Jerusalem Streets Busy Again

The Jerusalem streets are busy again–the traffic is unpredictable with backups and street closings. Ah, to be “normal” again.

An annual biking event was held for those up early enough to ride through the Jerusalem streets as the sun was rising on Friday morning.

This year it seems like people are trying to make up for lost ‘corona’ time by packing in events and programs and trips to Jerusalem.

With President Guillermo Lasso of the Republic of Ecuador and First Lady María de Lourdes Alcívar on their state visit to Israel, the sounds of official motorcade sirens returned to the streets.

Besides official meetings and a State dinner at Beit Hanasi, with the Israeli President and Michal Herzog, Ecuador opened an Innovation and Trade office in Jerusalem at Hebrew University, with a large delegation of ministers and business people.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kosovo Donika Gërvalla-Schwarz had a motorcade escort as she attended official events, such as going to Yad Vashem and meeting the Israeli Foreign Minister.

Though it was not on the official state list of events, she was accompanied by Israeli protocol and greeted warmly at the Kosovo Embassy in Jerusalem.

She was hosted at a reception held at the Jerusalem Embassy in Israel, where she spoke briefly to invited guests.

In her remarks, she called Charge d’affaires Ines Demiri ‘Ambassador,’ a title I believe she deserves for the work she has done this past year to promote Kosovo and joint business and travel prospects between the two countries.

Here we are in the middle of May and the week with Yom HaZikaron and Yom Haatzmaut is always a busy time, but there was more this year.

The Michael Levin Base for lone soldiers and Bnot Sherut received a Sefer Torah dedicated by the Michael Levin Foundation based in the United States. Former Ambassador Ron Dermer was the featured speaker.

I loved how the crowd builds, as people come out and follow the Torah as it is carried joyously around the Jerusalem streets.

On the same day was the Nefesh BeNefesh Bonei Awards, this year held at Beit Hanasi for the first time. Olim, immigrants, who have contributed to Israel and its growth in various categories were honored.

Not all the honorees were able to attend. Dr. Jonathan Rieck was home sick with Covid, so his two sons accepted his honor. Entertainer Josie Katz also was not able to attend.

I got stuck standing in one spot for the entire program and was not able to get different angles of the speakers or the event.

I remembered a previous time I was in that one spot unable to move because of a live broadcast, but that time I did not complain.

As President, Isaac Herzog seems to enjoy greeting attendees after the events.

No longer under a news embargo is the news of the new state-of-the-art MDA blood collection center in Ramle.

On a media tour before the dedication, we watched as they prepared the facility.

The massive facility is so impressive I did a short video with some of the clips I took as we descended deep underground to see the new storage vault and largest door in Israel and much more.

The 2022 Jerusalem International Book Forum and Mishkenot Sha’ananim Writers’ Festival is back from May 15 – 19. Opening events at the YMCA.

Every Thursday, the Israel Museum’s Illustration Library is offering stories from its collection of thousands of children’s books from all over the world. Ages 3–8 | 4:30 pm Special activity | 5 pm Story hour | Free

The Israeli Ministry of Education is hosting the inaugural Education Innovation Conference on behalf of the OECD and reps from 18 countries are expected to arrive in Israel at the end of this month.

Flags are up for Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day on May 29, 2022, and Jerusalem has prepared a long list of public events to celebrate 55 years.

But first, we have Lag B’Omer this week. With all the building and construction and park renovations, where will the kids make those huge bonfires?

After two years, much more is happening again on the Jerusalem streets!

Hope you can join us in the celebrations soon.

The Best of Jerusalem, as Israel turns 74

It was 21 years ago that I was in Israel for Yom HaZikaron and Yom Haatzmaut for the first time. We arrived after a March of the Living trip to Poland and a visit to Auschwitz on Hitler’s birthday. 

Terrorists were blowing up buses on the Jerusalem, Israel, streets in 2001. Our group was sent to Arad and Beer Sheva instead of Jerusalem, which was thought to be too dangerous during those Intifada days.

The irony – after traveling by bus through Poland, and then being afraid of walking the Jerusalem streets, its buses, and eateries!

On Yom HaZikaron, Israeli Memorial Day, we remembered 24,068 Israeli soldiers who fell in battle and the 4,216 civilians who were murdered by terrorists.

To begin the busy week, The Michael Levin Base had a Sefer Torah dedication Monday night with former Ambassador Ron Dermer the featured speaker. These Torah covers were made specially from the tallis bag Harriet Levin had made for her son fallen soldier, Michael Levin z”l.

“You can’t fulfill your dreams unless you dare to risk it all” he had stated.

