Paris Lights: Shining on Jerusalem
A political confab, a cozy hotel and a romantic wedding -- there was never a dull moment for visiting PJM Paris editor Nidra Poller during her visit to Jerusalem.
June 26, 2007 - 12:09 am
David King of Israel… The old city spreads out before my eyes in wide-screen panorama. As I write, the voice of Condoleeza Rice wafts into my ears from a neighboring room…then the newscast continues in Hebrew. A huge crane rises over the church towers, the domes, the minaret. Jerusalem tears down the decrepit, restores the patrimony, builds anew in timeless Jerusalem-stone modernity. This elegant Jerusalem style inhabits me. Like Venice, it is imprinted in every cell.
I watched the crane turn slowly on its axis and thought, “This is the true peacemaking, this construction, this solid ‘we are here to stay’ stone.”
Here in peaceful Jerusalem, opulent with flowering trees and shrubs, chirpy sparrows and sparkling children, it is hard to believe what is happening in Gaza. But the news is eloquent and eminently convincing.
I arrived on the evening of the 12th, forgot to set my watch ahead one hour, almost missed breakfast the next morning, rushed off to my first appointment on the terrace of the David Citadel Hotel –with members of the Robert Gamzon (French-speaking) B’nai B’rith lodge for a briefing on my participation in next week’s panel discussion– and didn’t have time to set up my next appointment… with bountiful Zionists Harvey Karp and Blossom Seigel from Newport Beach CA …who suddenly appeared as if convoked.
They had lunch and I caught up with them later at their table overlooking the Olympic pool against a backdrop of the walls and turrets of the Old City. Smooooooth! In addition to producing videos that portray Israel in its myriad brilliant facets, Harvey and Blossom give material and moral support to allied endeavors. At the confab–with Joel and Pamela Bell of the World Evangelical Zionists in partnership with Likudniks Ari Azuelos and Sagiv Azoulay, I received more material and leads than I could ever process.
The consensus is–Netanyahu is winnable. It’s a question of time and strategy. The Evangelical Likudniks will mobilize, electioneer, convince, communicate their enthusiasm and love of Judaism in Zion. You’ve heard how the Evangelicals want to convert the Jews and precipitate the end of days; Bell is talking about Christians repairing their relation to Judaism through the experience of Israel.
Joel was filming WorldNet Daily’s Aaron Klein’s interview with the Mufti of Jerusalem who’d issued a fatwa forbidding Palestinians to flee from Gaza. “Jews are a problem,” said the Mufti, surprising no one, “but the Christian Zionists are worse!” Our Christian ally almost melted into his camera. There was no security, Klein works without a safety net.
Bell’s Evangelicals want to stand by side with the Jews in the disputed territories. “If they try to expel the Jews they’ll have to expel the Christians too. And that’s another story.” Yeah.
Azoulay was fielding text messages from inside sources at the Knesset, hoping the Likud candidate would trump Peres for president. Networking, news, and dot orgs flashed across the table like a fast card game. Newt Gingrich and Bibi will be speaking at the Christians United for Israel summit meeting in Washington. Chris Mitchell of Christian Broadcasting Network has a studio right here in David’s Village for videocasting.
Time to break, and spruce up for a very special occasion.
My luck…the event was held in the Beit Shmuel complex where I take lodgings. Mercaz Shimson Beit Shmuel, a jewel of an address, stands between two expensive landmark hotels, the King David and the David Citadel. Beit Shmuel hostel rooms with private bath & separate WC accommodate up to six people ($60 night for one person, $75 for two, etc.) offer bare bones comfort, a healthy Israeli breakfast, and free wireless access. The best rooms have balconies facing the old city, but you have to catch the wireless network on the landing work station. Rooms on the other side of the hallway, without balconies, look out on the lush garden courtyard and connect to the Net.
