Rosh Hashana 5781

This year in Jerusalem, Rosh Hashana was not like in previous years. As with most of the world, the Jewish New Year was spent alone at home or in small gatherings rather than in crowded synagogues and overflow services. 

At the Kotel, the Western Wall, the usual huge crowds were missing.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Capture-kotel-2.jpg

Sections were divided into small prayer groups before Rosh Hashana for late-night Selihot.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Capture-plaza.jpg

Those smaller groups filled some of the plaza areas this year.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Capture-kotel-after-Rosh-Hashana-2.jpg

And then at night after Rosh Hashana, even those small groups were gone.

Such a sorry sight, at a time usually filled with tourists and visitors. 

The Jerusalem Great Synagogue was empty for the first time in its history.

The green spaces of Jerusalem, all of its parks, were called into use.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is park-signs-walk-004-b.jpg

These signs were posted wishing park visitors’ good health and a good year.

Jerusalem Gazelle Valley opening day

A special announcement was made that the Gazelle Park would be open during the lockdown, with everyone required to wear a mask.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Schneller-Compound-219-b.jpg

Hope they turned off the water sprinklers on the holiday for Gan Sacher, Sacher Park. Extra bins for holiday trash were available. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Schneller-Compound-214-1024x708.jpg

The ads for juice near Gan Sacher had a happy holiday greeting.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is almond-walk-001-b.jpg

Almonds were ripe on the tree and falling to the ground. Only they were so hard I could not crack the ones I brought home with a hammer.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Machane-Yehuda-Market-before-Rosh-Hashana-5781.jpg

Machane Yehuda Market, the shuk, was busy the week before the impending holiday shutdown. Shoppers were rushing to stock up with food and supplies. Supermarkets were filled to overflowing capacity. 

Display of unusual fruits for Rosh Hashana in shuk, Mahane Yehuda market

Fresh new fruits for the second night of Rosh Hashana are especially popular this time of year.

pomegrante seeds

A long time favorite, yummy pomegranate pie for the holiday. 

Family of beekeeper at Beit Hanasi before the New Year.

No little bees photo ops this year, and a very much smaller reception for beekeepers was held at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence. 

Tzipi Hotovely taking a photo of the food at Beit Hanasi

No big New Year event for foreign diplomats at Beit Hanasi as in the past.

Photo credit: Mark Neyman GPO

This year President Rivlin hosted a socially distanced private reception for diplomats who were seated apart and all wearing masks.

The Selihot in the Beit Hanasi Synagogue was an annual event during Rivlin’s tenure. This was the last chance as his 7-year term is up in July.

However, this year due to religious service size restrictions these will not be held during this three-week lockdown period.

For a lockdown, this new Jerusalem project in the Schneller Compound is the place to live, to enjoy parks and open spaces. It is a magazine perfect neighborhood.

From Jerusalem this past week, all eyes were watching the signing of treaties with UAE and Bahrain. Only later I noticed on the left side for Israelis, a man in the front rows got up to take a photo on his phone, as the US side sat politely.

The Old City Walls that night were illuminated with flags of Israel, the US, UAE, and Bahrain in honor of the historic occasion.

Already numerous interactions have taken place. The webinar on health and technology I listened to is worthy of sharing with you soon, it was so impressive what they have done in Abu Dhabi in the last few years.

Photo credit: Shifra

However, also on the Jerusalem streets near the Prime Minister’s Residence, the protests continue. Though there was a supposed lockdown, a large table was set for 120 people, with no distancing, no masks, and lots of noise for Rosh Hashana on the first night. Protests in democratic Israel are legal.

Sorry, but I find their behavior UNEXCEPTIBLE.

New security cameras are being installed in the area, and new security is reinforcing the regular police and border police who have had to deal with these loud mob scenes week after week.

Sweet New Year poster for Rosh Hashanah

But for now, hoping all have a sweet and healthy year.

President Reuven Rivlin gave New Year greetings in English this year.

Next year in Jerusalem!

Meanwhile, preparing for Sukkot holiday to start October 2, 2020,

We spotted the first sukka of the season!

September Begins with Week of Firsts in Jerusalem

September Begins with Week of Firsts in Jerusalem

What a week it was in Jerusalem!

September came in with a blast. Jerusalem, Israel, was hit with a heatwave.

The first time in over a century temperatures soared to such record-breaking September highs.

Balloons the first day of school in Jerusalem welcome to first grade

Despite the heat, on the first day of school with corona restrictions, “Shalom Kita Aleph” balloons welcomed the first-grade students, but celebrations were scaled down. Parents with multiple children need a computer to program to help keep the times straight. Some schools closed after one day, or three days, due to a person diagnosed with the virus, others are struggling along to keep up with changing rules and regulations.

