Friday, May 26, 2006

39 Years Later... (Photos)

Below are photos and a video from the Old City of Jerusalem on Jerusalem Day 5766!

39 years ago miracles happened here:

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Jerusalem Day Report: Ultra-Orthodox taking over Jerusalem

I have been saying this for years! It's happening here in Rechavia too. The restaurants are all becoming B'datz. Likewise many more shops in the shuk are also becoming B'datz. What the article doesn't say - or is afraid to admit - is that what's happening in Jerusalem will happen to all of Israel. It's only a matter of time.

Ynet News reports:

Ultra-Orthodox taking over Jerusalem

Click above and then click play to watch.

(VIDEO) Haredi families moving into previously secular neighborhoods in capital, pushing border between religious and non-religious areas further south; secular architect: This is natural process whereby haredi population is growing at rate ten times higher than secular population
Neta Sela

VIDEO - Most Israeli citizens are well-aware of the division between east and West Jerusalem, but there exists another border in the capital, that which runs from north to south and separates the secular part of the city (south) and the ultra-Orthodox.

Even some northern neighborhoods previously considered to be secular enclaves are becoming more and more religious.

“On Mishmar Hagvul Street, near the religious Sanhedria neighborhood, you won’t see any TV antennas on the rooftops,” ultra-Orthodox reporter Yisrael Gliss says.

Video: Eitan Ortal and Shiran Valk

The situation in neighborhoods such as Ramot Eshkol or Maalot Dafna is most indicative of the fact that north Jerusalem is becoming more and more ultra-Orthodox, so much so that the northern part of the city is attracting many religious couples, most of whom are Anglo-Saxon.

Architect David Kroyanker says “the ultra-Orthodox are settling predominantly in the north, but the problem is that the border continues to move south. At first traditional religious people arrive, then come the more modern ultra-Orthodox, but it is not long before the neighborhoods become completely ultra-Orthodox.”

Former Mayor Teddy Kollek, who understood in the early 1980s that something has to be done, initiated the construction of a sports complex in north Jerusalem to attract the secular population. The ultra-Orthodox protested against the plan, saying the cars traveling in the area would disrupt the Sabbath. Some haredim even went as far as throwing sand and stones in the tractors’ engines to interfere with the construction works.

Eventually the plan was foiled, and the city’s soccer stadium, which was named after mayor Kollek, was built in the southern Malcha neighborhood.

The history of the Edison movie theater is one of the best examples of the ultra-Orthodox takeover of the city.

For many years the theater served as a culture center; artists from all over the world performed there, and political parties held their conferences at the venue.

In the 50s the ultra-Orthodox population began protesting at the site against the selling of tickets on Saturday; a leading rabbi told demonstrators at the time, “You have nothing to be worried about – Edison will be ours.”

And he was right. Four months ago the theater was sold to the Satmar hasidic sect, which plans to build apartment buildings on the site for its members.

'There is no solution to this problem'

The old secular-religious border used to run near Edison, and its purchase by haredim marks the first time the religious population has eyed the city’s central area.

Each year the religious population takes control of additional Jerusalem neighborhoods and sites, such as the Schneller military base, which is set to be cleared in the coming year. According to an agreement between United Torah Judaism and Agudat Yisrael, the Gur hasidic sect will own the site, and 800 housing units will be built there for its members.

Across the street from Schneller is the Tnuva compound, which was also sold to haredi real estate entrepreneurs.

Tnuva compund (Photo: Haim Tzach)

Kroyanker, who lives in Malcha, is not optimistic regarding Jerusalem’s future.

“The city’s story is one of simple demographics,” he says. “This is a natural process whereby the haredi population is growing at a rate ten times higher than the secular population.”

“There is no solution this problem,” he says.

Gliss, the haredi journalist, says “the ultra-Orthodox will take control over Jerusalem, and those who don’t like it can leave.

