Inside Three Jerusalem Landmarks

It is exciting to see tour buses back on the Jerusalem streets. Israeli tourists have been around for a while, but with the big buses with foreign tours lined up in traffic, it feels like “normal.”

New lighting highlights the grandeur of the Great Synagogue and Heichal Shlomo at night. This is one of the many new attractions on the Jerusalem streets.

I want to take you inside three special locations and show events that were not so easily visible to the onlooker.

The first was at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence, where the only glimpse of Angela Merkel was her motorcade making an exit after lunch.

It was a private lunch for two, the German Chancellor and the new Israeli President, and the caterer had a very little clean-up to cart away.

This was the week of Yom HaAliyah, Aliyah Day which is set for the Hebrew month of Cheshvan to coincide with the biblical portion where Avram is told to go to the holy land.

Multiple events were held, the first of which was at Beit Hanasi, honoring five Olim, immigrants who have made important contributions. The only one I knew before the award ceremony was Yosef Abramowitz, who posed with his daughter in the garden before entering the main hall.

President Herzog was not shaking hands as he entered the room with masked honorees and their guests. Not quite back to normal.

Masks are still the law inside for groups, but waving is allowed.

After speeches and a video of the impressive accomplishments of the five Olim, there was a photo-op with the President and Israel’s Minister of Aliyah and Integration¬†Pnina Tameno-Shete, who made aliyah from Ethiopia, and former head of Mossad Efraim Halevy.

In the field of sport, Sergei Vaisburg, the Olympic coach was honored and called up his gold medal-winning star pupil Artem Dologopyat to the stage.

The honorees in the center: a physician from South America, a musical artist from Ethiopia, a Ukrainian sports coach, a French linguist, and a solar energy innovator from the United States.

And here, at last, unmasked for another official photograph.

The second is the new Museum of Tolerance, which opened its doors to two big events, even though the outside areas are not completed.

The Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference last year was only online but this year it was live and held inside the new museum. It was also broadcast.

While waiting to get a tag, (yes ID tags are back again) two years since the last one, I took this photo of the lobby area. Not my first photo attempt, but that one I cannot show you. A security officer with a dog walked by and was not happy to have his photo taken.

With the Israeli President and Prime Minister speaking first in the morning in the auditorium, there were multiple levels of security to get past.

Here is Sylvan Adams, one of the dozens of interviews over the course of the day which included Israeli Ministers, politicians, and tech leaders.

I missed the breakfast food and by noon was anxiously awaiting something to eat, and as you see I was not alone. It’s been so long since I attended an event I forgot to take along an emergency snack. Lox and cream cheese in a croissant seems to be the new “in” finger food.

Yossi Cohen’s interview comments on Iran were popular with the media. All the speakers have been written up and you can find them easily with a Google search.

So I will share what you did not see. Liat Goldhammer was speaking with Maayan Hoffman about their company’s process with fabrics that saves water in the thread-dying process.

These Sonova masks were all around, and it was a light bulb moment.

Who else remembered the Overall Festival at the Tower of David?

I heard the same pitch line two years ago with Shay Herchcovici, founder of Nano Textiles. I left the room to find Shay and confirm he was indeed the guy behind the Sonovia masks. Back to networking, at his request to meet someone important, I introduced him to Laurence Weinbaum, the director of the Israel Council on Foreign Relations.

The afternoon was filled with experts and panels,

and more panels, with lunch, served at 3:00 pm.

Hum, when was my last meal out? Hard to remember.

On a program that ran late most of the day, Mike Pompeo was early.

He did not stick around long but stopped for a few minutes to speak in the hall before leaving and returning to the US.

Now for the third location of interest: in a blog, I did on the exhibit highlighting the British Mandate at the Tower of David, the exhibit on the British contributions and changes, included movies.

How many times have I walked by quickly and ignored these golden arches on Shamai Street?

But on Thursday night I entered the Cinema Hostel, one of the “new from old” tourist lodgings dotting the center of Jerusalem around King George and Ben Yehudah Streets.

As a fan of a previous Tour de Sound tour, we accepted an invitation to hear music from old movies. John Williams and Raiders of Lost Ark was great to start an evening of musical Cinema Nostalgia, performed by Daniel and Yedidia Schwarz with Paul Salter.

Aladdin was one of the more colorful videos on the screen.

