a different side of Israel

Tag: Jerusalem (page 3 of 48)

Jerusalem Gay Pride parade takes place in quieter atmosphere

This year’s Jerusalem Gay Pride parade and solidarity event appears to have taken place Thursday without the violence and counter demonstrations that have marred this now annual event. Although some 5,000 participants have been expected, the actual number may wind up to be more like 2,500; and even the police presence was much smaller than in previous years, when as many as 12,000 police were on hand.

Gay Pride Jerusalem 2009This year’s march, which culminates June Gay Pride Month in Israel, is taking place from the Liberty Bell Garden, in the heart of city, and winding up in Independence Park (near the Knesset) where an evening rally will take place. The Holy City has been the scene of some unpleasant demonstrations in past years by the city’s ultra-orthodox Jewish community, with even some participants being stabbed during the 2005 parade. Jerusalem police had placed undercover police offices to mingle with the crowd in case any problems develop, according to police spokesperson Shmuel Ben-Ruby. A small demonstration of religious objectors to the “abomination” of the event was also said to be taking place, in Shabbat Square in the Meah Shearim neighborhood (an ultra-orthodox stronghold) and at Paris Square.

Jerusalem has been on edge recently since thousands of ultra-orthodox or haredi men rioted in protest to a parking lot being opened on the Sabbath to accommodate weekend visitors to the city. Further disturbances have been expected, should the city decide to make another attempt to re-open the lot, which is located beneath the Jerusalem Municipality building and is primarily intended for use by tourists who want to visit the Old City.

Although the parade and Gay Pride rally is intended by its organizers, Open House, Jerusalem’s gay and lesbian center, various religious groups, including Christians and Muslims, have been against such events being staged in Jerusalem. And a public opinion poll, conducted with Jerusalem residents, indicates that two thirds of those polled are against such events being staged. “Let them (the Gays) do what they want in Tel Aviv – but not here” one resident said.

Haredim Clash with Police in Jerusalem

In what appears to be the worst outburst of ultra-orthodox Jewish violence in Jerusalem in nearly two years, thousands of the city’s Haredim community took to the streets on Saturday to clash with police over the opening of a parking lot by the city municipality to give visitors a place to park their cars while visiting the city on the Sabbath. Shouting “Shabbos, Shabbos”, and with many throwing rocks and other missiles at a large police contingent, the protestors created a mayhem that resulted in six policemen being lightly injured along with dozens of protestors, some of whom fought violently on a day when observant Jews are supposed to be at prayer and rest.

The police were so fearful that the mob would storm the city municipality building (where the parking lot is located) that they had to resort to using water cannon to disperse the rioters, as well as put out several fires to garbage dumpsters after the end of Shabbat. The opening of the parking lot on Shabbat was legally authorized after the city agreed to have it run by a non Jew. The Haredi community had other ideas, however, and the rioting not only involved the area of the parking lot but the ultra-orthodox Meah Shearim neighborhood as well, where most of the dumpster fires were later set.

Seven rioters were arrested on charges of committing a public disturbance (i.e. a riot) and one policeman, who was hit in the head by a rock, had to be hospitalized. The mayhem was the first big public disturbance in the administration of newly elected secular Mayor Nir Barkat, whose office denounced the disturbances on Sunday, and declared that the lot will remain open on the Sabbath. The city officials had been trying to find a solution to the parking problems in the city on the weekends, when thousands of tourists and other visitors come to Jerusalem, especially the Old City. It was agreed not to charge money for the parking, but this apparently didn’t matter to the Haredim, who still consider the lot to be a desecration of the Sabbath, and who had posted ads in religious newspapers beforehand saying to “be prepared for a battle for Jerusalem.”

A small group of secular people held an opposite protest with signs saying “this is not Teheran – the Haredim have no shame!”

The last big Heredim sponsored riot in the Capital occurred when the country’s Gay Rights groups tried to stage a march in the city on International Gay Pride Day.

No Perdone Por Il Papa

Pope In Israel 2009Criticism is still being heard following Pope Benedict XVI’s visit Monday to Yad Vashem, in which a short speech he gave appeared to be a bit lackluster. The Pontiff had begun his visit to Jerusalem with a formal call to President Shimon Peres at his official residence, followed by an entertainment program in which a number of singers and choir groups took part, including children representing the three monotheistic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The Yad Vashem visit, which took place at the end of day, appeared to be let-down for a number of Rabbinical and other leaders, including Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, a former Chief Rabbi and the present head of Yad Vashem.

