In mid-August, Lifsa Schachter sent me a picture of the predominant flower in Jerusalem’s gardens. The “hatzav,” or drimia in English, annually appears at the beginning of Elul to announce the coming of Rosh Hashanah.
While the Jewish calendar conducts the rhythm of the Israeli year, other calendars exist side by side.
Like the gathering of the four species in lulav – palm, myrtle and willow – and etrog, Jerusalem is a diverse city, far more so than most people would think, and there are those who are working to keep it that way.
From HaMiffal, a swinging artists’ enclave around the corner from the Waldorf and David’s Citadel hotels, to the exhibits and programs at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem offers both the new and the classic. Any given week, there’s a show at the Jerusalem Theatre, a play at the Khan Club, pop music at Zappa Club or Yellow Submarine and programs at the Begin Heritage Center and Beit Avi Chai. First-run movie theaters are located throughout the city, with Israeli senior citizen discounts on Tuesdays. All events are within walking distance of our apartment or a bus ride, and buses run at least until midnight.
At Tachana HaRishona, or First Station, there is always something interesting happening. Open daily, weekly offerings include dances, tournaments, a community sing-along and a farmers market. Excellent restaurants, with and without a kosher certificate, abound. Stalls of clothing, jewelry and antiques make this a wonderful place. A carousel, rides, a train and an indoor gym amuse the children.
Festivals of all sorts abound throughout the year. Over four successive Monday nights in four different Jerusalem neighborhoods –
in the dead of winter – the Shaon Horef, or Winter Noise Festival offering top-quality music and art, lectures and demonstrations, high-tech displays and food is held in streets so crowded with young people that it is difficult to walk. We love this festival because it takes us to neighborhoods we have never heard of and acquaints us with those we may have passed by quickly when going from one place to another.
Activist organizations have sprung up in Jerusalem to support the city’s unique diversity. The Yerushalmit Movement sees Jerusalem as a “community of communities,” a city in which each community maintains its identity while living side by side with other communities, in peace.
In 2017, together with Rashut Ha’Rabim, a partnership of organizations working to influence public domain, Yerushalmit put together “50 Reasons for Hope” that offers activities and videos of uplifting organizations, people and projects. Ruach Chadasha, or New Spirit, works with Jerusalem’s young creative human capital while “Teacher’s Lounge” focuses on bringing together the influencers of Jerusalem’s diverse young people – teachers.
At the Talpiot mall, bus stops on Derech Hebron, on the Light Rail, the human scenery is indeed diverse – Jewish men with payot in black coats, secular Jewish women in jeans with or without a gaily wrapped headscarf, Arab women in graceful long coats and headscarves, young parents with babies in strollers, children on scooters, and elders with canes. At Liberty Bell Park, adjacent to the Inbal Hotel, Arab families are on picnics and an Ethiopian family is celebrating a wedding. Politics may be religious and religion political, but Jerusalem is home to us all.
Julie Jaslow Auerbach, a Jewish educator who lives part of the year in Jerusalem and part of the year in Shaker Heights, writes regularly about life in Israel for the Cleveland Jewish News.