From where we were seated, we could the kitchen and hostel guests walking by from time to time.

Guests’ rooms were located down the hall behind the musicians.

The media room is upstairs.

There is also a bar, which is kosher and dairy, and was filling up quickly as we left after the unique concert.

Not quite the same as the 1,400 seat Orion Theater of old, but a different and unique way to spend an evening. Friends recalled going to the large old Israeli movie theaters, with bottles and garinim thrown on the floor.

So here were three events off the Jerusalem streets from this past week, as things appear to be getting back to normal, with masks and green passes.

Stay well and hope to see you soon.

Holiday Highlights in Jerusalem

The sounds of regular rush-hour traffic fill the Jerusalem streets.

Schools are in session and students are back in their classrooms.

The holidays are over. It’s officially “After the Chagim.”

While international tourists were still few and far between, this year was a huge improvement over last year.

It is a good time to review and share some of the holiday highlights.

Jaffa Gate was open and part of a Sukkah still remained outside after Sukkot as visitors came and went in the pleasant weather.

The ‘Shana Tova! In Jerusalem’ banner was still draped over the entrance to Machane Yehuda market.

These visitors from outside Israel were still in holiday dress and mode on Wednesday, as they walked and watched the heavy traffic slowly move by.

Going to Birkat Cohanim at the Kotel, Western Wall, I saw a tall redheaded man entering by way of Jaffa Gate past the Tower of David.

What are the odds that I would see him leaving later?

Every year more women are seen carrying the lulav for Sukkot.

Our sukkah is packed away now. Those nice greens have wilted away, but all was ready in time for the holiday celebrations.

The holidays are over, but some of the annual receptions resumed.

There was a full house for the annual Diplomat Rosh Hashanah reception at Beit Hanasi to start off the holiday season.

President Isaac Herzog and his wife Michal personally greeted the Ambassadors to Israel at the President’s Residence.

Last year, President Reuven Rivlin was only able to host an online event and for most of the past year, visitors to the President’s Residence were limited.

Foreign Affairs Minister Yair Lapid arrived in time for the l’chaim.

Diplomats lined up for an introduction and photo op with the President.

September began with six new Ambassadors presenting their credentials. A highlight was the arrival of the first Ambassador from Bahrain.

The orange juice was specially prepared for his toast, as he would not be having the usual white wine.

The Israeli President hosted a musical selihot event before Yom Kippur outside in the garden, not in the synagogue, and it was broadcast live.

Sanitation workers in the Jerusalem municipality emptied 12,000 tons of garbage throughout the city from the eve of September 20 until Wednesday morning, September 29.

They were out cleaning the streets as soon as the holidays were over, but the peak in garbage removal in Jerusalem was recorded after Rosh Hashanah when more than 3,000 tons of garbage were emptied in one day. 

The Jerusalem Municipality estimates that hundreds of thousands of people visited and spent time at the religious, cultural, and tourist sites of Jerusalem, and toured the city’s landscapes during the Sukkot holidays.

The large Birkat Cohanim, Priestly Blessing, was held twice to accommodate more people in a less crowded manner. The big sukkah in the back of the plaza was busy, but the crowd on the first day was indeed a fraction of regular years. I was pleased to get this view from a restricted area.

I spotted a man standing near the Kotel with the tallest lulav of the year.

While thousands visited the Kotel and the main religious sites, many more visited the tourist sites in the Old City, including the Tower of David Museum, the Promenade Walls, the sites of the Jewish Quarter, and the City of David.

The main attraction after the Old City was the Mayor’s Sukkah in Safra Square which was visited by tens of thousands of people during the days of Sukkot.

Beit Hanasi did not have an open sukkah this year, but high above the Jerusalem streets, sukkot were built:

a simple sukkah on a small porch,

and a more elaborate sukkah here to accommodate many more people.

I almost missed this sukkah,

but this white fabric walled sukkah placed in a large Jerusalem public park area stood alone and was a standout this year.

Even with limited tourists, some of the Waldorf Residences had sukkot.

And music filled the Jerusalem streets, with Klezmer performances,

musicians at the Islamic Museum Coffee Festival,

the band for a ‘Heroines of the Palmach’ festival,

a lone musician at Zion Square,

and colorful entertainment and crowds on Ben Yehudah Street.

Plus, there were more Simhot Beit HaShoeva than I could count.

