Jerusalem Inside and Out

Is the winter weather getting you down?

Jerusalem has had cold and wet days, where the dampness chills to the bones, including inside the old stone buildings.

In only a few days last week, I attended two zoom funerals and learned that other people were not well.

So the sun was shining this morning and it was warm. I decided to get out and walk before the weather could go from spring to winter – again.

My social media is filled with flowers from the South, however, I love to walk in the Valley of the Cross and see the red against the green, much closer to home. Plus, no boring flat fields in the Jerusalem landscape.

If you want to see good landscaping and be warm–warm enough to fog your lenses–the new Butterfly House near the Zoo in Jerusalem is for you.

More on the butterflies at a later time, it is closer to the Israel Aquarium in Jerusalem, which is down the road from the zoo.

The Aquarium was one of the last places I visited and toured before corona shut down the Jerusalem streets and much of the world.

Back this week, it was good to hear the voices of children on tours. The volunteer diver was at work with someone watching that he was safe in the tank. Lots more on the butterflies and fish later, I had come for a special media opening event.

Artist Beverly Barkat was sharing the three-year intricate process that began with taking plastic waste collected around the world and brought to her doorstep and studio in Jerusalem.

She took those dozens of colors to form her Earth Poetica which is to go on exhibition in the lobby at New York City’s World Trade Tower. It was commissioned and designed for New York City but opened in Jerusalem for a six-month exhibit at the entrance of the Aquarium. A special stairway observation platform was built in the Aquarium lobby for visitors to view from various angles.

Hear the artist explain a bit about her complicated and impressive project.

Michal Herzog took to the podium at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s residence to speak eloquently at the Shloshim (end of thirty-day mourning period) for her mother-in-law Aura Herzog z”l. The President did not speak at the event in memory of his mother.

The event was sponsored by the Bible study organization 929, headed by Rabbi Benny Lau, whose mother attended along with other family and friends, to mark the beginning of a third cycle, dedicated to reading a passage of the Bible each day for 929 days to complete the entire text.

There were more impressive female speakers this week. One of the brilliant presenters at the AI Week Virtual Conference was Kira Radinsky. Over three days, with sixty-three Artificial Intelligence experts, she was not the only impressive woman speaking, to mention only two other standout names to watch out for, Sarit Kraus and Yonina Eldar.

However, the session I found most interesting concerned genealogy taking DNA identification to another level. DNA has been used to find 3rd cousins. With AI-enabled technology police were able to find the Golden State killer after 30 years. With data of age and sex, AI is able to pinpoint within 20 miles of home – and police collected DNA from a doorknob to seal the case.

I will skip the ways it can be used, say against secret agents working abroad, and leave it to your imagination for now, not give bad guys ideas.

There were so many online webinars, I forgot a few!

When the sun came out – I tried to get out. Work on Gan Sacher, Sacher Park, seems to not cease. Snowstorm damage is a great excuse to clean up, even on a shmita year when gardening is prohibited.

These floral wreaths were placed at the Candle Memorial in Gan Sacher dedicated to the two million people who died during the 900-day siege of Leningrad by the Nazis.

Also along the Jerusalem streets, there are new signs for the 120th year celebration of Shaare Zedek Hospital.

I was on my way to the VERT Hotel for the Besheva Jerusalem Conference.

The ballroom was full, long list of speakers, politicians, MKs, and Ministers.

How about this slide in one PowerPoint? Do you, or will we recognize Jerusalem if and when the Municipality develops its plans for growth?

The last, very last speaker on the second day, was the leader of the opposition who was not pleased that the participants of the last panel of the day were women who did not want to stop talking. Huge crowd, but most wore masks, and I tried to keep moving.

I had gone to see Rabbi Yehudah Felix receive a Jerusalem Prize for education. I will not mention how many years it has been since we have seen him and his wife. The smile was not for me, but his granddaughter who said “Saba smile!”