The big news this week was not on the Jerusalem streets, but in the air from Jerusalem to Abu Dhabi. The Israeli and US diplomatic delegations, along with journalists, traveled on an El Al flight. El Al flew over Saudia Arabian airspace, another significant first. OU kosher meals were available for the Israeli delegation in UAE for official meetings, provided by the UAE.

El Al photo of UAE waving good bye to US and Israeli delegation
El Al Photo

From dozens of impressive images of the historic visit, this photograph of the El Al plane leaving to return to Israel was one of the most popular. As the first Israeli-US delegation departed, their hosts waved goodbye at the end of a red-carpet visit.

Thani Al Shirawi, Deputy Managing Director of Oasis Investments, a founding member of the UAE Israel Business Council, is eager for the first open business deals.  As he put it: “It’s easier to do business with our cousins.” The Israeli-UAE business community has had connections for years, but not in the open. Israelis used passports from other countries to enter the UAE.

Technology and tourism hubs to Asia and the world will be available for the first time. Collaboration in agriculture and water technologies between UAE and Israel is another big first for potential in the future.

But, back to the Jerusalem, Israel streets.

The Prime Minister of Kosovo announced he is planning to open an embassy in Jerusalem, establish diplomatic relations and deepen bilateral relations.

Finish line for Jerusalem Winner Marathon placed before race was postponed

For the first time, The Jerusalem Marathon 2020 was canceled this week.  Originally set for March, the finish line was up when the event was postponed until November. Organizers are now hoping for the March 2021 Jerusalem Marathon. Wars, bombs, and stormy weather did not stop the marathon from successfully running for the past decade. However, a tiny virus has stopped travel and curtailed this event and much more from happening.

Jerusalem not to let trucks polluting air to enter

This week Jerusalem announced new regulations for clean air, and polluting trucks will not be allowed in the city.

According to Mayor Moshe Lion: “Since taking office, I have set myself the goal of making the capital of Israel the cleanest city. We will continue to concentrate efforts and work for the improvement of the quality of life of the residents in any way. I call on all residents of Jerusalem to keep our Jerusalem clean – For our benefit! “

Cleaning streets has been an ongoing project during corona.

For the first time I saw how they filled those trucks from active fire hydrants – and oops.

Also this week Moshe Lion announced: “The disabled public bravely faces its challenges every day and we must ask at all times how the city can help and assist in terms of accessibility and belonging. I will continue to work for every person with equal disabilities.”

Jerusalem street near Israel Museum new public seating

And that day I saw these new benches were installed near the Israel Museum.

Public bench in Jerusalem Israel

Seating, social distanced and accessible from the street, is now available across from the Knesset.

Knesset floral clock outside campus

From that bench, you can sit and see the Knesset clock, and really watch the time go by in Jerusalem.

Not sure where the time went, but Rosh Hashanah, the Hebrew New Year, is less than two weeks.

Usually, for Selihot, tens of thousands crowd into the Kotel, Western Wall Plaza. This year for the first time due to COVID-19 restrictions there is a lottery for spots for Selihot at the Kotel. Only 2,500 people will be allowed to attend each night. Hurry, the deadline to submit a request in the lottery is up at midnight tonight.

However, there’s a new option in Jerusalem for Selihot this year.  Yitzhak Meir is to be at Kikar Safra to lead Selihot for a limited live outdoor audience with coronavirus regulations.  But those who cannot attend in person can view the musical service to be shown live on Facebook.

Five years ago, Yitzhak Meir sang for a much smaller crowd in the Beit Hanasi Synagogue invited by President Reuven Rivlin.

Selihot at beit hanasi 5780

I am assuming a big crowd invited to attend Selihot in the Israeli President’s gardens will not happen this year.

However, Selihot tours in the Old City are being advertised.

One of my favorite memories.

Coming back from the Kotel, I heard singing and followed the sounds to this chazan.

As we approach Rosh Hashanah, what a year this has been!

We started off not sure how to write the year 5780 in Hebrew, was it תש”פ  or  תש”ף.

At least this 5781, we know how to spell the New Year – תשפ”א.

May it be a good and healthy new year for all.

 

 

Remembering Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz z”l

Remembering Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz z”l

Knowledge is the key to growth in society, not wealth or power.

How do you create a lasting and egalitarian society?