Although the Pontiff did say expressions like “I have come to stand in silence before the monument erected to honor the millions of Jews killed in the horrific tragedy of the Shoah,” he didn’t make mention of the Nazis as such and didn’t go far enough to express his sincere regret that the Church did not do enough to save Jews during the Holocaust – especially his predecessor, Pope Pius XII.

Knesset speaker Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin, who was present during the Hall of Remembrance ceremony added that Benedict’s visit there was not enough to receive forgiveness in the eyes of the Jewish People.

“I came to the memorial not only to hear historical descriptions or about the established fact of the Holocaust. I came as a Jew, hoping to hear an apology and a request for forgiveness from those who caused our tragedy, and among them, the Germans and the church. But to my sadness, I did not hear any such thing” Rivlin said.

No doubt that the Pontiff, as the official head of his faith’s 1.2 billion adherents, was not at liberty to express any personal pleas of forgiveness – not that any might have been forthcoming. The words he did say were probably carefully reviewed by church officials, and even practiced beforehand prior to the visit.

For a pope born and raised in Germany, and who was a member of the “Hitler Youth” as a child, his visit to this scared shrine, in which the ashes of unknown Jewish victims are buried under it’s black granite floor, it might be said that his words did at least commemorate their deaths, and raised sincere hope that this horrible tragedy will never happen again. No mention was also made of the Church’s long persecution of Jews, including the 400 year long “Holy Inquisition” in which perhaps millions of Jews were either vanquished from lands such as Spain, Portugal, and Italy; or tortured and put to death in the most cruel and barbaric fashion if found to be practicing their faith in secret after converting to Christianity.

The Pope’s agenda on Tuesday, included visits to the Temple Mount Dome of the Rock, the Western Wall and other holy sites and held an audience with both Jewish and Muslim leaders. Perhaps he will be more forthcoming during this visit, and will say a bit more regarding his church’s responsibility for so much suffering.

Pope’s Visit Anticipated Amid Property Disputes

Pope Benedict XVIThe arrival in Israel of Pope Benedict XVI on May 14 is already being prepared for in earnest by Israeli and Catholic Church authorities. The visit of the Pontiff will include a formal call to Israel President Shimon Peres at Beit Hanassi, and to the Beit HaShoah Holocaust memorial as well as the usual holy places in the Old City and elsewhere. Benedict’s visit to Yad Vashem will be the second by a reining Pontiff following Pope John Paul II ‘s historic visit there in March, 2000. Being of German descent, and due to his membership in the National Socialist Youth Movement as a child, his visit to Israel and to Yad Vashem takes on an even more significant aspect.

The visit will not be without its problems, however, as the Catholic Church is presently in dispute with the Israeli government over the ownership of some church properties in Jerusalem and other locations, including the building on Mt. Zion which is known by the Church as the Coenaculum, where Jesus and his disciples held the Last Supper. Other disputed properties include the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, the Church and Gardens of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives, the Monastery on the summit of Mt. Tabor; and the Church of the Multiplication, which is located on the shore of the Sea of Galilee

Church JerusalemPresident Peres, in a gesture of good will is trying to persuade the government to abide by the Church’s requests (demands?), hoping that this will enable more tourists and pilgrims to visit Israel and the Holy Land. So far, however, the government including the Interior and Tourism ministers are not ready to give these places up. As was noted to a Haaretz reporter by Tourism Minister, Stas Misezhnikov, “If we were certain this great gift would bring millions of Christian pilgrims to visit here we would have good reason to agree to these demands. But since we are not certain this will happen, why should we give out gifts?”

A considerable amount of Christian church property is in the control of various religious denominations, but these particular properties have been in dispute for some time, especially ones located in East Jerusalem since the Six Day War of 1967. The Pope’s visit in itself will be a logistical challenge, and some protests are being planned against the temporary closure of some of the holy sites he will visit, including the Church of Annunciation in Nazareth and the Kotel or Western Wall in the Old City.

Pope John Paul II’s visit in 2000 had hoped to bring millions of pilgrims to Israel, due to it heralding the 2nd Millennium. But not only did this not happen (less than 100,000 actually came) but the Second Intifada broke out in September of the same year. Many people wonder now what will be the outcome of this papal visit, taking the current political and security state of the region into account.

Yuval Arad joins the Fight for Gilad Shalit

Yuval Arad is a young woman, who’s now 24 years old. Her father’s name is Ron Arad, and he has been missing for nearly 23 years, ever since his Phantom plane crashed in Lebanon in 1986, which resulted in him being captured by the Amal Movement, and later handed over to Iran. For the first year and half of his captivity, it was known for sure that Ron is alive, but we have since lost track of him, and his fate remains a mystery.

