Grapevine: Rosh Hodesh on the rooftop

On Rosh Hodesh Iyar, on the roof garden overlooking Mahaneh Yehuda market, 25 women raised their voices in joyful renditions of Carlebach tunes.

Mahaneh Yehuda 521 (photo credit:
Mahaneh Yehuda 521
(photo credit:
■ LAST THURSDAY, on Rosh Hodesh Iyar, on the roof garden of a small penthouse overlooking Mahaneh Yehuda market and some of its gentrified residences, a group of around 25 women raised their voices in joyful renditions of Carlebach tunes. Invited by Maureen Kushner, who hosts a Rosh Hodesh Hallel service nearly every month, the singing was led by Dina Solomon and Chana Yaffe, to the violin accompaniment of Dr. Gila Carcas. Participants came from all over Jerusalem and beyond, including as far afield as Safed.
Closer to the capital, they came from Mevo Modi’im, Modi’in Illit and Beit Shemesh.
People in the area are used to hearing the enthusiastic singing of the Psalms emanating from Kushner’s roof, and often stop to listen and applaud. Tourists are delighted by the melodious sound. Even though many haredim live nearby and shop in the immediate vicinity, there has never been any protest from them.
Solomon is the wife of popular folk singer-guitarist Benzion Solomon and the mother of the Solomon brothers, most of whom at one time or another played in the Moshav Band – whose members all grew up in Mevo Modi’im. Yaffe, who sings in many places, is collecting Jewish lullabies written during World War II. Most of the lullabies that she has been able to salvage are in Yiddish, though she is certain there are others in Ladino, French and Arabic that were composed in North Africa. She has made it a personal mission to preserve wartime Jewish lullabies for posterity, because in too many instances the lullaby was one of the last contacts a mother had with her infant.
After the singing, dancer Yehudit Goldfarb, a woman of extraordinary grace, demonstrated dance movements using the Hebrew alphabet for inspiration, and had the women mesmerized.
■ THE AGRIPPAS Boutique Hotel, also in Mahaneh Yehuda, is going through a breaking-in period. The hotel has 52 guest rooms plus four suites; the dining room is on the roof, affording diners a bird’s-eye view of what is going on in the street.
General manager Yoni Amitai is confident that the hotel will attract not only foreign tourists but also domestic visitors. Many outof- town entertainers who have a gig in Jerusalem go out to eat at one of Mahaneh Yehuda’s late-night restaurants after the show.
Also due to open soon is the prestigious Waldorf-Astoria at the King David-Agron intersection, which has signs to that effect prominently displayed on the building’s façade. It may take a little longer for the opening of the attractive boutique hotel at the entrance to Emek Refaim Street, which is now nearing the final stages of construction.
However, there are still no indications that construction will begin on the former President Hotel on Ahad Ha’am Street, which has been empty for well over a decade and has fallen into total neglect. Built by the late Haim Schiff, it housed the first hotel swimming pool in Jerusalem, with guests including David and Paula Ben-Gurion. The building – which was used as an absorption center after its incarnation as a hotel – was purchased many years ago by Africa Israel, which wanted to tear it down and to build a luxury residential complex.
There were disagreements with the Jerusalem Municipality, which was advocating for more hotels to be built in the capital, and wanted the structure to be a hotel rather than a residential complex. As the two sides could not agree, the dilapidated and unused hotel, with its broken doors and windows, remains a memory of another era.
■ THE JEWISH Jewish National Fund is already worried that some eager beavers will be vandalizing parks and forests with the aim of collecting branches for Lag Ba’omer bonfires. The most interesting celebrations are in the haredi neighborhoods, where families come out in droves, Klezmer musicians often contribute to the atmosphere, and men dance and sing around the bonfire while women watch. In some places they also hand out refreshments.
Chabad of Rehavia is planning a Lag Ba’omer parade on Sunday, April 28, with a gathering in the park on Ramban Street from where there will be a festive march to the plaza of the Jerusalem Great Synagogue. There, Chabad congregants will express appreciation to Great Synagogue chairman Asher Schapiro and Rabbi Zev Lanton, for the help they have given to Chabad of Rehavia.