Grapevine: Welcome to the neighborhood

President Reuven Rivlin celebrates his 75th birthday this weekend, the first at the presidential residence.

President Reuven Rivlin.  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
President Reuven Rivlin.
• When members of the American Jewish Committee last week congratulated President Reuven Rivlin on his 75th birthday, which fell on September 9, the president told them that while he had received greetings from the prime minister and other high-ranking personalities, he preferred to celebrate his birthday on the Hebrew calendar date of 25 Elul, which falls this weekend. It is not a secret that Rivlin and his wife, Nehama, were reluctant to move into the President’s Residence and would have preferred to remain in their private home in Yefeh Nof. However, when Rivlin’s security detail told him that if he stayed there it would mean that security barriers would have to be erected in the street and his neighbors might have to suffer the consequences, Rivlin had second thoughts about staying put. Rather than inconvenience his neighbors, Rivlin made the move. He misses his constitutional in the hilly area near his home, but he has been seen striding along Jabotinsky Street, trailed by a soldier and a plainclothes security man.
• In some synagogues, it is customary if not to publicly thank then at least to publicize the names of people who lead the service and those of Torah readers, regardless of whether they receive remuneration for their services.
Not so at Hatzvi Yisrael congregation, where congregants frequently want to know who sang so beautifully or who read so inspiringly.
But last Saturday was an exception to the rule when Michael Wreschner, who frequently leads the service and sings beautifully with his lilting Irish tenor voice, celebrated his 70th birthday, and a kiddush in his honor was hosted by the congregation. Other members of the congregation who have reached milestone ages have not been feted so royally, although mention has been made of their special birthdays. But in Wreschner’s case, it was not only the fact that he led the service, but he is also the synagogue treasurer, and during his term he has ensured that there is no deficit.
Wreschner, who made aliya from England 14 years ago, said that in previous years when he used to visit Israel, he would attend services at Hatzvi Yisrael, where he felt welcome and very much at home. Thus when he finally came to live in Jerusalem, it was only natural for him to gravitate towards the same congregation, and he was glad that some of his friends from England who had also made aliya had chosen the same synagogue.
Wreschner emphasized the importance of integrating into a synagogue and a community as a vital factor towards successful immigrant absorption.
• Anyone who loves a Carlebach service and intends to go to slihot (penitential prayers) on Saturday night, September 20, can hear melodies that speak to the heart at the Ohel Nehama Synagogue, at 3 Chopin Street, around the corner from the Jerusalem Theater.
The service, which begins at 11:30 p.m., will be led by Yitzhak Meir.
For those for whom the hour is too late, there is an opportunity at 9:30 p.m. to join in a variety of slihot liturgical tunes at the First Station, where the singing will be led by the Zion Congregation. Entry is free of charge at both venues.
• For people who like to go walking on Saturday afternoon, there is an opportunity for a guided tour tomorrow with Ran Morin, the designer of a project initiated by the Jerusalem Municipality, the Jerusalem Development Authority and the Israel Antiquities Authority. Although the project is not yet completed, the initial stage is nearing completion.
Morin will be on hand to talk about the Jaffa Gate archeological garden project that he designed below Jaffa Gate. He will recount how the site was uncovered during the archeological excavations conducted there by the Israel Antiquities Authority between 1989 and 1995 in preparation for building the Mamilla project.
He will also talk about the impressive findings that were discovered at the site, including a section of an ancient aqueduct that was in use up to the 20th century, a bathhouse and commercial streets dating back to the Byzantine period, and a portion of the city wall that was built during the Ayyubid period (13th century), which preceded the current Ottoman wall.
After it was uncovered, the site was neglected and remained “buried” beneath parking garages and modern-day roads. The project aims to preserve the archeological findings, make them accessible to the public and incorporate the site as a historical exhibit in the Mamilla and Jaffa Gate Complex at the entrance to the Old City.
There will be two tours on Saturday. One is at 1:30 p.m. and the other at 4:30 for the first 25 people to arrive at the Jaffa Gate at those times. Anyone who misses out can be compensated by a tour of the Christ Church Guest House next to Jaffa Gate, which contains what is believed to be the oldest Protestant Church in the Middle East.