more to see underground. New levels of history have been revealed under the Western Wall Tunnels.

Before going on the new Big Bridge Tour there is a video to help explain with multiple drawings.

The blue mark shows where we were standing.

And here is how the area of arches looked in the time of the Romans.

The steps down show the new/old mikvah, but it is not a colorful image.

However, with new technology, the Roman waterfalls flow for visitors.

The arched rooms and columns are impressive, but not easy to photograph.

Workers were finishing up the wooden bridge for the opening the next day.

The main underground area we visited in August 2019 has been prepared for the public to see on the new Big Bridge tour.

This new spacious area of the old Western Wall has been exposed.

Also new is the ‘Chain of Generations’ tour, which begins with stories of Abraham and Sarah, and their descendants,

and continues with the story of the Exodus from Egypt and Moshe

leading the 12 Tribes of Israel into the Land of Israel,

and includes the 70 names of Jerusalem

and the destruction of Jerusalem,

the longing to return, the devastation of the Shoah, Holocaust,

providing names of early pioneers, ending with an inspirational video,

describing the Chain of Generations.

Only sharing a few snippets so you will appreciate the experience when tourists are finally allowed to return!

For those who support the UN’s denying a Jewish connection to Jerusalem, these tours will upset your day and misguided beliefs.

And on the eighth night of Hanukkah, the new US Ambassador to Israeli lit candles at Beit Hanasi, with the Israeli President and his wife.

Hanukkah Sameach!