The changes in Jerusalem, six years later

By Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal

Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal

JERUSALEM — It took a passport check to remind us how many years it has been since we last visited Israel. To our surprise, it has been six years. We used to go about every two years. That changed when we had grandchildren! We gave up Israel for exotic locations such as Cincinnati and New York.

There is an old joke that the national bird of Israel is the “crane.” That is certainly true in Jerusalem. A lot of old structures have been torn down and in their place new stores and residences have risen. The apartment we have rented is in one of those new buildings very close to the city center.

About a one minute walk from our door is Jaffa Street, and the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall is about two minutes away. Jaffa is now a pedestrian mall, as well. Down the center of the street runs Jerusalem’s light rail system. The last time we were here, the cars were being tested. Now they are running at full capacity. They are as crowded as New York subways, but they have eased congestion and helped reduce pollution. In the past, I always associated Jerusalem with the smell of diesel exhaust from the buses. Not any more.

Another change we noticed was in Machane Yehuda, Jerusalem’s open-air market. You can still buy fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, and baked goods at the numerous stalls, but now there are several restaurants and beer pubs, as well. We have not seen it for ourselves, but at night the market turns into party city with young people filling the open spaces l’asot chaim, to enjoy life, especially on Thursday evenings (most Israelis have Fridays, as well as Shabbat off).

Passover is in the air. There are Jews posted throughout the city who are ready to assist you in selling your chametz. Most stores have their Passover supplies on the shelves. In Israel most Jews east kitniyot (legumes and other foods that Ashkenazic rabbis forbade during Pesach.). You can buy all kinds of foods here that may not be available in the U.S., such as cornflakes, hummus, and gummy worms. There are lots of chametz substitutes for bread, cookies, and cakes. This year I think we will eschew the canned macaroons.

Some of our family is joining us. Our daughter, Margalit, arrived last night. Our daughter and son-in-law, Adina and Jeremy, arrive this afternoon with their two boys, Zev and Elijah.

For seder (not seders, we are following the Israeli custom of one day Yom Tov) we will be traveling up to Kibbutz Hasolelim near Haifa. Jeremy’s long time friend lives there with his bat zug (female partner) and their baby. They invited us to join them for the first day of the holiday. We are looking forward to a genuine Israeli experience. Judy was delighted to be able to lock the house and sell all of our chametz instead of kashering for the holiday.

We wish you a Shabbat Shalom from Israel and a very happy and Kosher Pesach with those you love.

Rabbi Rosenthal is the retiring spiritual leader of Tifereth Israel Synagogue in San Diego.  He may be contacted via [email protected]

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