“Jerusalem is special and should be a haredi city. Every time a school or plot that was once in Zionist hands comes under ultra-Orthodox ownership is cause for celebration,” he says.

Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, the founder and chairman of the religious ZAKA organization, says “haredim are not taking control of the city because a few rabbis planned it. They are taking control because ultra-Orthodox couples have many children – that’s just how it is.

“Those who want to stop us should have killed us when we were young,” he says.

(Also see how Ha'aretz feels about Jerusalem here.)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Ticking time bomb in Jewish Quarter

In honor of Jerusalem Day Ha'aretz published this gem. Someone's nervous.

Ticking time bomb in Jewish Quarter
By Uzi Benziman

The following announcement was on the bulletin board at Yeshivat Hakotel in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City Monday: "Friday, 9:00-9:30 A.M., lesson in Rambam's Hilchot Avoda (rules of Temple worship); the Temple vessels and those who use them, given by Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl." The public notice boards in the alleyways of the Jewish Quarter were plastered with posters offering "Torah scrolls written by scribes with certificates and recommendations from the Mishmeret Stam Institute;" "instrumental music and singing lessons for Levites;" and "How can we live without the Temple: When will we wake up? How long will we sleep?"

Thirty-nine years after the unification of Jerusalem, the Jewish Quarter resembles a busy, bubbling, shtibel, or neighborhood synagogue. It has about 100 institutions, mainly synagogues, yeshivot and kollels for married men. The ultra-Orthodox are clearly in the majority. When the renovation of the quarter was completed in 1983, about 60 percent of the families living there were religious, the rest secular. Today, 70 percent are ultra-Orthodox, 25 percent are national-religious, and only five percent are secular. Haredi yeshiva students (most of whom are English-speaking) not only fill the religious institutions, but also run around with wheelbarrows from construction sites, and work in stores and restaurants.

Signs signifying the character of the neighborhood abound: "Roni Institute - Women's Torah Institute - Women's Division of the Diaspora Yeshiva;" "Tzemach Tzedek Synagogue and Beit Midrash, under the leadership of the Lubavitch Rebbe;" Aish Hatorah World Center;" "The Temple Institute." The flag of the outlawed, extreme right-wing Kach movement flies from a balcony, with its trademark fist and the legend, "You gave this as an inheritance."

The quarter looks like an exotic nature preserve, a feature that attracts both local and foreign tourists. They come to see the sights and hope to return home safely afterward. They are drawn to the dedicated activity of the yeshiva students chanting their Talmud, the long-sidelocked toddlers playing in kindergarten under the watchful eyes of their turbaned teachers, the blasts of the shofar emanating from Judaica stores, the kiosks with handwritten signs bearing the prices of the wares. But it is the pulse of a strange bubble, not a normal social fabric.

When former prime minister Levy Eshkol called Yehuda Tamir in 1967, and asked him to be in charge of settling Jews in East Jerusalem, the two agreed that most of the effort would be focused on creating new neighborhoods outside the Old City. Some cabinet ministers - Menachem Begin and Zerah Warhaftig, in particular - demanded that Jews be settled in the Old City as well, but Eshkol accepted Tamir's argument that it would be better to stop renovating the Jewish Quarter. When Tamir began that mission, he tried with all his might to turn it into a genuine residential area with a mixed population and productive lifestyle. He was aware of the possibility that it could become a magnet for the religious and Haredi communities and take on the characteristics of a museum. Thirty-nine years later, the gap between the dream and reality when it comes to the unification of Jerusalem is reflected in the image of the Jewish Quarter.

The Haredi community that currently takes up most of the quarter's 550 residential units includes a number of extremist groups whose proximity to the Western Wall is something of a ticking time bomb. There are supporters of Rabbi Kahane's Kach Movement living in the quarter. One of the yeshivot specializes in training priests for Temple worship. The Temple Institute focuses on making vessels for the Temple, and learning the Temple worship service. For these people, the aspiration to building the Temple is not an End of Days vision, but rather a positive commandment that must be observed every day. The ruling by Rabbi Yisrael, the founding head of the Temple Institute, according to which the Gaza disengagement is a calamity that struck the People of Israel because it neglected the Temple Mount is proof of this.