Photo credit: Kobi Gideon GPO

The official opening state ceremony is held annually at the Kotel, Western Wall Plaza, with the President of Israel speaking the lighting of a memorial torch with an honor guard, it is similar each year.

However, there are also thousands of smaller community ceremonies held throughout the country and by various groups. For the past two years, Covid severely limited all the major large community commemorations. The ceremony in Arad was well done and still, a vivid memory of a community united in mourning their fallen soldiers.

This year we attended an English event at Givat Tachmoshet, Ammunition Hill, led by The Michael Levin Base and supported by Norman Blaustein, in memory of his wife Sarah z’l who was murdered over 20 years ago. A terrorist sprayed their car with bullets, on an Israeli highway on the way to Jerusalem. One-shot to the back of her head was fatal. She had made aliyah nine months before.

A total of 28,284 men, women, and children have been killed in terrorist attacks and in defense of the Land of Israel since 1860, the year that the first Jewish settlers left the secure walls of Jerusalem to build new Jewish neighborhoods.

Since the last Memorial Day, 56 new names have been added to the roster of those who died defending the country.

A memorial siren sounds at night and again in the morning. There are official events at Har Herzl most of the day with families of soldiers and in communities throughout Israel as well.

This year the Netanyahus attended the program at the school where Sara works. In many Jerusalem neighborhoods, a ceremony was held at the local memorial site with the names of fallen residents.

Memorial Day ended on Wednesday evening, ushering in Israel’s 74th Independence Day with a multitude of live events with music and dancing.

Musical prayer services public and private could be heard walking along the Jerusalem streets after sunset ending the day of mourning.

Examples of the Blue and White themed plastic boppers, balloons, and glowing headbands were available for sale at First Station.

The musical prayer service attracted a huge crowd, while next to it at First Station the annual main event from Har Herzl’s live broadcast was seen.

People coming and going, and the crowd was so large it was hard to find friends. There were too many Jerusalem large events to attend, they included fireworks, and live musical entertainment, with some lasting all night long.

Annually at Beit Hanasi, the President’s Official Residence, the military honors start the daytime events, while in many synagogues the Hallel prayer is added to the morning service.

For thousands of Israelis, a highlight of Yom Haatzmaut is watching the Tanach Chidon or International Youth Bible Quiz on television.

This was the first time I was able to attend the annual and popular event held at the Jerusalem Theater, and fortunate to be there for the exciting finish. It ended with a tie between two young Israelis. The US representative came in third – first for the Diaspora communities.

The President, Prime Minister, and Jerusalem Mayor were honored to ask a question, but, the event is under Education Minister Dr. Yifat Shasha-Biton who was escorted to the stage to speak.

The full recorded broadcast is available online if you want to check your knowledge with that of these impressive youngsters.

I want to add this audience was the most enthusiastic, yet respectful group I have seen, they and we should all be proud.

In the afternoon the annual President’s Diplomatic Reception was back again after the corona limitations of the past two years,

with the traditional photos of representatives of international armed forces,

and religious leaders based in Israel in attendance.

At the colorful event, I love the military hats on the table as in the past.

New this year was the new Israeli President and Michal Herzog hosting, and featuring a variety of Israeli boutique wineries,

and cheese adorned with miniature Blue and White flags.

Ladies dressed in traditional costumes and men in uniform also enjoyed the Israeli ice cream cones or cups offered at the afternoon reception.

I noticed, as always, the diversity of the attendees,

and the large flags near the outdoor stage,

and wished I could have indulged in more wine with the diplomats who were hosted at Beit Hanasi.

But I wanted to get to the Jerusalem International Conference Center for the Israel Prize ceremony. This was the only decent image I could get. This was one event I should have stayed home and watched live on TV. It was much different than in past years when the live crowd filled the big auditorium.

Walking there thru Gan Sacher, Sacher Park, where people were enjoying family get-togethers on Yom Haatzmaut, some of the smallest flags were the cutest and I did see long time friends, so it was worth the time.

Much more happened this past week, but I will conclude with a brief quote from Dermer’s exceptional remarks which I hope to share in full soon.

The Torah gives us purpose. Israel gives us power.

Purpose without power is a lethal combination…

But power without purpose also cannot secure the Jewish future.   The mightiest of Empires and the greatest of civilizations have crumbled when their people lost their way when they lost their sense of purpose.”

The intense week of the Yoms, Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron, and Yom Haatzmaut, with its extremes of highs and lows has concluded.

The Power of the IDF and the Purpose of the Torah were exemplified this week, and hopefully, we will continue together to build and celebrate Israel at 75 next year in Jerusalem.

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.