Two Trips from Jerusalem On Hot Summer Days

It’s hot.

I know the Middle East is supposed to be hot in the summer.

It’s perfect weather for hanging the washing out to dry on the line, and my cactus plants are thriving. But with these very hot days during a heat wave in Jerusalem, Israel, my preferred routine of walking about during the day has come to a standstill.

I try to venture out at night after it cools off – a bit.

Therefore, a little detour, and instead I want to share two short trips out of Jerusalem.

The changes to the entrance of Jerusalem are impressive. Especially to anyone who remembers those old red rusting vehicles that once lined the hills along Route One into Jerusalem.

On that old winding narrow road stuck behind a slow truck chugging its way up – now that was a lesson in patience.

Even these old relics have been given a fresh coat of paint and moved to make way for more lanes of the new highways into and out of Jerusalem.

We were on a bus to a media tour of the Urban Warfare Training Center, located inside the Tze’elim Training Base in southern Israel. It is built to look like a typical Arab village with its minarets. The base has a new terror tunnel and more.

This is the IDF Code of Ethics we heard about.

The training center was built to train in a Middle Eastern “village” for the challenges of urban warfare, against an enemy hiding within civilian populations.

This was drawn by Bat Sheva, an IDF soldier whose job was to draw graffiti.

In one building there is a replica of a family home, down to photos,

kitchen clutter, Arabic newspapers on the table,

and toothpaste on the bathroom sink.

Simulators are used to practice scenarios the soldier might encounter.

It is used to train not only the IDF but US and UN forces have also practiced and trained on the sand and streets here.

As we were preparing to leave an old white bus pulled into the main square, which was also used as a set for the popular TV series “Fauda.”

However, this was not preparation for a TV production, but a group of reserve soldiers arriving to train on a hot day as the sun was setting.

We were not allowed to record and share the names or faces of the soldiers.

But the reservists who reported for duty were from all of Am Yisrael and requested anonymity as they reported again to serve as in the past.

The one soldier we were allowed to photograph was Brig. Gen. (res.) Bentzi Gruber. He gave the Code of Ethics presentation which concluded with a family photograph taken in Europe. Soon after it was taken, most of the family was murdered in the Holocaust, only his mother and her sister survived as “Mengele Twins.” For him, to serve in the IDF and fight in five wars was a privilege.

More RJS photos were posted on Facebook of that trip south.

On another day, the trip was thru the new tunnel from Jerusalem to Gush Etzion and Alon Shvut to the Yeshivat Har Etzion campus and Herzog College.

Road work is far from completed and traffic still backs up. But anyone who remembers the old route through the refugee camp in Bet Lechem can only marvel at what has developed where there were only rocks and wild brush.

The entrance to the Yeshiva building is well-landscaped and the pond is enclosed now.

The Yemei Iyun, Bible study program, is in its 32nd year and for the past fifteen years has included classes given in English as well.

Rabbi Dr. Yehuda Brandes is the President of Herzog College, a leading teachers’ education school.

Around 4000 people attended in person this year, and deciding which sessions to attend is an annual challenge.

“How can we make Bible study exciting for kids in Jewish schools, and show them that it is still relevant to their daily lives?” was the topic covered at the Jewish Educators’ Day for English-speaking teachers.

 “Head vs. Heart: Understanding the Needs of Our Students” by Mrs. Simi Peters, Rav Shmuel Feld, and Rav Yehuda Chanales, was moderated by Rav Reuven Spolter. 

“Empowering Students as Tanakh Learners” using online research tools was presented by Rabbi Dr. Zvi Grumet from the Lookstein Center at Bar-Ilan University. No more schlepping heavy resource books?

Hot or not, back on the Jerusalem streets, the Jerusalem Israel Festival begins in August, with advertising posters covering more than 6 floors of a building at the entrance of the city.

In the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens, 25 large inflatable Monsters will provide an attraction for families with children on summer holidays.

The barriers are still around on various Jerusalem street corners, but it is good to know that there is more than protests happening.

Last month RJS shared that US Deputy Chief of Mission Stephanie L. Hallett was at Beit Hanasi representing the US. This week it was announced instead of appointing a new Ambassador to replace Tom Nides, she will serve as chargé d’affaires in the US Embassy in Jerusalem. Best wishes to her!

For Tisha B’Av there are way too many programs to mention, beginning on Wednesday through Thursday night this year, with the fast ending at 8:09 pm.

