Grapevine: Jerusalem on parade

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

The fact that municipal elections are taking place at the end of October cannot be the reason that Jerusalem is being so heavily marketed. Hebrew newspapers and magazines feature numerous advertisements for weekend and weeklong deals in Jerusalem hotels and list a series of the city’s attractions – while omitting that views are gradually being shut out by high-rise construction projects.

There are culinary festivals, the upcoming Jerusalem Film Festival, the International Arts and Crafts Fair, a variety of sporting and cultural events, the impending opening of the new National Library, and more. This week there was also the centenary celebration of the capital’s famed Mahaneh Yehuda market.

Mahaneh Yehuda's 100-year birthday: It was very disappointing

■ AFTER ALL the pre-celebration hype for the market’s centenary, what should have been a fantastic bash was a flop. On Sunday night, part of Agrippas Street was barricaded at two ends by heavy container trucks. There were regular police barricades further down the street for pedestrians to pass through. People wandered aimlessly through the main open-air drag of the market, and stallholders, particularly those selling fast food, did a brisk trade. All the eateries on Hashikma Street and adjacent alleyways were packed. But not so on Monday night. The word had apparently spread that there was nothing to generate excitement. There were far fewer people. Many eateries were empty, and traffic flowed freely. Entertainment was mostly canned music. It was all sadly disappointing.

New conference about Jerusalem

■ COMING UP in the immediate future is the most comprehensive international conference imaginable about Jerusalem. Lecturers who for the most part are academic researchers will talk about the city under different rulers and conquests; in the eyes of pilgrims, poets, and artists from various countries and eras, and the influences that they and others exerted on the city as it evolved into what it is today.

The conference is titled “Jerusalem – from the navel of the world to the four corners of the universe and back.” Hosted by the Ben-Zvi Institute, it will be held at the Ben-Zvi auditorium, 14 Ibn Gvirol Street in Jerusalem’s Rehavia neighborhood, from Monday, July 10, to Thursday, July 13 inclusive. It will also be broadcast live at Attendance is free of charge, but anyone wanting to attend live sessions should register by calling (02) 539-8855.

 THE BUSTLING Mahaneh Yehuda market in Jerusalem turns 100.  (credit: Marc Israel Sellem/Jerusalem Post)
THE BUSTLING Mahaneh Yehuda market in Jerusalem turns 100. (credit: Marc Israel Sellem/Jerusalem Post)

There will also be tours to different parts of the city with trained tour guides. Tours will not be free of charge, but will be NIS 20 each. The drawback is that all the tours will be conducted in Hebrew, though the conference itself will be in both Hebrew and English.

In terms of subject matter, it can be said that organizers left very few stones unturned. Jerusalem throughout the ages is viewed through the prisms of history, geography, religion, literature, art, architecture, politics, and yearning from across the sea.

Participants will be introduced to Crusaders, Romans, Ottoman rulers, and pilgrims, and will learn about German, Muslim, Georgian, Armenian, Ethiopian, Russian, British, and other communities in the capital. From a religious standpoint, they will learn of the sanctity of Jerusalem to people of different faiths,

Last week, the Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks Legacy Conference took place in Jerusalem, and part of it has overlapped into the Ben-Zvi Institute conference, where one of the sessions is titled “The Heavenly Jerusalem and the Earthly Jerusalem in the Thoughts of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.” Leading this session will be Dr. Moshe Ovadia of Levinsky-Wingate Academic College. The session will be in Hebrew, which does a disservice to Sacks, in that he was such a master of the English language.

Women have not been overlooked in this conference, and a session under the heading of “Jerusalem as the Focus of International Innovative Activity on the Part of Women” will be chaired by Prof. Bat-Sheva Margalit Stern, of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem.

The final session is aptly titled “A Contemporary View of Jerusalem: Challenges and Opportunities in a Splintered Metropolis.” This session also deals with shared society activism.

The conference opens at 5 p.m. on Monday with greetings by Ben-Zvi Institute director Dr. Yaniv Mezuman, and Eli Eskosido, director-general of the Antiquities Authority. It will be followed by a lecture on the life and work of prizewinning Jerusalem-born novelist A.B. Yehoshua by Bilha Ben-Eliyahu, of the Kerem Institute, David Yellin College of Education, and the Efrata College of Education; and another lecture by Jerusalem-born novelist Prof. Haim Be’er on “Jerusalem, the Eternal City.” Both lectures will be in Hebrew.

To round off the evening there will be a recital of Hebrew songs about Jerusalem by Dr. Moti Zeira and Meital Trabelsi. Their performance is titled “My Soul Longs for You from Afar.”

South Africa's chief rabbi visits Jerusalem

■ AMONG THE many visitors to Jerusalem last month was Rabbi Warren Goldstein, chief rabbi of South Africa, who was in the country in time for Book Week, and who stopped off at the President’s Residence to present Hebrew and English copies of his new book, A Day to Create Yourself, to President Isaac Herzog. Since taking office, the president has been visited by so many authors who have given him copies of their books that by the time he completes his tenure, he will be able to open a mini public library.

Preview for the Jerusalem Film Festival

■ LAST FRIDAY, in advance of the Jerusalem Film Festival, the Jerusalem Cinematheque held a preview for journalists and other invited guests, giving everyone a choice of three films out of nine to watch. Busloads of people came in from Tel Aviv, and some, such as prizewinning actor and broadcaster Roni Kuban, came on their own steam. With the exception of official fast days, Jews can never do anything without food, and in this respect, the cinematheque always comes to the party. There was an assortment of pastries, fruit and coffee before the screenings, and a sumptuous buffet lunch after the first films were shown in three separate cinema halls. There was no need to bribe anyone with food. The films were well acted and absorbing, and in some cases cast a new perspective on certain social problems.