JERUSALEM MAYOR Nir Barkat has learned the lesson of last year’s snowstorm and not only stocked up on salt and snow-moving equipment but has also instructed municipal workers to cut dangerous branches from trees before they fall and do damage.Quite a few trees in the city have been denuded of branches and now look like wooden statues. Some of the shapes of the barren trunks are amazing.TIME WAITS for no man, and before we turn around, having just celebrated Hanukka, it will be Purim. In fact, some supermarkets are already offering hamentashen. But before Purim there is Shabbat Shira, followed closely by Tu Bishvat. In other words, Israel is one long holiday with a few breaks in between.Shabbat Shira is always a cantorial delight. On the weekend of January 29-31, the Gat Brothers, who became overnight television sensations, will welcome Shabbat at the Ramada Hotel, singing with a hassidic choir. On the following day, Shabbat services will be led by world-renowned cantors Yitzhak Meir Helfgot, Dudu Fisher and Ya’acov Motzen. Then at lunchtime, the singing will be led by popular singer Yisrael Parnas, with the Pa’amonim Ensemble conducted by Yossi Schwartz. For lovers of cantorial and hassidic music, it doesn’t get much better than that.IT’S NOT always the law in Judaism that discriminates against women. Sometimes it’s just custom that evolved out of prejudice or ignorance or both. Male children born to Jewish mothers are welcomed into the world with great fanfare, especially in the case of a firstborn. However, until recent years when parents and grandparents began celebrating a simhat bat, girls were treated as disappointments to their fathers. Not all of them were named in the course of a synagogue service, and very few parents or grandparents hosted a kiddush in honor of a baby girl, which is somehow weird, given that Jews receive their identities from their mothers.Two young Israeli women who had not been named in the synagogue discovered that Rabbi Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz, better known as the Hazon Ish after the magnificent work that he wrote on the Code of Jewish Law, had stated that a kiddush should be held in honor of the birth of every Jewish girl. Taking their newfound knowledge as a sign of better late than never, Rivka Hirsch and Michal Francis from Haifa and Petah Tikva respectively, and now living in Jerusalem, approached Henry Israel, president of Jerusalem’s Hanassi congregation, and asked whether they could be named in the synagogue with their existing names. They also offered to provide the kiddush. Israel saw no reason for denying their request, and the late naming and kiddush turned out to be a very meaningful experience. It should be noted that Hanassi is an Orthodox congregation, which is quite possibly trailblazing in Rehavia.There is little doubt that Conservative and Reform congregations, which are much more egalitarian in practice, would be more than happy to include such a tradition, especially if it involves helping women make up for lost opportunities. NEW YORK-born Richard Steinitz, who has lived in Israel for more than 40 years and is a veteran of more than 20 years’ service as a medic in the IDF (reserves), was disappointed by the lack of accurately written books dealing with the Israel-Arab conflict.Many works of fiction presume to give an accurate picture of the area and the event, yet contain glaring errors of fact and even simple translation. So Steinitz decided to write a novel that was geographically, demographically and politically correct.His first novel, Murder over the Border, builds upon his intimate knowledge of Israel and the people that live in and around Israel, as well as the hopes and dreams of the peoples of the region.Steinitz’s second novel, Kaplan’s Quest, has won the Five Star Review Award on the Readers’ Favorite website. It is available in print and as a Kindle e-book. The plot centers around Shmulik Kaplan, a young university lecturer whose great-uncle Samuel disappeared during World War II. This disappearance shaped Kaplan’s life. As part of his master’s thesis on the history of Germany between the wars, he sets out to try to discover what happened to his uncle – an outstanding athlete who managed to leave Germany in 1935, yet incomprehensibly returned to Berlin, and then vanished without a trace.