Yuval Arad grew up without her father, and until recently has kept away from the limelights.

This week she decided to join the fight for the release of Gilad Shalit, visiting his parents in their protest tent in Jerusalem, and granting an interview to Channel 2 news. This matter burns inside of me, she told Oded Ben-Ami. “For the first year and half we knew my father was alive. We know now that Gilad is alive. We can’t know what might be in half a year from now.”

This coming Friday, March the 13th, at 10 am, the public is urged to come and protest together with Gilad’s parents in front of Olmert’s residence in Jerusalem. Olmert is leaving office in less than 2 weeks, and now is the time to pressure the man who could not find a way to release Gilad in the past 3 years. Bus routes 9 and 32 can take you from the Central Bus Station to Olmert’s residence.

Time to Shift Gears

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is preparing to leave office very soon, while on the other side of the border, Gilad Shalit is “celebrating” 1,000 days in captivity this month. It’s time to step up the efforts for Gilad’s release.

Noam and Aviva Shalit, Gilad’s parents, are moving to Jerusalem today, in order to reside inside a protest tent in front of Olmert’s residence. They will remain there until Olmert leaves office, or until Gilad’s return.

Gilad and Noam Shalit

They believe Olmert’s last days in office is a window of opportunity to finally seal the prisoner exchange deal. Gilad was captured on Olmert’s watch, and therefore it is his responsibility to resolve the matter before Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition takes the reigns.

The parents of kidnapped soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, whose bodies were returned to Israel via a prisoner exchange deal, are joining the Shalit family in Jerusalem, in a joint effort to increase public pressure and awareness.

Shas chairman, Eli Yishai, uttered a remarkably patronizing statement this morning, which I believe precisely captures the government’s stance on Gilad’s captivity: If the protest tent assuages the feelings of the Schalit family, it is a positive thing.

Dear Mr. Yishai, the matter on hand isn’t “assuaging” the Shalit family or the public opinion; it’s releasing Gilad!

One Thousand and One Nights

980 days and nights have passed since Gilad Shalit was captured by Hamas militants.

Later this month, on Sunday, March the 22nd, we shall all mark the 1,001st day of Gilad’s captivity. On this day, the Aharai! (“Follow me!”) organization is holding a simultaneous march in 4 Israeli cities: Acco, Tel Aviv, Be’er Sheva, and Jerusalem.

The march in Tel Aviv is planned to begin in the Central Train Station (Savidor Station) and will continue to Rabin Square.


Hello President Obama

It starts at 18:30 Israel time. The inauguration ceremony. If you live in Israel and don’t have a TV set (or still at work), you can watch the whole event LIVE here at the Channel 10 website.

According to Ha’Aretz, the Israeli branch of the DNC (the Democratic Party) is holding a festive dinner in “Zulis” this evening. The Zulis pub is located at 5 Rivlin Street, Jerusalem. All American citizens in Israel are invited.

The American Embassy and the City of Tel Aviv are sponsoring a musical event at the “Club Hed” music club. The venue is owned by the “Hed Musical College”, located at 3 Y.L. Perets Street in South Tel Aviv. At 20:30 the Ethiopian dance troupe “Bal’Chan” will open the evening, followed by the “Hed Big Bang Orchestra” playing American Jazz. Roy Yang and friends will sing along. 100 Shekels is what it all costs, and tickets are available at 1-800-38-30-30.

Photo taken by marcn via Flickr

Photo taken by marcn via Flickr

Hold your horses Barkat

Nir Barkat has been elected mayor of Jerusalem less than 48 hours ago.

Who is he? First of all, he’s regarded as the savior of the secular population in the capital — and this is why most secular people in Jerusalem bothered to go out and vote. Secondly, he’s a right-wing ideologist who had made his money in the hi-tech industry. No doubt an interesting character.

In any case, Nir isn’t wasting any time. He’s been sitting on the opposition side of the city council for the past five years, and I guess he feels like it’s time to consummate all his unfulfilled plans. Yesterday, after his victory had been confirmed, he held a press conference in King David hotel, and declared — among other things — that he would consider dismantling the Cords Bridge and canceling the light rail project!

Hundreds of millions of Shekels have already been spent in these two large-scale projects; not to mention years of hard work. It’s been less than 5 months since the Chords Bridge was inaugurated, and several segments of the light rail are already in place.

