Letter from Jerusalem, 25th January 2012
I'm a former member who moved to Jerusalem in 2007. I have sent the occasional letter from Jerusalem and here is another for the newsletter. Since I arrived my daughter and her husband have had two children so I've joined the ranks of many aliya families here with children and grandchildren in different countries. The ideal is for all eventually to be united in Israel but meanwhile phone e-mail and aeroplaneare kept busy by commuting grandparents.
I have a book to recommend—Easy Walks in Jerusalem by Aviva Bar-Am—am which really is excellent and well-illustrated and covers the historic picturesque and local in a very wide variety of Jerusalem's most interesting areas and is good on interfaith coverage too. I learnt a lot from it about areas I know like the old city and some I havent yet visited like ein kerem. Guided tours are a favourite with Israelis and many come to see Jerusalem as well as lots of tourists.
I heard a talk by American Israeli journalist Caroline Glick on the politics of the Arab spring on which Israel has rather mixed views.
Local small art gallery is hosting an art event of pigeons. Real ones from an Arab breeder who explains the different breeds . Some are racing pigeons and this is an Arab hobby in the villages. He gave an interesting talk in Hebrew and the birds are enchanting and all different and cooed beautifully. The gallery also hosts modern and jazz chamber music which is definitely a listening experience.
How can I convey the sheer richness of Jewish experience in Jerusalem?
For starters the early morning minyan spoiled for choice with at least a handful of synagogues with several morning minyans in most areas and attended not by ultra orthodox but normal secular Israeli men as a good start to the day before work. They also occupy retired men who follow up with a good natter and talmud study at all levels. A bit of a mens' club which seems to work well.
Women pray at home and on the bus to work and can usually be seen rushing to work in the morning thus following the traditional role differentiation whether secular or orthodox.
Lots of children and school students—the religious ones in uniform, the rest more casually dressed but most fairly serious students. Yet another educational reorganization is under way with salary increments for some teachers in exchange for added duties etc. Sound familiar?
A big issue is child care which is subsidised for the poor but expensive for everyone else . And more classrooms for Arab children in east Jerusalem where there are political issues too in education if it involves actual defamation and support for violence—which unfortunately it does sometimes. Why Israel isn't tougher about what is taught in Arab schools—which the Israeli taxpayer funds—is not clear to anyone. But many Arabs probably do just want the best education for their children regardless of politics.
Some schools are mixed and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem has plenty of Arab students also in a mixed environment as are quite a few Jerusalem suburbs and many workplaces.
There was an electricity failure this evening—for all of one hour—no lifts, shock horror! Israelis seem to have developed British phlegm. No panic in the library where I was all carried on reading and studying by natural light til lights went back on just before dusk. This just goes to show how much the whole world needs solar power in each building and not wasteful and expensive and often environmentally unfriendly power stations. Did you know 70% of grid electricity is wasted in transmission? Neither govt nor electricity cos tend to publicise that sort of thing. Most of Israel has sun boilers on the roof for hot water—a great saving—but has yet to go for solar panels in a big way though there is talk of a large solar power plant in the desert. One of the new immigrants I've met here sells solar power—in france—by telephone from Israel.
Quite a few immigrants have this sort of techy international job mostly because of language.
Other professionals like medics manage somehow to upgrade their hebrew enough to transfer professional qualifications and work with the Israeli public and health system.
Have a good Burns night but more important Tu Bshvat and Purim.
Regards to all including new members,