After the Fading of the Trumpets…. 


It is some weeks after the election (second round …) and the results are still unknown. One person will surely be at the center of decision making in the coming weeks – President Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin. The election results leave the President with a great responsibility to direct the successful formation of a government. Not a simple task at all – but fortunately we have already learned that the President knows what he is talking about. This is how he honored the Jerusalem Foundation at the opening of the Jerusalem Film Festival in July:  


“I want to thank the Jerusalem Foundation for its long-standing contribution to the building of Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Foundation is a key partner in establishing this award, the event this evening as well as many other things that have taken place in Jerusalem since its reunification. This is an opportunity to thank you, all of you, whether you are Jerusalemites or not – thank you for your love of this city and your commitment to its people and residents.” 


I don’t know if you saw the movie that opened the Jerusalem Film Festival – Parasite is a South Korean movie, different from the movies we are used to watching. It was hard to remain indifferent to the plot. Some loved it and some didn’t, but it was impossible to be indifferent. It was a wonderful evening thanks to the dedicated work of the Cinematheque and the festival staff, led by Noa Regev – who we never feel indifferent about! We are proud of our support for the Cinematheque and the Film Festival over the years – but this year in particular. Since the Jerusalem Foundation founded the Cinematheque, its contribution to Jerusalem culture and creativity has been crucial. This year, the Jerusalem Foundation distributed more Awards at the festival than ever (amounting to hundreds of thousands of shekels). The Awards serve as a reminder to everyone in the city of our importance as the leading organization supporting Jerusalem arts and culture and our efforts to develop the city as a thriving, creative, innovative cultural center that includes the expression of diverse works and viewpoints inclusive of all.  


Once the fanfare of the Film Festival was over, I was delighted and moved by the inauguration of a new space inside the Cinematheque – the Orient Express. Despite being a Jerusalemite born and bred, I had not previously made the acquaintance of Ofra Abrahamson. She is a second generation Jerusalemite. After her marriage to the late Daniel Abrahamson, z”l – who immigrated to Israel from Argentina and served professionally in the Tax Authority – they decided to make their home in Jerusalem. We met briefly when she came to the Jerusalem Foundation to look into the possibility of commemorating her husband‘s memory through his love of cinema.


The Orient Express lounge and coffee shop is a beautiful relaxation area within the Cinematheque where visitors can meet, learn and create in a unique atmosphere against the backdrop of Mount Zion and the Gehennom Valley. Ofra decided to memorialize her husband’s name by funding the establishment of this special place. Ofra and her husband could be called – to use a Hebrew expression –  “good people we meet along the way”, but to me they are “excellent people leading the way”: those people who make Jerusalem such a special and exciting city. And we, those Jerusalemites who visit this place, must appreciate this gift to the city and continue to develop Jerusalem as a vibrant, cultural and tolerant city for everyone.


A Winning Formula in Backgammon 


There are a lot of Jerusalemites who claim to be the best backgammon players but I was always pretty bad at it. When I was a child in Jerusalem, I was still part of a generation that went downstairs to play in the yard every afternoon. The neighborhood parking lot – back then there weren’t many private vehicles and certainly not two cars to every family – became the venue for a turbulent soccer game until dark, after which we would have to find the strength to do our homework. Between all of this and – even though I lived in the Rehavia neighborhood which was not exactly the bastion of the game – we would often sit on the stairs at the entrance to the building where I lived and just as enthusiastically play a series of loud backgammon games. Sometimes we had a “method”: when we were faced with an imminent and humiliating loss, we would simply upset the game board and announce a “draw” … with the main thing being not to lose to a neighbor from another building.



Last week I used the same method. I was about to lose a backgammon game – and not just any loss, a loss on the home field. Dror is the CEO of the Kulna Association, new tenants of the Jerusalem Foundation as part of our new shared living space on the second floor of the building. This is a collaborative workspace for associations and organizations dealing with coexistence and tolerance in our city. This will also be the base for the tolerance coalition that we are leading: over 50 different organizations dealing with one of the most important issues for the future of the city and one of the Jerusalem Foundation’s main areas of focus – living together in Jerusalem. Kulna promotes shared living between Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem through “everyday life” events, like backgammon. 


So, returning to the backgammon game against Dror: in the middle of a working day, with other colleagues watching us play, I could not afford to lose.  Particularly not against the founder of an organization that arranged the first Jerusalem Backgammon Championship held at the Jaffa Gate attended by hundreds of people (and supported by the Jerusalem Foundation). Even a draw against such a person would still be an achievement! 

But just don’t ask me to be part of Kulna’s next challenge – Songs and Gates – to be held next summer at the Jaffa Gate during the European Football Championship. You probably can’t train for the event by kicking a ball around inside an office building. What did Mom tell us? Football only in the yard and not inside the house… 


The Valley of the Cross 


I grew up in Jerusalem in the 1960s and the 1970s roaming the city during my adolescence, until I was drafted into the IDF. And, far more than the backgammon games even, the Valley of the Cross’s large green expanse – at least it seemed so to us – was central to our lives. The paving of the path that crosses the valley seemed like a scar that marked our childhood. For students of the Hagymnasia Ha’ivrit High School in Rehavia, there is no doubt that the true center of the valley was “Beit Noa” – the home of the Masada Troop of the Scouts (despite the fact that more of the “rival” Modi’in troop members were normally seen around the valley), us Masada Scouts didn’t even want to hear the Modi’in troop mentioned – this rivalry has defined many generations of Jerusalem Scouts with a very definite and proud identity. On the whole, however, I think that rivalry mostly made us better Scouts, and I hope it made us better human beings. 


As a Masada troop alumnus, I received an update last week on “Masada” as the new year of activities opens. Had I not been among those responsible for the shocking news, I would not have believed it – “Masada and Modi’in Scout Troops unite to preserve one of the city’s most important green spaces, the Valley of the Cross”. Whoever would have thought? 


As I’ve said before, the Jerusalem Foundation has special abilities. If we were able to get these former rivals to cooperate, then there is no mission that we cannot accomplish … This story, which probably sounds like a folk legend to my contemporaries, occurred over recent months thanks to a new initiative – The Jerusalem Foundation Award for Good Citizenship which is awarded for acts of good citizenship by youth movement members in Jerusalem. One of the winning initiatives was the joint venture of the Masada and Modi’in Scout Troops for the preservation of the Valley of the Cross which, in my view, is not only good citizenship but also an historic occurrence. 


On a serious note, I started my adult career in public service as the coordinator of the Scout troop in the most northerly Jerusalem neighborhood of Neve Ya’acov. I am very proud of what they have achieved and that today the alumni of the Kfir Scout troop hold key leadership positions in both the public and private sectors. Youth movements in general today continue to engage our youth to be active and committed to their local communities. We hope in the coming months, together with the Scouts Movement, to launch a new leadership program for Scout troops that will energize these activities in challenging neighborhoods with a view to producing a new generation of children, teens and adults who will be committed to their community and the city of Jerusalem. So, it seems that the Valley of the Cross, which has witnessed so many events over the last 2000 years, will see another historic moment to be remembered forever. 


In the meantime – I wish you all Shana Tova – a new year of peace and happiness. Don’t forget that the Jerusalem International Jazz Festival is just around the corner (December 4th-6th) so mark your new year calendars!  


Happy New Year, 

Shai Doron

Jerusalem Foundation President

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