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gleaned from Mark Twain’s Notebooks and Journals that “Jerusalem is mournful, dreary, and lifeless,” is certainly out of date.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

When I worked in a biochemistry lab, I carefully did research dealing in fractions of a millimeter. However, my unscientific observation of the Jerusalem streets at present is that there are more people sick now than in the past two years.

A bit more scientific, the newest stats published for last week, we see in Israel 709 cases per day for 100,000 people, with a +467% increase, which is the highest in the world. Israel was also testing – a lot.

The borders are open. But the crowds of tourists are nowhere to be seen even near Jaffa Gate at the entrance to the Old City. Flights are still being canceled abruptly leaving passengers to scramble to make new travel plans.

The snow predicted did not last more than a few minutes one night. I love getting white snow pictures and ran to check outside often, but the best I could do was grey fog in the morning. Fog so thick the Vert Hotel was not to be seen.

Mostly we had a week of cold rain. Umbrellas were out in Mamilla Mall, but not crowds of returning tourists. Notice what else is missing?

The art and pedestals that lined Mamilla Mall last year have been removed.

It seems they wrote more numbers on the stones, so perhaps a renovation project is planned? In Jerusalem, every stone removed outside of a historical building is numbered and is replaced like a giant puzzle.

When the sun finally came out a few times this past week for a short while, I walked around trying to decide what to share. A military helicopter flew past as the clouds were breaking over Jerusalem’s changing skyline.

Thanks to the US Consulate installing new bollards – no photos allowed there! I got my inspiration, of course, what else, but security and safety!

The original security “Dragon Teeth” display is starting to grow green moss.

The new security bollards at Jerusalem bus stops have grown taller.

Remember the security at the entrance to Balfour Street last year? At least five levels were visible at times blocking the view to the Prime Minister’s residence with a black curtain and four rows of barricades blocking the gate on the public street side.

Now there is simpler security with bollards blocking cars, but people can walk thru again. I have done it a few times, just because I can and to see if there is anything happening there.

And this past week there was action! Two cats were up on the roof. Oh, the jokes I was thinking of as I walked by in the sunny warmth of the day.

However, security and safety on building sites is no joke,

Construction and building renovations are everywhere.

There was a danger warning,

but now people have moved into the renovated building.

How cool to paint new crosswalk lines that look like old ones.

And then there are the safety signs not to use the crosswalk,

but walk around the fenced-in holes in the pavement.

Getting tired of it all? These chairs are ready for you to sit and rock awhile.

This bench on a busy Jerusalem street near a new coffee shop has flowers secured to it in memory of a deceased relative.

This has to be one of my favorite discoveries in the ‘walking the Jerusalem streets and what will you find next category.’ I may even go out when it rains to see the water come out of this drain pipe mouth.

Some people are so clever!

And those masks, worn and not, and discarded near a bus stop, remind us of the newest tiny variant to beware of in order to stay safe and secure in our damp dwellings.

The sun did peek thru the clouds, and ‘I love Jerusalem’ was picture perfect.

Hopefully, the sign and plazas will be filled with people again, day and night, and soon.

Two years is too long, but take care and stay well.

Hope to see you soon, back again on the Jerusalem streets!

10 Facts for Tu Bishvat: All About Almonds:

The blossoming almond tree is the symbol of ט”ו בשבט -Tu Bishvat, the “New Year of Trees.” I love seeing the almond flowers appear to burst, literally overnight, into full bloom. The delicate and majestic flowers of the common almond, in shades of white or delicate pink, gradually envelop the exposed stems and can be observed in cultivated orchards and abandoned open areas.

Love the flowers, but the almond trees? The date of flowering is not always exact and often depends on the weather. This has been a relatively warm winter, and the weather caused this Jerusalem almond tree to bloom early.

  1. The spectacular flowers cover the tree in white or pink. They are fragrant and thus stand out in the landscape, becoming a symbol of Tu Bishvat. The almond is called shaked in Hebrew, which means the fastest or most diligent because it blooms first before all other wild and fruit trees in the country.

2. The common almond tree belongs to the rose family, this large family includes about 120 genera and 3200 species. It is common in most areas of the world, especially in temperate zones. Other members of the family are the fruit trees, plum, peach, cherry, and also rose bushes.

3. Four species of almond trees grow in the wild: Arabian almond, harem almond, small-leaved almond, and common almond. It is difficult to distinguish between them.

4. Although the almond is not included among the seven species in the Bible, it has a respectable place in our sources, mentioned many times in the Bible and the Talmud, as one of the five species of zimrat ha’Aretz, considered “the best produce of the Land,” included in the gifts that Jacob told his sons to take to the ruler in Egypt. (Genesis 43:11)

5. The fruit is wrapped in a green peel and changes its color to brown over time. When the fruit ripens, the peel splits in two and usually falls off. The almond seed remains on the tree wrapped in another extremely hard bark that is cracked only by pressure. Another bark envelops the seed cocoons. This shell is thin and brown in color. The part eaten is the seed. Almond fruits are also eaten whole before ripening when the seed coat is still green.

New almond trees blooming near the old Monastery in Jerusalem

6. But, BEWARE! In abandoned areas and orchards, bitter almond trees usually grow. They are used as a cultivar for the cultivated almond. Bitter almond seeds are dangerous to eat. They contain a substance called amygdalin from which the toxin cyanide is released.

7. However, almonds have long been considered a fine fruit for food and medicine. Maimonides praised them: “Almonds are the finest in fruits.” They have great nutritional value and contain, among other things, fat, protein, and calcium. The almond is considered the healthiest food out of 100 tested foods, including avocado and olive oil, (according to the FDA). It has been recommended to eat 7-12 almonds a day.

8. Do cultivated almonds grow in an orchard or vineyard? Planted almond trees grow in a kerem, “vineyard.” The term kerem “vineyard” usually refers to grapes, olive, and almond crops.

9. The Israeli almond industry is in development. In Israel, over 62,000 dunams of almond groves stretch from the south to the Golan Heights. Some of the new varieties have been developed at the Volcani Center.

Almond growing in Israel takes the environment into account, including low water consumption, and sophisticated and focused mechanization. Israel consumes about 10,000 tons every year. Most of the consumption comes from local crops and the rest will come from the United States.

10. Fast then slow? Almond ripening is very slow, in contrast to its agile flowering, it lasts about six months.

Only 5-10% of all almond flowers bear fruit.

I store almonds in the freezer to keep fresh and to keep them out of the way so as to not grab too many to eat at a time.

Almonds, nuts, and dried fruit have been piled high in the shuk, Machane Yehudah Market, and in supermarket displays and stores throughout Jerusalem, Israel over these past weeks.

The present Israeli Knesset building was opened on Tu Bishvat, but no big celebrations this year like 6 years ago for the 50th.

It was 2 years ago for Tu Bishvat, multiple large events were celebrated. The last event I attended at Beit Hanasi before the coronavirus closed the doors of the Israeli President’s Residence was the JNF-KKL Tu Bishvat celebration.

Here’s hoping next year we can celebrate Tu Bishvat together again!

Tu Bishvat Sameach!

My thanks, as every year, to a wonderful friend Sara for providing the information for all things almond and her amazing website with everything you would want to know about the Wildflowers of Israel.