They say it rained like wild here last week. The downpours were torrential and there was flooding in parts of the country. Here in Jerusalem some say there was so much water that it was raining sideways. Around the country, six people have died in floodwaters since early January.
In other parts of the world, when storms like this occur they are categorized as disasters; here in Israel they are “gishmei berachah,” the blessing of rain. Israel, like many other parts of the Middle East, counts on its rainy seasons to provide needed water for the year. For example, it does not rain here in Israel for months, beginning with the arrival of Pesach and maybe even prior to that. The hope and prayer here is that when it rains it really pours.
This week, however, we must have hit a prelude to spring. The sun shone brightly and most of the time the skies were a magnificent blue. That is good because the Kinneret’s water level is at an all-time high, just the way everyone you meet and talk to likes it.
As far as what else is happening in Israel, you are best off not paying any mind to Fox or CNN news. Of course, back in the States and in other areas of the world, that’s all we have to rely on for our flow of information.
In a couple of weeks, President Trump will be delivering his annual State of the Union message to the country. Here in Israel, you need to speak to the taxi drivers and the waiters in the restaurants and hotels if you really want to know what is going on.
The other day I asked a police officer for directions and before I moved on, I asked him what he thinks of President Trump. I’m pretty sure he wanted to say that he likes him very much and that he is doing well as far as he is concerned. That was the gist of what I think he meant when he said, “Trump is gooder and more gooder.”
I grabbed a taxi in Geula on Tuesday, and immediately plunged into the subject of our president. “Everybody in Israel likes Trump,” the driver said. “He’s a little meshugah,” he said, but added that he apparently loves Jews and is good for Israel.
The cab drivers here seem to have an affinity for Bibi and Trump, even though the opposition in both countries seems to be giving both leaders a run of sorts. As you know, there will be another election here in about six weeks — the third within a year — because no party can seem to patch together a governing coalition. For now, Mr. Netanyahu is safe as prime minister — at least for another few months.
If Israel can perpetually to go to new elections, I suppose that Bibi can continue to rule the government as prime minister. That’s the way things are going to continue here until something cracks.
With elections coming around once again in March, Bibi is trying to set a right wing electoral bloc in motion. That means maneuvering New Right leader and current Defense Minister Naftali Bennett into joining with the Otzma Yehudit party. The Otzma Party has long been identified with Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Kach Party, which was pegged as racist only because for decades he called for the separation of the Jewish and Palestinian population in Israel.
As it turns out, that is the basis of the multi-decade attempt to negotiate peace here, to no avail. Mahmoud Abbas, and Arafat before him, wanted the Jews out, but they were never considered racists. They are considered heroes or champions of peace.
While there is always a great deal to do here, there are few things more satisfying than simply walking the streets of Israel’s capital city. Behind it all, in the recesses of my mind, is the notion that once upon a time the international plan was to make these pavements a part of a Palestinian country. It is frightening sometimes to think how close they came to achieving that more than a few times.
This type of odious plan was on the drawing board a scant few years ago under the direction of President Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry. To them, the Jews or the Jewish presence in the city was expendable. Obama was able to say that he supports a unified Jerusalem, but he never said that what he was thinking about was a unified city of Palestine.
Well, Jewish Jerusalem is alive. Staying on Agron Street just a few dozen steps from what used to be the American Consulate, there was a noticeable change. The security is still tight, with a cavalcade of security personnel lined up along the length of the impressive building around the clock. What has changed is that for the first time in 70 years, this building now comes under the rubric and direction of the U.S. Embassy and Ambassador David Friedman. Walking past the building, as we have done probably hundreds of times over the years, one cannot help but notice a handsome new engraved sign that says that this is now an extension of the U.S. Embassy.
You might say it is one of those little nondescript things, a sign on a building in Jerusalem. Know and be aware this is not just big; it’s very big and kind of nice, too.
Walking these streets over the last few days I discovered three new shuls located inside these mostly thick stone walls that dot the city. Looking for an early Ma’ariv near Ben Yehuda Street on Tuesday, I walked down an alleyway and found two shuls directly across from one another.
One shul is Nachlas Yitzchak and the other Nachlas Yaakov. One is a Sephardi shul and the other a Chabad shul. My halachic time indicator on my phone said that the earliest Ma’ariv could be 5:15 p.m. I walked into the Yitzchak shul and a man at a table said that Ma’ariv would begin at 5:15. I poked my head in across the alley to ask what time they were starting in the Chabad shul and was told 5:20 p.m.
As I was walking back into the Sephardi shul I noticed someone take out a marker and cross out 5:15 p.m. Ma’ariv and write 5:30. I asked if this was the new time for Ma’ariv today and he said yes. I walked back over to the Chabad shul to ask if they were sticking with 5:20, and they looked at me, a bit bewildered, and said, “Of course.” They got my Ma’ariv business.
These days, walking through the streets of Jerusalem you do not have to be concerned about the prophecy that says someday children will once again be playing in the streets of this great and holy city. It is already here and is very much in evidence. Children are at play here in Jerusalem and throughout the state of Israel.