“Giving people access to knowledge,” says Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

Mourners of RAbbi Adin Even Israel

On Friday, August 7, 2020, the 17th day of Av, the funeral of Rav Adin Even-Israel z”l, more commonly known as Rabbi Steinsaltz z”l, was held in Jerusalem, Israel. He was buried in the Chabad section of the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives.

Mount of Olives funeral of Rav Adin Steisaltz on Friday August 7, 2020

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the number of mourners allowed was restricted.  Were it not for those restrictions, thousands would have come to pay respects in person in spite of the blazing sun on a Friday afternoon. These images are screenshots from a live broadcast.

During this past week of shiva, the traditional mourning week, also under coronavirus restrictions, many testimonials have been published. I, too, have also thought back to my encounters with the famed rabbi.

Australian mission at Beit Hanasi listening to Ezer Weitzman speaking -1995

Back in 1995, Ezer Weizman was in the midst of his first term as President of Israel.

Australian leadership mission at Heichel Shlomo with Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau in 1995

Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau was the Chief Rabbi, the Chief Rabbinate was still based in Heichel Shlomo.

Rabbi Bill Altshul and Isi Leibler from Melbourne, Australia with Rabbi Steinsaltz in Jerusalem after a lecture

Isi Leibler, (right) was the president of the Australian Institute for Jewish Affairs and led an ECAJ (Executive Council of Australian Jewry) leadership mission to Israel. One of the most memorable sessions of those full days was a talk by Rav Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz z”l. “Yichus,” the Rabbi told his audience, is like the potato: the best part of the plant lies in the ground.

Rabbi Adin Even Israel at Jerusalem International Book Fair in 2015

A more recent encounter was at the 2015 International Book Fair at First Station in the Hangar, which had sparse attendance. Rav Steinsaltz sat to sign books at the Koren booth, largely unnoticed by the few people in the vast hall.

Rabbi Adin Steinslatz speaking at Beit Hanasi for 929 program

In October 2016, at one of the early 929 Bible Study groups at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence, hosted by President Reuven and the late Nechama Rivlin z”l, Rabbi Steinsaltz z”l had his arm in a sling, and left eye was blackened, but he rose to speak and shared words of Jewish wisdom with the diverse crowd.

Rabbi Adin Even Israel with son Meni and grandson at dinner in his honor at Orient Hotel

However, in June 2018, at the Jerusalem Orient Isrotel Hotel, Rabbi Adin Even-Israel z”l walked into the ballroom escorted by his son Meni and his grandson.

Dinner crowd for Rabbi Adin Even Israel Steinsaltz gala 80th celebration

The room was filled with admirers at a gala dinner to honor the rabbi’s 80th birthday and the success of the Steinsaltz Center.

People greet Rabbi Adin Even Israel at gala dinner celebration

President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein offered video greetings.  A constant stream of well-wishers came to speak with the frail rabbi, men and women, young and old.

MK Zeev Elkin greeting Rabbi Adin Even Israel Steinsaltz

MK Zeev Elkin was one of the many dignitaries present at the dinner event.

Dinner for Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz at the Orient Lord Rabbi Sacks speaking

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks was the keynote speaker.

And what an eloquent, erudite, and inspiring talk it was!

Avrum Fried performing at gala for Rav Adin Even Israel 80th celecration

The musical performance by Avrum Fried was exceptional.

The popular singer sat next to Rabbi Adin Even-Israel z”l near the conclusion of the evening. People stood around. The niggun went on and on as if people did not want the marvelous evening to end.

Steinsaltz Center video screen

Rabbi Arial Holland was of the many people involved with the Steinsaltz Center to appear in the video comments. “Be it children or adults, the work and words of Rabbi Steinsaltz z”l have affected millions.”

Rabbi Adin Even Israel Steinsaltz at gala dinner at Jerusalem Orient in 2018

It was quite a night, a night to remember. Honors were paid to one man who changed the world of Jewish knowledge. His translations, at first criticized, opened up ancient Aramaic texts from the study hall to a larger readership, first in Hebrew, then in English, French, and Russian.

Six years ago for the funeral of the 3 boys, Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali z’l, Rav Adin Steinsaltz’s inspiring words are worth sharing again:

“A dark cloud has befallen our nation today. Our hearts are broken, yet united with the hearts of the boys’ families, as we mourn and we cry with them. We cannot erase the evil. But we can create good. We can transform the world through goodness by living as Jews and acting as Jews, with our Torah and mitzvot.”

We cannot erase death. But we can acknowledge the good.

The life and work of Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz z”l exemplify how one man could transform the world. His life and actions continue to enable more and more Jews to learn Torah and do mitzvot. 

May his memory be for a blessing.