Jerusalem buses to the Kotel, Western Wall will run through the night. The days may be too hot, so the nights are when people come out.

So many summer events are scheduled in August, from the usual big summer night concerts in Safra Square to Ice Skating in First Station, check the website for what else is happening in Jerusalem.

At the end of July, the new Jerusalem Museum will open the ‘Street Games’ exhibition at the Tower of David. Sorry to have to miss the opening events, but after Tisha B’Av is also a popular wedding season, and a wedding involving long-time friends is a priority.

Now only if the heat wave would end soon so we can venture out during the day again to see what else is happening on the Jerusalem streets!

An Inside Look at What’s New this Week in Jerusalem

It was hard to decide on only three of the special things from this past week. There was so much happening on and off the Jerusalem streets you may not have heard about, but should know.

Ok, only two were really inside and one very much outside.

  1. Who remembers the old President Hotel on Ahad Ha’am Street?

We stayed there once on an organized tour and I remember saying the 1-star status at the time meant there was a toilet in the room.

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I had heard it was being used as a new Social Space and drove by to share a photo a few weeks ago, but that didn’t get shared at the time.

Then I started out last week to see inside but got distracted by a loud noise.

Oh no, I thought, not another protest group marching thru the Jerusalem streets. But I was wrong. They were color war teams of a local youth group. I ended up following them in the opposite direction that day instead.

So finally, here it is!!

Remember this photo? Yes, the hotel was this run down – not Photoshop.

For a very long time mostly abandoned, as in this photo from four years ago.

However, now stepping inside I got a pleasant surprise. At the end of the hall, a dance studio opened in March, and the dancers were having a lesson.

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A wall mural was clean and neat and new.

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I looked through the metal grating and saw a bar space ready to open,

and an impressive colorful meeting area, smaller spaces around and above.

Tables were set up outside, but only a few people seemed to know about Jerusalem’s newest urban renewal by the reaction to my post on Facebook.

The side of the building that faces Keren Hayesod Street is still an eyesore and has been for years. It still needs work, but the lower levels are a huge improvement and it looks like they are working their way up.

I wrote about Urban Recycling in the past. Plus, we have appreciated the Social Space renovation at the old Shaare Zedek Hospital.

2. A much more well-known Jerusalem meeting space is the Israeli Knesset.

Walking to the Negev Hall for a meeting, I was so surprised to see Alan Clemmons, a former State Senator from South Carolina, to my embarrassment, I at first called him – Sam Clements.

The halls were filled with Knesset Members interacting with visitors.

The meeting I attended started late, as members were busy voting. But the Knesset Israel Victory Caucus held its opening meeting. I learned that with each new Knesset, caucus meetings have to be held anew, as they do not carry over from one government to the next.

Speakers from the government and opposition, as well as security officials, called on Israel to start defeating its enemies, in the event titled “How Should Israel Win the Next War?”

Held in coordination with the U.S.-based Middle East Forum, which manages the Israel Victory Project, it’s an initiative seeking to change the public discourse on the Arab-Israeli conflict. 

While the Jerusalem street where the Prime Minister lives is often closed, walking the Knesset halls one would never realize troubles outside.

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3. The 40th Jerusalem Film Festival opened in the Sultan’s Pool on Thursday night, with thousands filling the outdoor amphitheater stands.

Award-winning actor Dame Helen Mirren was on hand for the premier.

The British actress stood out elegantly dressed in white lace. Director Oliver Stone was also honored – wearing the red tie, also in the front row, as everyone stood when Israeli President Herzog and his wife Michal entered.

President Isaac Herzog was the first of several speakers.

Helen Mirren, the actress who starred as Golda Meir in “Golda,” got the most attention that night, for her brilliant performance in an excellent movie.

The Yom Kippur War was a difficult time, yet the movie has a few moments of comic relief and was well-paced. Even though everyone knew the ending, the film kept viewers entranced. An amazing depiction of a great woman at the most difficult time of her life.

The Jerusalem Film Festival, JFF40, runs from July 13 – 23, 2023.

Showing “Golda” as the opening event made this year indeed special.

Want to guess where else I was?

I have lots more to share for next time, so check back next week.

A clue–this sunset was not in Jerusalem but in southern Israel.

Everyone is trying to stay cool and hydrated, as it’s very hot this week on the Jerusalem streets. So very glad it did cool off to enjoy the movie, as most summer nights in Jerusalem have been reasonably comfortable.

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.