Jerusalem in November: More than Elections

At the beginning of November when the clocks changed it was dark so early that 7:00 pm felt like midnight in Jerusalem, Israel.

But the long dark nights are good for noticing the new spots where lights have been added, like here on the top of Mishkanot HaSha’ananim with the Montefiore Windmill in the distance.

The work on France Square and Paris Fountain resumed as new sod was brought and placed instead of the fake grass.

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Work went well after dark to complete the landscaping.

Signs on a temporary barrier warned people to keep off the real grass.

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As construction fences come down more new buildings are visible.

The election for the 25th Knesset took over this week’s news and headlines, with commentators around the world projecting opinions.

The boxes of the low-tech paper slips with letters from the various parties were kept filled so as not to reveal what party was more popular.

But in our neighborhood, the letter ל – lamed – filled the streets. Election Day was a public holiday and student drivers were out in droves for lessons.

My first time voting in a new location and I thought that these steps were cute with colors and names in English. However, on closer look when I got home, I noticed that it was “ORENGE” instead of orange.

But more happened this week in Jerusalem than just the elections.

Aliyah Day was overshadowed by the elections, good thing there is another chance to celebrate Olim in the spring on yud Nissan.

The Zalman Shazar Prize for Jewish History was awarded at Beit Hanasi.

The award recipients sat in the front row with President and Michal Herzog in the President’s Residence main reception room.

Chili Tropper spoke at the event, perhaps for the last time with the expected changes of government, as Minister of Culture and Sports.

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Yesh Atid, but what the future will be for Yair Lapid and his administration is unknown.

Also, this week at Beit Hanasi, was an event hosted by the President for the Israeli delegation to the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP27, which he will head this week in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

Significantly, a woman working for better Bedouin living conditions was included in the program along with government ministers.

I missed the photo op outside of the President with tech leaders, as the door to the smaller diplomatic room was open for the first time in weeks. Renovations were completed and the room has a new look in shades of blue, with new furniture and upholstery in the special seating areas.

Looking back at the yellow decor of the past, I found one of the first photos I took in this room almost 10 years ago.

Almost time for new Chief Rabbis–those who are saying that five elections in under four years were enough, should get ready for more elections when 2023 comes around.

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People come and go, however, one constant in Jerusalem at Beit Hanasi, is the Presidential Cat, but even he was up a tree this past week.

The Jerusalem International Animation Festival, the Einstein Festival, and more new signs are along the Jerusalem streets for November events.

On November 9th, for the 84th anniversary of Kristallnacht, Walter Bingham is to be honored near Jaffa Gate with his image projected on the walls during the Jerusalem commemoration. Walter is the oldest working journalist and is busy planning for his 99th birthday in a few weeks.

If you don’t know his story, Google it, it’s a great one, but way too long for now.

November 23-26 is time for the 10th Piano Festival at the Jerusalem Theater.

The new Jerusalem signs are up to warn to prepare for the winter weather.

In Jerusalem in November, winter is approaching with long dark nights. But it also means the vivid colors of the flowers lining the Jerusalem streets are out during the daylight hours.

Come and see for yourself, on a Jerusalem Photo Walk, what’s really happening on Jerusalem streets.

Jerusalem’s Steps to Future

With the holidays over and tourists returning home, one might think Jerusalem streets would be quieter this past week.

Sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, you would know that was incorrect.

The week started off slowly enough to appreciate the Jerusalem autumn colors while walking to the VERT Hotel for a conference.

But oh the new impressive views at the end of the week!

The olive trees are full of ripe olives, ready for picking.

The flowers by the garden established in memory of Sarah Herzog were in full bloom, bursting with color in the midday sun before the rain started.

The 23rd Oud Festival is one of the many events happening in November.

The Jerusalem nature strips and traffic circles were cleared and now new flowers are being planted along the Jerusalem streets.

Small areas were busy with gardeners working to beat the rain.

One shmita sign was still up.

But drivers nearby watched the new planting, which started as soon as the holidays ended.

New flowers line the Bloomfield Garden near the Montefiore Windmill.

And work on King David Street appears to be completed – at least for now.

A bigger landscaping project is now happening at the new National Library.

With the construction fences removed, the campus is now being developed.

Israel National Library cranes with Knesset in background

Remember when this was cleared and just a huge hole in the ground 3 years ago?

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Located across from the Knesset, extensive work has gone on for years.

There is still more to do, but an end appears in sight.

The renovation work has finally started at the Prime Minister’s Residence which was unused for the past year. With a November 1st election day, maybe soon it will have an Israeli Prime Minister living there again.

The Wohl Rose Garden has big signs lining the road to say that it’s closed.

The estimated completion is set for December 2023, so that means no nature photo walks there for quite some time.

Construction site in Jerusalem Israel

However, who remembers the construction fence near the Gerald Behar Center? It was exciting to see the workers finally above ground in 2019.

