11 New Signs in Jerusalem

It was hard to keep up with all the things happening in Jerusalem this week.

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First, at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence,

the Sheba Medical Center celebrated 75 years by honoring donors.

The US was represented by Deputy Chief of Mission Stephanie L. Hallett who came with her husband.

Amazing to meet Rachel Heber who now heads Matanat Chaim, the Gift of Life, an altruistic kidney donation organization started by her husband Rabbi Yeshayahu Heber z’L who died three years ago at the age of 55, after contracting the coronavirus. Sitting next to her was Matnat Chaim CEO Sharona Sherman whose family are friends from Australia.

There was a short video on kidney organ donors and recipients.

Seated in the front row with his wife was Dan Levi, a kidney donor, who also spoke during the program. Sheba Medical Center has 10,000 employees, and a group of transplant doctors was included with those who attended the Beit Hanasi event. Hope to hear more of their impressive stories in the future.

New signs line the Jerusalem streets.

Protest signs continue to follow government officials where ever they go.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich was the opening speaker at the economic Eli Hurvitz Conference sponsored by the Israel Democratic Institute.

Protest signs were also displayed inside, along with shouting throughout his attempts to deliver a prepared speech.

One of the most positive signs of the conference was when the Head of the Bank of Israel Amir Yaron entered the room, he stopped to shake the Finance Minister’s hand.

With a hand in a sling, he stopped and posed on his way out, and mentioned he had lived and attended high school in Maryland.

A sign of the changing times–the old blah cement walls of Talpiot are being colored with bright new murals.

“This wall is also Temporary” is another Talpiot sign.

PICO Kids is in one of those old industrial buildings.

Their end-of-the-year program was based on Innovation for Sustainable projects conceived and built by young students.

Teams presented their completed projects to judges.

Working in teams these young minds and hands are training and building for the future, like this winning project in the clean energy category.

“Why fit in when you were born to STAND OUT” was this sign spotted in Tel Aviv, but the Tel Aviv adventure will have to wait until next week.

One sign of the complicated Israeli road-building progress is at the entrance of new road #16, which goes under Har Nof and saves Jerusalem drivers a huge amount of time.

Another new sign for summer events in Jerusalem city center,

and reading month, was added to the Jerusalem Book Festival signs.

Multiple Jerusalem streets were shut. Barriers with thousands of security watching were out for the Jerusalem Pride Parade. Though I have seen Benny Gantz before, on Thursday afternoon he appeared much taller than those around him as he arrived to speak to the group gather in the Liberty Bell Park prior to the march.

Signs, balloons, and banners at the start of the now annual march that begins at Keren Hayesod Street and goes to Independence Park.

More signs, across the way at Bloomfield Park where protesters against the Pride Parade were behind barriers and watched closely by police.

With streets closed, tourist groups had to walk to their hotels at the end of their day. But it was great to see tour groups back on the Jerusalem streets.

Mamilla Mall, as I took a quick walk thru to get to the Jaffa Gate.

After three years of waiting to see the Tower of David, Jerusalem Museum, I arrived for its opening night.

The new entrance was not ready to use.

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The public one day will come in this door, to learn the history of Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, for now, we went through the passageway,

and down the new steps between ancient walls,

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to arrive at the impressive entrance hall gallery.

Here interactive, visual artistic works line the old walls,

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and the keys to Jerusalem are one of a few of the most historically important artifacts on display.

This new Jerusalem Museum needed a short video to give you a sample of the creativity involved.

So many new signs for the future, built on remembering the past.

Hope you can come and see the old and the new on Jerusalem streets soon.

Yom HaZikaron to Yom Haatzmaut and more in Jerusalem

So much happens over the short time period of Yom HaZikaron and Yom Haatzmaut, the transition from Remembrance Day to Independence Day, it was hard to keep up and impossible to do all I wished I could.

However, until Yom Yerushalayim – or Jerusalem Day, on May 18, this year,

the flags will still be seen on the Jerusalem streets. Here’s a quick review of what you missed this year in Jerusalem!

At night there were multiple large events and small in most communities, again we attended a program for Yom HaZikaron sponsored by the Michael Levin Base, and this year the program included JNF participation. The program was conducted in English.

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What an honor to meet leaders present from the Jewish War Veteran of the United States, one of many groups in the 1500-person crowded Givat Tachmoshet, Ammunition Hill amphitheater.

The speeches were all powerful and meaningful, and the IDF band added to the emotional aspect of the event.