The atmosphere is warm and friendly. Lilach, my favorite receptionist, gives me VIP treatment since she Googled me and read my articles. The armed female guards at the entrance look like pinups. You can enjoy snacks ($3 for a giant salad-sandwich) from the caf√© in the tree shaded courtyard. There’s a joyful coming and going of people involved in countless activities (Beit Shmuel is part of a large complex established by Hebrew Union College and the Reform movement) from dance classes to advanced Jewish studies.
On my last night in Jerusalem before relocating to Tel Aviv I upgraded from the hostel to the “Residence.” Believe me, it’s worth the extra dollars ($100/night) for a beautiful sleek room with maximum comfort in a quiet corner of the building. Certainly the best hotel bargain and the most fun place to stay in Jerusalem. And that’s not all. You can rent a gorgeous 2-room Beit Shmuel apartment on Rehov Dovid Melech (King David Street) for $800 a week! Sleeps four and includes access to a heated swimming pool.
The glass-domed wedding hall and wide terraces at the top of the complex offer dramatic vantage points on the courtyard’s opulent purple jacaranda, the Old City, the French institute with its satellite dish antenna, tricolor flag, and mandate era fa√ßade. Wherever you stand, wherever you look, you are carried away with the majesty of it all. And what a bunch of sweet firebrands were gathered there to celebrate the marriage of our adored and adorable colleague, Caroline Glick, whose Column One appeared faithfully the day before and two days after the wedding. Tsafrir Ronen said that one missile aimed at the terrace where we were feasting on hors d’oeuvres would wipe out the entire Israeli… Israeli what exactly?
Joel [Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs] and Rivka [specialist in ancient history] Fishman, the aforementioned Harvey Karp and Blossom Siegel, Ruthie Blum, Steve Liebowitz and a host of Jerusalem Posties, Amnon [Makor Rishon] and Ga√´l [novelist] Lord, Professor Ben-Zion Netanyahu and his son Bibi with wife Sarah, Dore Gold, Uzi Landau, Yoram and Orna Ettinger, Natan Sharansky, Raphael and Margalit Israeli, Richard [American Thinker] and Lijana Baer, Max and Suzanne Singer (we met at Michael Ledeen’s last fall), and other sterling figures that I missed, such as Khaled Abu Toameh. Caroline’s wonderful family, the groom’s debonair father, jovial brother, friends, families, children in strollers, teenagers, an Orthodox cohort that dined separately on the terrace, an Israeli abundance of food and fresh air as we followed the ceremony by stages.
Caroline wore a princess line lace dress, her hair in a chignon. The groom, Ephraim Katzir, his curly red hair in a pony tail, his impish eyes a perfect match for the bride. The men sang to the groom, the women sang to the bride. They went off to a far corner to sign the ketuba (wedding contract). We followed them to the main terrace for the ceremony under the chupa (wedding canopy). In France and the U.S., four witnesses solemnly hold the stakes of an elaborate chupa. Here it was left to its own devices, a simple affair that looked like a tablecloth billowing in the Jerusalem breeze. The ceremony was intimate, brief, and touching. The libation, the seven baruchot (blessings) the ring placed on the right index finger, the smashed glass, the nuptial kiss as night fell and the flames of the barbecue echoed ancient temple rituals. As we took our places in the dining hall, the white chupa cinematographically billowed against the black night sky, harbinger of a long, happy marital cruise.
We served ourselves to steak and chicken directly from the expertly-manned barbecue stations and then piled on all manner of cooked and fresh vegetables, salads, breads. By a rough estimate there were 20 tables of 10 for a total of 200 guests–modest, I am told, by Israeli standards. We networked, feasted, shimmied, shmoozed. Peres was elected president of Israel? We’ll droop over that tomorrow! The music was right, the mood was great, the energy level was super. This practiced eye watched the newlyweds dance in sensual complicity…Caroline fandangoed her lace bridal skirt, tapped her silver sandals, Ephraim engaged her every move, responded, invited… A good match. Mazal tov.