A Walk in Jerusalem on a Summerlike Day

A Walk in Jerusalem on a Summerlike Day

Thoughts on weather, preschool, family, the homeless and the next mayoral election.

Rabbi David Geffen

Rabbi David Geffen is a native Atlantan and Conservative rabbi who lives in Jerusalem.

The late-May temperatures here in Jerusalem kept registering in the 90s, but for some reason the day after Shavuot I went out to run errands that could have waited.

Because the sun was blazing, I ducked under awnings and umbrellas and searched for shade. Stopping to catch my breath, I watched my surroundings more than I had for a long time.

I saw parents walking their children home from nursery school. The girls had bright ribbons in their hair, and most tightly held parents’ hands. Sometimes the little girls would spurt ahead until parents called them back.

The boys wore small, black kippot, and most ran far ahead. Their parents had to step lively or call loudly for a return.

The vigor of parents with children in Jerusalem and, I assume, in many cities in Israel strikes me all the time. Where I live, most are dati (religious) but not haredi.

I assume that in most American communities, small nursery school children are picked up by car, and walking on the street is an activity of the past. Many of you should walk with your kids, even in a closed area. Those walks will be long remembered.

The “seekers of alms” were out despite the heat. Most had cans, but some had plastic boxes or containers. Most of these men and women were not demanding in a way that could be upsetting but instead had special niches where they stood, hoping to be assisted.

One man, however, was going to get the shekels he was due. He berated people who would not assist him. I wondered where his belligerence came from.

Downtown Jerusalem has a museum that is about 2 years old. The music museum combines instruments on display with digital areas where you can let the Jewish people sing as they cross the Red Sea. The Levites sing as they climb the steps of the Temple. Children love the hands-on museum and learn about the music of our people in ancient times.

I walked by there today, and people were inside. So the heat did not keep the tourists off the street.

A few weeks ago our grandchildren and their parents came here, so I joined them at another museum I have visited many times. The concept of this science museum is to enable children of all ages to let their curiosity run wild via all the scientific exhibits.

A newer exhibit makes planes fly through the reflected light created and bounced off the light plates on a wooden plane. Around and around the planes fly, enthusing a child at (scientific) play.

At several exhibits, balls roll along defined routes, drop into baskets, then flip into other baskets before reaching the trail again. Each ball then jumps into a child’s waiting hands.

We are seeing all around the city and in the newspapers the pictures of the candidates to be the mayor of this city. Nir Barkat has led the city; his sister-in-law down in Be’er Sheva has funded her Be’er Sheva Hapoel soccer team to its third championship. Our Barkat is passing on the reins to whoever wins the election in the fall.

Fortunately, all mayors in Israel are directly elected by the citizens of their cities, not like crazy coalition bargaining to pick a prime minister. Jerusalem, unlike all other Israel cities except Bnei Brak, has a large Haredi population being told how to vote.

It’s like the old days in Georgia when a Talmadge or someone similar gave orders to followers on how to vote. Sometimes even the dead put ballots in the box.

Jerusalem will be a lot of fun this summer. A rash of concerts will fill the air. Museums will continue to have fascinating exhibits. Politics will certainly be on the bubble.

A friend asked me when 20,000 Jews a year will make aliyah from the United States; the number is now 3,500, according to Nefesh B’Nefesh statistics. I answered that American Jews know we need them; maybe more will come.

Jerusalem’s population is now 900,000. Let us hope it will be a lot higher.

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