On Thursday, the Sam Spiegel School of Film and Television opened its new building in the cultural complex, a project started under Mayor Nir Barkat.

I got Mayor Moshe Lion to smile at the morning dedication.

The mandatory ribbon cutting was a big red one, along with the red carpet.

The Jerusalem Mayor attached the mezuzah to the door.

One student smiled when handed a notepad with his photo on the cover – perfect for his grandmother he said.

There were dozens of other photos of students on these notepads too.

The film equipment, library work areas, theaters, everything excelled over the old Talpiot location of the past 3 1/2 years.

But as we went up the stairs in the seven-story building, the views became more exciting. Imagine having the city of Jerusalem as the backdrop in student lounges–the real thing, not a photograph.

With each new view as we went up, it was hard not to snap more photos!

And finally, we were on the roof of the new Sam Spiegel School.

From the roof, you see the VERT Hotel and the Chord Bridge in the distance, but look at all those new buildings that have gone up!

And as this busy week came to an end, I was at the Shalva Building.

There the stairs offer an important message – “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the FIRST STEP.”

Hard remembering the steps, and the years involved, as we see a few of Jerusalem’s major projects coming to completion. As Israel approaches 75, Jerusalem combines the old with the new.

Getting out and appreciating the sunset was a good way to start a busy week. The tour at Sam Spiegel was a great way to end on a high.

Looking forward to seeing you soon on the busy Jerusalem streets.

Two Special Events in Jerusalem

As the summer ends in Jerusalem, the school year is set to begin.

I want to share with you these last days of August, two special private events, along with a few of the many public ones.

There were nightly concerts from the Jerusalem Sultan’s Pool with the Old City walls illuminated in the background, but much more was happening on the Jerusalem streets as the summer was ending.

At the Beit Mezia Theater near the Machane Yehudah Market,

The Israel Comedy Festival opened in Jerusalem on August 21, 2022. Inside, lining the walls of the theater lobby were displays in honor of Efraim Kishon.

The first Israel Comedy Festival opening event was held in the theater courtyard with various performances and Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion.

Nearby at the Beit HaAm Theater, there was an end-of-summer event for yeshiva students who were near the end of their month-long summer holiday.

The annual end-of-summer musical celebrations outside the Jerusalem Theater were open to everyone. The loud music could be heard on many of the neighboring Jerusalem streets.

Inside, First Station was one of the locations for less physical activities. New Virtual Reality shows were advertised for families.

There was a Cocktail Festival at First Station along with the popular musical events at night. And the Wine Festival is back at the Israel Museum.

There were events for almost everyone at multiple locations, such as the Tayelet, with a view worthy of sharing, not so much the “festival” there.

However, this week I want to highlight two special events.

A private VIP screening was held at the Cinematheque.

The Yugo BAFTA Student Awards is an annual award, “the British Oscars,” celebrating the works of the next generation of talented and innovative storytellers from around the globe.

For the first time, an Israeli film entered – and won!

Before the screening, Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan spoke, as did Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion and British Ambassador Neil Wigan.

Girl No. 60427 is a powerful film base on a true Holocaust story.

Director Shulamit Lifshitz and Animation Director Oriel Berkovits answered questions about their impressive work after the showing.

They were then joined on stage by the actors in the winning student film. Girl No. 60427 brings the story of the Holocaust to the “third generation.” Tehilla Lifshitz, plays the young girl finding her grandmother’s hidden diary, giving an impressive performance.

I highly recommend the Maaleh Film School student film to all when it has public showings after running the film festival circuit. There is no doubt why this film won first prize.

Each year fewer Holocaust survivors are able to share their stories. The flow in the film was so powerful the translator for the Hebrew film with English subtitles said she had to stop and take breaks. She worked thru Intifada as a translator, but this work connected deeper.

Then the next morning was a Hachnasat Sefer Torah, a dedication of a new Sefer Torah scroll filling the Jerusalem streets with music and meaning.

For those not familiar, first, the new Torah scroll’s last letters are filled in.

Then the Torah is escorted in a joyful procession, with music and song, to the ark where it will be kept.

The Jerusalem streets were closed to traffic along the route.

Cars were stopped, but there was no honking as people had to wait.

As the van blasts the lively music and proceeds slowly, cars wait while

people from the neighborhood join the procession to honor the new Torah.

People are honored to take turns carrying the Torah scroll and holding the poles of the canopy, similar to a Jewish wedding.

Dancing in the Jerusalem streets along with the Torah and music.

In this case, the children dedicated a Torah after their father returned to health from a severe case of Covid.

Inside the synagogue where the Torah was placed to be used, I saw the words “Remember for Good” and thought how good it was for knowledge and traditions to pass and continue to the next generations.

Now to leave you with a short video of one of the light and sound projections on the walls of the real Jerusalem streets this summer week for all to enjoy.

When are you coming to see for yourself on a Jerusalem Photo Walk?