On one of the hottest days so far this year, I walked around the heart of Jerusalem for two reasons: to mark the actual dates of the Six-Day War 50 years ago and to see for myself all the buildings popping up in the area.
I did not stand at the Kotel, but from where I was perched in the Old City, I could see the Kotel. It was not a Monday or a Thursday, when they read the Torah, but so many Christian, Chinese and Russian tourists were there that the plaza was overflowing. From afar I made some prayers for friends and relatives, then wandered into the Mamilla area.
Now Mamilla is filled with a wonderful mall, but 50 years ago it was the area of many garages. In the year we spent as students in Israel from 1963 to 1964, I visited Mamilla many times to care for the motor scooter we owned. After we made aliyah, I discovered, because I did not heed the signs, that my car was towed and taken to the city impound in Mamilla.
Now the area is blossoming with the beautiful foliage planted there and the fountains spewing our crystal-clear water during the day and colored water at night.
I particularly wanted to see all these buildings popping up. Near Mahane Yehuda Market a 26-story building went up a few years ago. An old friend lives there, so I was able to see from his windows on the 21st floor: a panorama of Jerusalem with the Knesset, the Israel Museum and the Hebrew University at Givat Ram clearly in view.
Within a 6-block area, seven 20-story buildings are rising.
They are being constructed on cleared housing areas that contained early 20th century structures. Is that good for the city? Right now, the Jerusalem dreamers — meaning the mayor and the builders — believe that Jerusalem must be like all capital cities: a combination of the old and the new.
I realize that if I were in Atlanta, I would see the same type of construction. My young Jewish delights on Washington Street are long gone.
Who is purchasing these Israeli apartments, which are expensive?
A small percentage are owned by old-time Jerusalemites who sold homes bought many years ago and had enough to purchase a new, fancy place. The other purchasers are Jews from the United States, Britain, France, Canada, Russia, and, soon I think, China.
The Chinese are putting down roots all over the world.
Many of these apartments will be used only briefly during the year. So a tax is proposed for those who are not in their apartments a certain amount each year. Not sure how that will be determined.
Yesterday was special. David Moss, the noted artist and illuminator of a widely praised haggadah, is always filled with ideas. In this instance he worked with young Americans here on a gap-year program between high school and college. The city made available an area with weeds and other kinds of undesirable growth. There were rocks, trash, cigarette butts and everything else imaginable.
With these youths, Moss was able to create a haven of natural beauty in development. He uses Jewish concepts, Jewish learning and Jewish art to add a fascinating presence to the surroundings, which are being revived.
Large clay monuments at the site display engraved Hebrew statements, suggesting how this space now brings people together. The 36 logs offer another concept of the tzaddikim who hold up the world. In a metal closet that a youth constructed, a video tells the story of what has been done and why.
The neighbors were inspired by the work of the youths, and both young and old came out to assist in the cleaning and reclamation of the land.
Moss will follow this project with work in the cities and countryside of Israel.
Israel would love to welcome all of you this summer. I know many of your children will be here, so you can come as well. Shalom from Jerusalem.