Jerusalem Center of the World

The observation gleaned from Mark Twain’s Notebooks and Journals that “Jerusalem is mournful, dreary, and lifeless,” is certainly out of date.

The world’s attention on Jerusalem focuses in with a microscope intensity and scrutiny like no other place on earth.

Ah, Jerusalem the Center of the World!

Yes, that is the name of the sculpture in Teddy Park by David Breuer-Weil and if you look closely you can see my reflection there in the center.

It was good to get out and walk again this week, between the winter rains.

I love the orchids that grow inside this time of year,

while the trees are in bloom outside.

The new Jerusalem winter bus stop sign snowman was pristine white.

Where snowplows left piles, now the grey ice is only good for jumping on.

Trees fell and branches are blocking sidewalks all around Jerusalem.

Construction equipment also blocks sidewalks as building goes on and on.

We maneuvered around the mess in the aftermath of the snow.

It was cleaned up today, sharing to show the large size of the area.

Love the trees full of oranges, even more, the smell of those fresh lemons.

To begin the week, the Kosovo Embassy in Jerusalem hosted an event for the International Holocaust Day. The photos of Charg√© d’affaires Ines Demiri’s family who were affected by the Holocaust lined the wall.

Government officials from Kosovo were able to participate online. It still impresses me that a country which is over 95% Muslim has a Jewish woman heading its embassy in Jerusalem and so many women in high positions in government.

Another interesting event was held at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence, as Michal Herzog welcomed the spouses and partners of diplomats serving in Israel. Each woman (only women this time, though there are more female ambassadors each year) stood and introduced herself. The daughter of an Israeli Ambassador to Brazil, Michal Herzog was able to respond to a comment in Portuguese, which she learned as a child.

The short video shown on past Israeli Presidents included the famous scene at the United Nations when then Israeli Ambassador Chaim Herzog showed his disgust at the UN resolution equating Zionism to racism by tearing up the piece of paper at the UN podium.

Skipping here the upsetting UN and Amnesty International report, rather,

instead on the day the sun came out and rain was predicted – again –

I was not the only one in the Liberty Bell Park. These women asked an Israeli couple walking by to take their photos with the Liberty Bell.

Watching a group stop in the park for lunch, the cats were ready and waiting to clean up the leftovers.

People were at the Lion’s Fountain and the water was flowing.

The blue sky and white clouds were picture-perfect.

There was enough wind so the windmill moved a little in the breeze.

Yemin Moshe was inviting to stroll through as always.

The light, the weather, the season create unique opportunities for a photo.

There were photo shoots for weddings, bar mitzvahs, and more, but will give them their privacy, as well as the young couples out for the afternoon.

I loved seeing a new sign for the Jerusalem Symphony performances in February. While I appreciated the online recordings this past year, it is good they are tuning up for a new Beethoven series. Even more exciting, Zubin Mehta is to be back to conduct the Israel Philharmonic on February 21st.

Design Week at Hansen House is scheduled for the end of June 2022, organizers have called for creators to submit their designs.

Are we finally coming out of the corona closings and preparing to get back to normal?

I certainly hope so.

Time for photo walks again!

Here’s a short preview, there is so much more to see.

Hope to see you soon in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Making Memories and Building

What a week it was in Jerusalem, Israel!

A week of ups and downs, in the weather and news and events, hard to remember only a week ago was Hanukkah.

The blue sky and light clouds started the week off on a positive note.

Three (very) young musicians were taking advantage of the last day of the Hanukkah time off from school to play for people in Mamilla Mall.

Oh, the Jerusalem streets appear in a constant state of construction. King David Street road work goes on and on. When will this building be only a memory?

The gates were finally open to this Ivory Coast property the city has taken over after a long period of vacancy.

The Beit Hanasi, President’s Residence’ gates were open to welcome new Ambassadors to Israel this past week with the IDF honor guard.

The full honor guard and IDF band were all rehearsed and ready for the arrival of the new US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides on Sunday.