Why would he do it? Mr. Barkat says both the Chords Bridge and the light rail project aren’t “sacred cows”, and that they cost too much at the expense of the residents and at the expense of the culture budget, the education budget, etc.

He may be right, but I think it’s a bit too early to come out with such bombastic statements.

Gaydamak lost the race, now losing all his property

The new mayor of Jerusalem is Nir Barkat, who gained more votes than Haredi contender Meir Porush. Arcadi Gaydamak came third with merely 3% of the votes.

In Tel Aviv, Gaydamak’s faction “Tze’dek Hev’ra’ti” (Social Justice) won a single seat in the city council.

But apart from losing the race in Jerusalem, Gaydamak is rapidly losing all his possessions in the Israeli economy. He walked out of Radio 99FM, without paying salaries to its 80 employees. And creditors have taken away control of his companies.

Photo by Lisa Goldman

Photo by Lisa Goldman

It’s unclear how he suddenly lost much of his money — as it is unclear how he initially gained it.

The only major possession he still owns is the soccer club Beitar Jerusalem, although he may be forced to sell it soon.

Examining King Solomon’s Legacy

As I wrote yesterday, the location of the Solomon Mines may have been finally located. Yet those mines aren’t the only underground achievement attributed to the legendary King Solomon:

Jerusalem’s Chords Bridge in Pink

Even though this expensive bridge was inaugurated in June on the same week as the gay pride parade in Jerusalem, the massive chords were emanating a different kind of pink last night.

The reason for such a drastic makeover, which could easily offend the local Jewish Orthodox community, is the commencement of this year’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The main purpose of this event — and similar events across to globe — it to remind us that 1 out of every 8 women will face breast cancer at one point or another in her life. So make sure to get checked on a regular basis. Early detection is the best course of prevention.

The lighting up of the bridge in pink was sponsored by the Israeli Cancer Association and by the Estée Lauder cosmetics company.

Jewish Civil War ?

A pipe bomb exploded this morning on the front door of Prof. Ze’ev Sternhell, wounding the professor’s leg. The bomb had been attached to the doorknob and was activated when Ze’ev opened the door.

Prof. Sternhell is a left-wing commentator and winner of the 2008 Israel Prize in political science. Fliers found in the vicinity of his house promised 1 million shekels to whomever hurts members of the Peace Now organization!

Right-wing extremist Baruch Marzel says his people had nothing to do with the attack, yet refuses to condemn the act.

I don’t know if the purpose of this terrorist act was “only” to intimidate Prof. Sternhell or to seriously hurt him. It doesn’t matter. I expect everyone and anyone in the political arena, from his leftist friends to the most far-right extremists to condemn this attack and to find and prosecute the perpetrator.

Luckily Sternhell only suffers light injuries, but it could easily be a different case if he had opened the door from a different angle, or if his wife had been the one at the door, or one of his two daughters.

There is no one who should speak more loudly against this divisive phenomena than Binyamin Netanyahu. He is the most respected and popular politician from the right of the political map, and by crying out against Jewish terrorism he could quickly diffuse the tensions. The extremists might even actually listen to him. He had been silent before Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. Now he mustn’t repeat that mistake.


If extreme-left-wing politician Dov Khenin is to be elected Mayor of Tel-Aviv in November, then the contrast between mostly Orthodox right-wing Jerusalem to mostly secular left-wing Tel-Aviv will probably heighten even more.


Paul McCartney’s historic performance in Tel-Aviv is happening tonight! I find it saddening that this memorable day also marks yet another deterioration in inner Jewish relations.

Mofaz refuses debating

The Kadima primary is just a few weeks away, and there are currently 4 candidates. Avi Dichter, one of the candidates, suggested having a televised debate, where the candidates can voice their opinions on the urging matters of the Israeli society. However, Minister of Transportation, Shaul Mofaz refuses to participate in such a debate, making the suggestion virtually pointless. Mr. Dichter is very unpleased with Mofaz’ refusal, and he may even push to have a 3-way debate instead.

As I’ve previously mentioned here on the blog, political debates do only good, no matter the political context.

Mega Twister

While the hurricane season is running rampage at the Atlantic Ocean, a different sort of hurricane is set to hit the Tel Aviv coastline this Friday.

A dedicated group of people (dedicated to having fun, that is) is planning to host a public game of Twister on Bug’ra’shov beach tomorrow evening. They promise to bring a huge Twister board, and over 1,500 people have been invited.

Stop by if you dare.

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