Givat Tachmoshet was the scene of an important battle in 1967 with the Jordanian Legion, in the reunification of Jerusalem, MORE HERE.

While the Har Herzl Military Cemetery is the main venue for Yom HaZikaron, the next morning I decided to go to a smaller, less well-known Jerusalem cemetery.

Gravestones of the fallen have a small flag and black ribbon placed each year.

This year small groups gathered around a few of the graves.

A ceremony was held around the time of the morning siren.

I overheard one woman saying how much more meaningful the smaller ceremony was to her and her family.

The memorial siren went off as I walked to the cemetery.

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In various locations around Jerusalem, there are memorials for fallen soldiers, on my way home I passed this stone. Notice the second name, Herzl Halevy z”l, the uncle and namesake of the current head of IDF who was killed in the Six-Day War.

Nightfall brought the transition from mourning for the fallen on Yom HaZikaron to the celebrations of Independence Day, the Diamond Anniversary year of Yom Haatzmaut. Israel at 75.

At Har Herzl, all negative predictions proved very wrong, the program was the best I have seen by far, even for the live enthusiastic audience.

As the sun sets, the program starts with Yizkor, the Jewish prayer for the dead. This year Rabbi Leo Dee was chosen, his voice sounded strained from having spoken to so many people and in interviews since the murder of his wife and daughters.

However, the transition to the celebration was fast and wonderful.

The dancers were impressive against the huge stage constructed each year by Herzl’s grave at the top of the mountain.

The live audience was also treated to a great show this year.

The seat I was told to take had a fabulous view.

As a tradition, the Knesset Speaker leads this program, Amir Ohana spoke well and then lit the first torch.

The audience was given lights to add to the production.

Twelve individuals are honored to lit a torch, one for each biblical tribe. The torch lighters were excellent selections this year, each person impressive for their accomplishments.

And more on with the show, bright and flashy, but more tasteful than usual.

Of course, the military flags were paraded,

and the lights attached to the seats changed colors for the audience’s enjoyment and participation.

But, viewing the formations worked much better on screens from above.

There were Israeli-based themes from over the past 7 decades,

concluding with Salah Shabbati for a crowd-pleasing ending.

What a shame this was not as widely covered as in the past, it was a winner.

Then, in the morning, after some celebration throughout the night, there was still much more.

All shops are closed as Yom Haazmaut is a national holiday.

I was impressed by the multiple Jerusalem Municipality cleanup trucks I passed on my way to the Jerusalem Theater.

The Chidon Tanach HaOlami, or International Bible Quiz, is another Yom Haaztmaut tradition for many families.

The international group of Bible students was down to the final eight contestants for the televised annual program.

The Jerusalem Mayor had asked a previous question and the Prime Minister asks one of the last questions.

This year two girls won first and second place, with a tense competition at the end. Here you can see more of the competition with a pleasant ending.

Good thing I got the flyovers at rehearsal, no such luck on Yom Haatzmaut.

And then, the “75 Years of Creation” celebration, the diplomatic reception held at Beit Hanasi, Israel President’s House, in the afternoon.

Ambassadors and military heads of their mission arrived on the red carpet.

This year 7 Israeli wineries in the Golan were featured.

Cheeses, made from cow, goat, and sheep milk, were beautifully displayed.

The main program is held in the back garden with a new stage this year.

I love the hats that are placed on the table each time.

Michal Herzog looked happy as she came out to greet the guests.

They posed with Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and his wife,

over and over again with the various Ambassadors to Israel.

People were smiling as they posed at the afternoon garden party.

Then seated for a program in the back garden,

which included musical interludes.

Eli Cohen mentioned in his remarks that there are 97 countries with representatives in Israel, and expects the number to rise to 100 next year.

The afternoon was another feel-good for Israel 75 celebration.

Besides so many hats and uniforms, wine and cheese, there was specialty ice cream and designer chocolates. After enough sugar and wine, I decided to go home and skip the Israel Prize, the other national program at the end of the day for Yom Haatzmaut. Time to review all the family photos of a day filled with hikes and BBQs. The smell of meat grilling filled the Jerusalem streets from thousands of Israeli Independence Day mangals.

At the national events, signs of protests were put away and Israel at 75 celebrations in Jerusalem went on in grand style.

Time for you to start planning next year in Jerusalem for 76!

See Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Martyrs’ and Remembrance Day in Jerusalem

As soon as Passover is over, the holiday preparations are well under way for celebrating the Yoms Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron, and Yom Haatzmaut in Jerusalem.

The Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence, is the site of multiple activities for Remembrance and Independence Days each year.

To start off a week of memorial events, Sunday morning was at Beit Hanasi.

Entering through the front gate past security, the state symbol of a menorah surrounded by olive branches is ready for celebrations of Israel at 75.

Beit Hanasi has hosted a Zikaron Basalon gathering since the Rivlins first invited the neighbors to share the more intimate setting to hear the testimony of a survivor.

The social initiative has taken off over the years with tens of thousands participating in private homes and other small group venues.

This year arriving early, I got to watch Kobi Oz and Yonatan Raizel rehearse their song on the program, “Suddenly Breathing.”

The main room at Beit Hanasi was arranged with the President and Michal Herzog with the main speaker and his wife at the front.

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 Albert Chen (Hayon), a Holocaust survivor from Tunis, shared his personal story, accompanied by his wife Giselle.

The two famous Israeli musicians were a bonus not usually found at the Zikaron Basalon events.

Kobi Oz performed his song “We Didn’t Have Anything”, which he dedicated to his mother, as he began she motioned with her finger in the air in agreement.

It was a meaningful event, especially seeing the honor and respect Kobi Oz paid to his survivor mother. How to reach younger generations as survivors pass on is the question, and music is one answer being suggested and offered at this event.

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The memorial flames are again on some public buildings.

The Israeli flags at Har Herzl Cemetery were already at half-mast as I went to Yad Vashem for the official state ceremony to open Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day. Which was observed on April 17 – 18, 2023, with thousands of events throughout Israel.

The theme this year was Jewish Resistance during the Holocaust, marking 80 years since the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Each year I try to arrive early to get through the layers of security to get to the Warsaw Ghetto Plaza where the televised program is held.

New this year there was the opportunity to light a memorial candle in the Hall of Remembrance before the start of the 8:00 pm program.

The room was surrounded by small flames from those candles as people slowly filed thru the large hall.

Chairs were set near the memorial flame to be used in the morning ceremony at Yad Vashem as the morning siren sounded.

A long list of dignitaries and Israeli government officials attend both ceremonies, as they do each year.

Special attention was given before the night program started to the arrival of Reza Pahlavi, the son of Iran’s former leader Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, here with MK Gila Gamliel.

Former President Reuven Rivlin greeted Pahlavi and commented on how much he looked like his father whom he met in 1978.

New IDF Chief of Staff Halevi also captured the photographers’ attention as he entered and proceeded to his seat.

Government ministers are seated in the front row, while the crowd goes back to the very rear of the plaza with guests, soldiers, and youth leaders.

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The Israeli President and Prime Minister spoke as they do each year. But there seemed to be more empty chairs in the first section, even though the weather was much warmer than usual.

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The honor guard stood at attention. Once a soldier fainted, fell, and was replaced during a televised video segment. Not this time.

A highlight of the evening is the lighting of the six memorial flames.

During the ceremony, Holocaust survivors are honored to light six torches. This year’s survivors were: first torch – Tova Gutstein; second torch – Ben-Zion Raisch; third torch – Judith Sohlberg;

fourth torch – Robert Bonfil; fifth torch – Efim Gimelshtein; sixth torch – Malka Rendel.

The stories of survival are always impressive. It is the only time that the entire audience of hundreds stops, listens,s and focuses on the screens. If you did not see them, I have attached the links above to Yad Vashem.

And at the end of the program, which ran smoothly this year, were the traditional prayers, ending the singing of HaTikvah.

El Maleh Rahamim was supposed to be by Efraim Mol, born in 1938, in a suburb of Brussels, Belgium. His long story of survival, from an orphanage to a French family, includes coming to Israel as a lone soldier. He worked in an Israeli defense industries factory and continued to serve in the IDF combat reserves, fighting in all of Israel’s wars until the First Lebanon War. After retiring, he became a sofer.

However, he was in the hospital, suffering a stroke after the rehearsal.

His son Yoel Mol and grandson were present and requested people that pray for him. However, Yad Vashem announced before Shabbat that Efraim Mol z”l had not recovered and passed away.

Yad Vashem was open during the day for free for visitors.

When Passover is over, every year, the Israeli flags go up

and out on the Jerusalem streets, as Jerusalem prepares for Yom HaZikaron followed by Yom Haatzmaut.

It’s that time of year, having to decide what to do first with so much happening on the Jerusalem streets.

Exciting to see so very many tourists here to help celebrate Israel at 75!