As he got out of the official limousine to the red carpet welcome, drops of rain started to lightly fall on the official reception.

Were his eyes closed for the playing of Hatikvah or did I just catch a blink?

Like all dignitaries, Ambassador Nides signed the official guest book. His son at his side, and the President with his wife at his side.

But unlike other new ambassadors, after lighting candles on the last night of Hanukkah at Beit Hanasi, Nides joined in the singing of Moaz Tzur while the audience was more restrained, despite Herzog’s encouragement.

The last day of Hannukah was a busy one with family parties and trips. Mostly trips in Israel due to the corona restrictions limiting travel.

But PM Bennett was able to welcome the Prime Minister of Greece and the President of Cyprus to Jerusalem for important meetings.

Also on the last night of Hanukkah, Rabbi Aharon Katz was asked to light the candles to start the opening of the World Championship Flag Football games at the Ramada Hotel.

Close to 900 people from 23 countries participated. The US won both men’s and women’s gold medals as expected and Mexico placed second in both. Where else do you find football players wearing a kippa than Jerusalem?

Mayor Moshe Lion made a grand entrance when he arrived late to the event, which ended with a loud and live band rocking the ballroom. For many of the participants, it was their first time in Israel but very limited due to the corona restrictions. Hope they have good memories and come back soon to see much more of the Jerusalem streets.

On a very different note, another meaningful program was held at the Jerusalem Theater on Wednesday evening as the weather turned cold and windy.

Artist Jacob Jay Garfinkel’s work lined the theater’s lobby walls with his photographs, special images of an item from a loved one lost too soon. His only son Elon z”l died at age 43, and this grieving father initiated an endeavor with OneFamily to make memories with victims of terror.

Families arrived to see the images posted on the walls.

A large crowd gathered for the opening night program as it started to rain.

The Minister of Culture and Sport Chili Tropper and Deputy Mayor Hagit Moshe sat in the front row and spoke. Miriam Perez, one of the grieving parents, sat in the crowd on the steps, wearing a royal blue jacket.

Friends and relatives of the Garfinkels were also in attendance.

Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg, the father of Rivka Holzberg z”l spoke on behalf of the survivor families who participated in the Heirlooms: Memory and Cherished Objects.

This photo of OneFamily organizers includes Chantal and Marc Belzberg.

Jay (full disclosure: we have known the Garfinkels for many years) spoke movingly about his son and his work and the process of minimalism in photography.

His work very much broke a tenet of keeping emotion out of the photo.

Perhaps without reading, but beside each picture in Hebrew and English was a text of powerful explanation.

Gaston Perpinal, 15, of Ra’anna, immigrated with his parents from Argentina. A Palestinian suicide bomber detonated himself at a shopping mall in Kfar Sava, killing him. Gaston was the driving force behind his parents’ moving to Israel. Six months after their Aliyah, he was murdered. With the objects of his youth gone, “there is one way in which I keep Gaston’s memory alive. A tattoo…”

The images were also on display up the stairs on another level.

One more caption by the photo of a uniform – AIMAN.

Staff sergeant Aiman Sharuf, 20, a border policeman from the Druze village of Ussifiyeh, was one of 14 persons killed on October 21, 2002, when a bus was blown up in a suicide attack by a terrorist driving an explosives-laden jeep near the Karkur junction. Aiman’s uniform still hangs in his bedroom in the apartment of his parents. His mother never washed it because “I want to smell it, and it still has his odor.”

Each of the 33 “simple” photographs in the exhibit packs not only powerful memories but messages of lives cut short.

Signs like these line too many Jerusalem streets, they remember the victims of terror murdered at various Jerusalem locations.

The sign has been placed on the wall of the new building that has risen on the site of Moment Cafe where a suicide bomber blew himself up in 2002, killing 11 people.

From terror and tragedy, making memories, and building on the Jerusalem streets. Hope you can see for yourself – and soon.

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.