Jerusalem Moving Forward: The Hope for Future

If last week was a week of transitions, this one is set to be even greater.

Not only because we had the whole family together for the first time in years for a photo and it’s my birthday. The final countdown has started for a new Israeli government after 12 years under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Jerusalem tourism is looking to improve with an announcement that on July 1st tourists are to be allowed into Israel. People have already started traveling again, as much as possible.

Photo credit: Mark Neyman GPO

Reuven Rivlin, in his last month as president, flew to Romania on an official visit this past week. An important stop was to speak at a joint session of the Romanian parliament before some 350 members of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies.

Last week, a corona is over celebration was held at the Jerusalem Theater.

Outside, security told me “no photos,” so this was as close to the white security tent at the entrance I could get. Most people didn’t know what was going on inside, and traffic was not blocked.

An award ceremony was held at the Jerusalem Theater to show appreciation for the Israeli health institutions and their contributions to successful efforts during the pandemic.

Real food – a sign of back to what was before corona, plus this event included healthy food options.

Hospital heads were present plus, police, military and emergency services.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein entered the theater wearing a mask.

A moment of silence for those who died and Hatikvah began the program.

A video with milestone days, ended with 461, and together we won.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke proudly of his accomplishment.

Ironic. Corona-over-celebration. However, the former Health Minister was one of few not wearing a mask in the packed auditorium. It was in his speech that Edelstein announced that the mask law was to be lifted.

However, as the certificates were presented, masks were off. It seems handshaking and hugging are back,

and smiling,

as the dozens of certificates were presented at the big feel good party.

One would never have imagined all that was happening outside.

Fires. Low flying planes circled around the entrance of Jerusalem. Dry and hot, too many large forest fires close to Jerusalem for one week.

After a year of no live events, two nights in a row felt like setting a milestone. The next night at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, there was a preview of a new documentary on Begin’s life, titled “Upheaval.” I highly recommend it – you can check it out HERE

Of course, seeing a movie in a real theater, and with Menachem Begin’s son and secretary, along with many others featured in the film, and a few Ambassadors was a really nice bonus. And, also food and wine were served before the film was shown in the renovated auditorium.

Not everything was live, Israel hosted over 400 participants from 58 countries virtually to discuss cutting-edge issues such as the security of the Internet at OECD Global Forum on Digital Security. Next year Japan is host.

The ever popular Shavuah HaSefer, Hebrew Book Week is back – live.

I was not the only one who was disappointed going on Friday to find it wasn’t open. The event is only on nights, from 6-8:30 pm until June 19, 2021.

According to the Israel National Library, in 2020, there was a decrease of 2,000 books published in comparison with 2019. But the Hebrew Book Week sales attract crowds of all ages, the full library report – HERE.

However, even without the books, Takhana Rishona, First Station was busy.

A Latin American Festival with booths and dancing got people’s attention.

A Brazilian singer entertained from the center stage. The Brazilian Ambassador was also in the crowd. Was it the food, Latin music, no masks outside, or the weather that put so many people in a festive mood?

Live performances are again being promoted along the Jerusalem streets.

New parks are popping up around Jerusalem, Israel.

It’s been a difficult time period going from a long pandemic, to Meron tragedy, to Operation Guardians of the Walls with thousands of rockets fired at Israel, fires surrounding Jerusalem, and all in the shadow of election dramas.

Who would have ever imagined all that has happened since Tu Bishvat 2020 at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence?

Hatikvah, The Hope – Israel’s anthem, no matter how you sing it,

or where – the hope for the future is a constant theme throughout the years.

Hope to see you soon on the Jerusalem streets.

Jerusalem: A Week of Transitions

After over a year filled with uncertainty and pandemic isolation, followed by rockets and 11 days of the war, we had a week filled with transitions in Jerusalem, Israel.

Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s residence, has been getting ready for the change of residents for many weeks.

The term of Reuven Rivlin, the tenth President of Israel, is coming to an end. His position of honor in the garden was being prepared months ago.

President-elect Isaac Herzog spoke as head of the Jewish Agency at the last major event before corona that I attended at Beit Hanasi.

However, it was at a bar mitzvah event in a Jerusalem synagogue, where Herzog was impressive. The deaf youngsters had a father or older male standing next to them, except for one 13-year-old in the front row, who stood – alone. Herzog noticed and came over immediately to the help the boy put on tefillin for the first time.

Will there be a transition to a new Prime Minister also this week?

The Netanyahu House gate was open a bit this week. Passing cars slowed to get a glimpse at what is happening behind the new security wall. Will this Jerusalem neighborhood get new full time residents? Stay tuned.

New signs were up for the transition to summer in Jerusalem parks, which include new Shabbat activities for children.

The Israel Festival as I mentioned is underway now and with live events.