Wandering the Jerusalem streets, I never found these friends home. However, we did see some old friends, but sorry, no Shabbat camera.

On Sukkot, you could hear the voices of outdoor prayers from the Jerusalem street minyanim and the synagogues.

Mamilla Mall was busy for the holidays, and these friends appreciated the artwork displayed here.

As soon as the holiday was over, in Mamilla Mall the sukkot were taken down, and being stored for next year.

The giant sukkah in Kikar Safra was gone as soon as the holidays were over. New signs were posted, announcing plans for the much-postponed 10th Jerusalem Marathon.

It is to run on Friday, October 29th is just before the clocks change and it gets dark early.

Still not enough Sukkot photos? You can find more – HERE

The New Year signs were still up near Sacher Park.

It’s still appropriate to wish a good year in good health to all.

Hope to see you all again on the Jerusalem streets.

Even in Jerusalem, we sang “Next Year in Jerusalem.”

Top 10 Old and New Happenings This Week in Jerusalem

Jerusalem, Israel, this holiday season is missing the usual annual mega-events.

However, even with the corona pandemic limiting activities, and Yom Kippur mostly in small groups outside, things are still happening on the Jerusalem streets.

Here are 10 favorites from this past week:

  1. Old – but still special, the Walls of the Old City at Jaffa Gate, lit up at night, always an impressive sight.

2. New – Lior Haiat ¬∑ Spokesperson of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs conducted a record-breaking marathon of 99 interviews over 15 hours. Here he was “talking peace” with an interviewer in Turkey.

3. At the same time, at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence, a smaller, socially distanced honor guard stood by the red carpet reception for six new Ambassadors to Israel.

The IDF band was in the distance in the garden and played the anthems.

With a new President, a new lineup procedure with the executive staff.

Signing the Beit Hanasi guest book is routine, but note the new guest book.

Greeting the new Ambassadors, with masks, but also without them.

The first Ambassador from Bahrain, Khaled Yusuf Al Jalahma, carefully copied his message from a piece of paper. While he was copying, President Herzog had an opportunity to explain the ceiling and the artwork in the main hall to the Ambassador’s wife.

I tried, but I could not get a clear image of his message, though I noticed that the last word before the signature was “peace.”

President Herzog also received the credentials of the new ambassadors of Mexico, Estonia, Spain, Greece, and Vatican City.

Contrast this with the page from the new Greek Ambassador.

Guest book of Israel President signed by HRH Prince William in Jerusalem Israel

But Prince William still remains the most concise message I have seen.

It was almost like old times when I returned to Beit Hanasi in the afternoon.

4. The new medalists and Tokyo 2020 Paralympic athletes were hosted by the Herzogs at a special session.

Speeches were inside in an interesting setup of the room and a video recap,

and outside for multiple photos with these 33 Paralympic athletes.

While it seemed everyone wanted their hands on the gold, I think all these athletes are special and winners.

5. There were new venues for the old Yom Kippur prayers, like this one on Charlap Street outside the synagogue.

A local park where I stood on Rosh Hashana looked so nice without the flies.

6. This is the new playground under construction in Gan Sacher, Sacker Park. It was to be ready in May but still needs work. The new children’s playground will be very different than the old one.

7. The cooler weather is lovely for walking in the evening under the new lights off Ben Yehuda Street.

8. When tourists return they will be amazed by the number of new hotels waiting for them, like this one on Ben Yehuda Street,

New Building on Bezalel Street

and new impressive buildings along many old Jerusalem streets.

9. Safra Square was set up each night for large crowds before Yom Kippur.

Special musical Selihot programs combined new and old melodies.

10. The first new sukkah I spotted before Yom Kippur was in Mamilla Mall. Now there are thousands. Shortly after the Yom Kippur fast was broken, the sounds of hammers could be heard all around town. One after another, the sukkot popped up around the Jerusalem streets. Just look up or behind apartment buildings, the best of them for next week.

Happy Holiday sign at Israeli President's house on Sukkot 5778 - 70 years.

Not quite back to normal, Beit Hanasi will not be open to the public again this year on the intermediate days of Sukkot. The Herzogs have invited only Shalva and its founder Kalman Samuels, with no media access either.

Huge events like the Jerusalem March also are not happening. But I plan to be back next week with the new event planned for here in the neighborhood.

Chag sameach!