Jerusalem, Israel is a busy place in the winter holiday season.
“It is no surprise that both the Jewish and Christian traditions share holidays of light – the light of faith and hope, even in the face of darkness…
As guardians of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, the State of Israel is committed to religious freedom for all,” said President Reuven Rivlin.
“Jerusalem must serve as a model for peace and harmony between religions.”
This past week Hanukkah was celebrated in Jerusalem, Israel.
Also this year Hanukkah coincided with the Christmas holiday season.
Neutral lighting lined some of the major streets.
Hebrew University had no classes on December 25th.
Traffic volume plus street repairs created backups even when the sun was shining.
In the rain? Forget getting anywhere in the usual amount of time!
In the past inside the YMCA was a sure bet for finding a holiday tree and decorations.
This year the outside tree was decorated and additional lights placed at the entrance.
This year at First Station along with those Hanukkah donuts there was a Christmas tree.
The banner sign at First Station next to the Hanukkah menorah had greetings for Hanukkah and Christmas.
The lights at night in the Old City were bright inside of Jaffa Gate.
That Santa Claus was not out at night when I looked for him, but he appeared in his annual spot near Jaffa Gate the next day.
Inside the New Gate decorations greeted the holiday crowds to the Christian Quarter and churches.
Outside of the Old City walls, the lights on the St. Lous French Hospital brightened it up at night.
The holiday week crowds filled the narrow streets in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City.
It’s official. A record number of holiday tourists were on the Jerusalem streets this year.
At Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s residence, the Presidential cat was watching over the grounds at the annual New Year reception for the heads of the Christian denominations in Israel.
Inside at the reception guests posed and smiled for photos.
Israeli Minister of the Interior Aryeh Deri; the acting Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem; the representative of the Armenian Patriarchate; head of the Franciscan Order in Jerusalem, the Custos of the Holy Land; and the Melkite Greek Catholic Church Archeparch of Akka (Akko) were among the participants.
Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem spoke on behalf of the religious leaders.
In his remarks President Rivlin invited the Pope to the dedication ceremony for the Land of the Monasteries project in 2020, saying:
“We are about to finish clearing all of the mines from the Land of the Monasteries at the very beginning of the coming year. Already the number of Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land is increasing each year. Just this year, close to 900,000 pilgrims visited the Land of Monasteries. We are working hard to complete the development of the entire area by the end of 2020.”
As part of this initiative, land mines laid in the 1970s for security reasons, which prevented access to the area, have been cleared.
The process has been an ongoing project in the ancient area, which has been under development to a new tourist center for years.
The area is called Qasr-Al-Yahud where the Jordan River is divided between Jordan and Israel.
Minister of the Interior, Aryeh Deri: “Freedom of worship and religion in Jerusalem, the Holy City, will be preserved for all and we will continue to preserve Jerusalem as the Holy City for all religions. Unfortunately, we live in an era when antisemitism raises its head around the world, most recently in the terrible incident in Monsey, New York. We must all fight antisemitism wherever it occurs, and we must all reject and condemn it in a loud and clear voice against any outbreak of antisemitism and violence.”
In his remarks, the President once again repeated, “We must remember that we are not doomed to live together, we are destined to live together, and we, therefore, must advance initiatives which will benefit all of us.”
“In a few weeks, I will host leaders from around the world at Yad Vashem, to commemorate seventy-five years to the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and to call on all humanity, to preserve the memory of the Holocaust, and fight antisemitism and hate.”
Antisemitism is becoming more blatant around the world.
Meanwhile, the Israeli leadership has become more “relaxed” and welcoming to religious diversity in Jerusalem with more neutral holiday lights and greetings, and enticing more Christian pilgrims to Qsar-Al-Yahud and other locations.
Some will find this very positive.
Others will find it the opposite.
The discussion of Israel, Jewish and democratic and diverse, will not cease with a new government.
But I will end with something new for me, I had to take out the video for this one.
Always something new on the Jerusalem streets.