New Jerusalem playgrounds have popped up like colorful mushrooms,

and everyday more blue historical information signs,

as the skyline is rising rapidly higher at the entrance to Jerusalem.

The new school for music and the arts is ready for the next school year. This 2021 year, Jerusalem high schoolers had so few days in schools.

The construction work continues to go down as well as up, these pipes were ready to be used under King David Street.

The first section resurfacing between the King David Hotel and YMCA has been showing signs of progress.

Walking around this past week to see what was happening, things felt different. The transition from corona-closed to coming back to life could be felt. The weather was great for walking. Seeing friends after over a year and recognizing them was marvelous.

One visitor to Jerusalem I recognized leaving the Citadel Hotel. Senator Ted Cruz was here on a support mission, as was a group of US rabbis.

People travelled, with lots of paper work and tests, from around the world to attend weddings and family celebrations held in Jerusalem.

A wedding on the Tayelet with the Old City in the background – always a favorite and not to be missed, especially when you have connections to the families for many years.

The umbrellas were back over Yoel Salomon Street for summer fun.

The shops on the street were lit and open again, transitioning back to life.

This one of Jerusalem’s less ‘proper’ streets, is slowly transitioning away from sleazy bars. Walking on the street was an English-speaking couple I guessed were looking for a restaurant one street over.

Yes, lights were up again at night to welcome the visitors downtown.

Ben Yehudah Street store fronts were bright and ready for business again.

While uncertainty and transition surround us daily,

in nature, we see a continuity of transition, pomegranates forming from the blossoms on the trees lining the paths along the Jerusalem streets,

and the wonderful vivid colors of the flowers along those streets.

Hoping to see you all here again soon on the Jerusalem streets.

Israel Under Fire – Again

The eerie ambulance sirens outside my window sound like old World War II movies set in Europe. But they are real, not video or fiction.

Here in Jerusalem, it is quiet. Perhaps too quiet for a Saturday night.

However, over 278 rockets were fired over Shabbat from Gaza into Israeli population centers. It is important to remember – at least 40 fell short, hitting Gazans. From the 2,900 rockets fired at Israel this past week, 450 fell in Gaza. They are killing their own. Also, the Israeli Electric Company will not be able to restore power to Gaza, because it is too dangerous now. Gazan rockets caused damage to their electricity supply.

Caterpillar Park in Sderot Israel for protection of children from rockets

In 2008, a cement caterpillar was built for the safety of children in Sderot. Frequent rockets from Gaza had made playing outside dangerous, now they had a place to shelter near their swings in the park.

I wrote about a visit south after attacks from Gaza three years ago.

Kibbutz Alumim bomb shelters near factory

Two years ago Kibbutz Alumim was under attack from Gaza. Their bomb shelters were placed closer to the factory entrance.

Sderot school with bomb shelters on field where children play

New schools built in the southern Israeli communities have multiple bomb shelters inside and on the grounds for children to seek a safe space.

Since 2012 I have been posting about raining rockets from Gaza.

Trips south to see bombed-out buildings much too frequent.

In 2012, seeing the Iron Dome at work for the first time was memorable,

but the new photos circulating of the iron dome at work are amazing.

At midnight May 16, 2021, a new barrage of rockets from Gaza was aimed at Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Tel Aviv, this was after multiple rockets during the days prior, day and night.

Sunday the IDF issued a statement: In response to continuous rocket fire at Israeli territory, over the last 24 hours, IAF fighter jets and aircraft struck over 90 Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror targets throughout the Gaza Strip.

What is important to remember, there is no equivalency between the terrorists in Gaza aiming thousands of rockets at civilian populations from in civilian locations to cause as much harm, even to their own when those rockets fall short and kill Gazans, to the Israeli precision strikes at terror structures and proclaimed terror leaders.

Here is the hospital shelter we had to go to in Tel Aviv, including patients fresh from surgery who had to get out of their beds, during a siren alert.

Where will this end? No one knows. Israel is trying to destroy the underground network and infrastructure of the terrorists. If Hamas stops the rocket and missile fire from Gaza – it’s over – at least for this time.

I have been on the road when a supposed cease fire was declared in the past, and no surprise, more rockets were fired.

Rockets from Gaza have and continue to kill Israelis in their homes. The damage to families running to shelter night after night is hard to calculate. But with every rocket or missile, there is injury, if not physical, emotional and psychological.

The Shavuot holiday begins soon, and I will leave you with a photo of some of the flowers I saw in Tel Aviv. Time is short, so I will save the photos of the outdoor cafes filled with diners one night – and empty the next.

At least the pizza delivery guys were busy as people stayed in off the streets.

And to end with a tradition, this “Hatikvah” was at the conclusion of a ceremony at Yad Vashem, “The Hope” – for better times ahead.

חג שמח

Happy and safe holiday for all.