O Jerusalem!

(Also see how Ynet feels about Jerusalem here.)

Friday, May 19, 2006

Prequel Lag B’Omer Photos

This is crossposted on Kumah.

Step 1: Get friends together.

Step 2: Build the largest bonfire you could.

Step 3: Throw in your neighbor’s door – he doesn’t need it anyway!

Step 4: Repeat. Remember you are not yotza [haven’t fulfilled your obligation] until there is a solid ring of fire around the whole Har Nof and it looks like the whole forest is burning down.

Step 5: Repeat again.

Step 6: After fighting traffic of course, attend a Masa Gala Event at the Latrun.

When does the party start?

Right now!

Now a word from our Prime Minister. I’ll sum up his speech like this. "All you Masa participants just had a great year! Now go back home pack your things come Home and make Aliyah!" (That’s really what he said. You could see for yourself by clicking here! It was almost entirely an apolitical event aside from some uncalled for, and completely out of place, political remarks by one JA/MASA executive.)

And now let’s rock the house with some Carlebach songs sung by Shlomo Simcha! Am Yisrael Chai!

Back to Har Nof where the fires are ablazing!

And off the Meron! Tomb of Rav Shimon Bar Yochi, what Lag B’Omer is all about!

The Meron Pics continue: click here!


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Lag B'Omer In Meron: Daytime Photos

This is part two of my Meron photos. First check out part one: the night pictures, which can be found by clicking here.

Looks like someone is getting a haircut today!

Awesome prayers in awesome surroundings...

Rav Shimon Bar Yochi!

See that Zayin and Chaf "written" on that mountain. A chassid told me it stands for "Zeh Kisah shel Eliyahu," this is the chair of Elijah!

At 5:41AM - exactly sunrise, everything got quiet as everyone prayed the silent Shmona Esrei.

"Is there more room up there on the roof?"

What a minyan!

Every inch of space was used...


Even as we made our way out to find some breakfast there were people davening the whole way down.

And booths selling their wares.

And well rested visiters. (More like not so well rested.)

And more people.

And more booths.

As you can see the surroundings are just breathtaking!

But what a holy mess!

Ahh, breakfast! "Flip me a danish!"

"And, flip me a shoko (chocolate milk)."

The Breslav Booth.

I love Lag B'Omer!


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Photos: I Used To Think Lag B'Omer Was About Baseball... I know it's about Rav Shimon Bar Yochai!

(The prequel photos to these are found here.)

The trip up the Meron for us started close to midnight. Some Bochrim brought their guitars and the journey up was filled with lots of Ruach.

I took this picture to show the traffic as the approached the entrance. We were in traffic for a half hour till we could park. But what is that smoke like object in the sky? People are telling me it’s just smoke. And there were small fires around but I don’t remember any in that area.

Why did I take a picture of the bathrooms? And why did I post it?

The scene as we entered.

Tents where free food is served.

“Kabbalah Bracelet” anyone?

Water. (In the morning coffee and tea came out of these faucets.)

“Women only” to the right “Men only” to the left as we get closer to the actual kever.

The Zohar (manuchud) was for sale everywhere!

The place was packed!

The woman’s side was packed too! (Don’t ask me how I got this picture.)

Lighting a Yahrziet candle for the one that brought light to the world.

Music and


Back outside more candles…

And tents…

And Sefrei Zohar for sale.

Just ten kilometers southeast is the holy city of Tzfat. The morning star (Venus) appears as dawn approaches.

It’s time to don tallis and tefillin…

…And daven Shachris K’vasikin.

Post continues with part two: the daytime pics, now posted: click here!