I took this photo on the way out and forgot to post it anywhere. I have been to who knows how many conferences and performances, but these guys were the best stagehands ever. Fast, efficient, and hard-working, so congrats guys. Maybe some readers will recognize them? Did not even leave a card as it was late, and all I wanted to do was get out and walk home.

While last week I was pleased to find four flowers close together,

today there were hundreds more and too many scenes to share here now.

I was not the only one out for a walk on the Jerusalem nature trails this week to get some sun and exercise. How exciting to see someone again after two years and recognize each other, with or without a mask! Aryeh was walking, but others have started training for the March 25th Jerusalem Marathon.

Also, Shaon Horef two years ago feels like a far-away dream. Now to see if these Monday-nights-in-February street events will get people to return to the Jerusalem streets and come out for Winter Noise.

I have had enough winter, but some nice noise sounds good to me.

Take care and hope to see you soon on the Jerusalem streets.

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Teddy-Art-012-2-1-1024x644.jpg

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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Teddy-Art-014-2-1024x802.jpg

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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Teddy-Art-016-1024x768.jpg

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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Teddy-Art-032-1024x768.jpg

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Teddy-Art-023-2-1024x749.jpg

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Teddy-Art-054-4-1024x725.jpg

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Old-City-Aish-057-2-1024x606.jpg

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?

Jerusalem: Wet, Windy and Wonderful

In Jerusalem, Israel,

it was a wet and wild week.

On a clear day on a walk into town,

Street scene Jerusalem Israel

I found this interesting door, but did not enter.

Man blowing shofar and son watches and soldier passes by

A man was blowing a large shofar in front of

a gift shop on Ben Yehudah Street.


Israeli security women at lunch on Ben Yehuda

 female border police officers were having a lunch break

Arab girls shopping in Jerusalem Israel

as these two young women were shopping.

But the wet weather this past week

Rainy day in Jerusalem Israel, dark, wet and cold

often made for dark and dreary photos.

Walls of Old City seen through rain covered window at Begin Center Jerusalem Israel

Can you tell those are  the walls of the Old City

through rain drops on the Begin Center’s windows?

After heavy rains

Water after heavy rain in Jerusalem Israel

 this unsightly puddle remained.

Broken IKEA umbrella in street garbage bin after heavy rain.

This IKEA umbrella could not withstand the Jerusalem weather.

IKEA is to open another Israeli store in Beer Sheva.

When it rains and the wind blows,

it’s best to forget using any umbrella.

Besides the weather,

Rubbish bin overflowing with trash during Jerusalem strike

trash piled up in bins during a brief strike.

which closed Agrippas Street with mountains of mess.

The only good part of it was that it was short and soon cleaned up.


while the weather and strikes made news,

there were good things happening too.

International visitors gathered to celebrate weddings,

bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs, and more.

Off the Jerusalem streets,

in Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence,

another 929 Bible Study group was held.

Beit Hanasi for 929 study group

The chapter of the day was

 from Shir HaShirim, the Song of Songs,

read by actor and radio announcer Dan Caner.

He read beautifully.

Rabbi Benny Lau speaking at Bible Study lesson at Beit Hanasi

Rabbi Benny Lau and President of the Israeli Supreme Court Esther Hayut

were at the head of table with President and Mrs. Rivlin.

929 Shir Hashirim study at Beit Hanasi

This is the 16th time the Rivlins have hosted

the daily Bible study initiative.

The main hall was filled with guests as speakers

elaborated and studied the text.

Another closed event was held at the King David Hotel.

King David Hotel lunch for NATO Ambassador countries in Jerusalem Israel

Ambassadors to Israel from the NATO countries.

had lunch with the Israeli Prime Minister.

Wet and wild weather

left the skies clear and clean and blue,

and it was hard to figure out what to wear.

Will it be hot or cold?

No one knows what will happen next .

But of one thing you can be sure,

Flowers on display in King David Hotel lobby

the flowers in the King David Hotel lobby,

rain or shine, hot or cold outside,

 will be impressive.