Holiday Celebrations

Tens of thousands of people came from around the world to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem

  and to pray at the Kotel, the Western Wall.

It was hard to find a bagel as many eateries were closed tight for the holiday,

however, the fresh bread in the Christian Quarter of the Old City smelled especially good.

 Easter week coincided with Passover this year,

and thousands of Christian pilgrims came to the Old City by way of the Jaffa Gate

and the New Gate,

all heading towards

 the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Built in the fifth century by Queen St. Helena,

 the Monastery of the Holy Cross

was also a popular Christian tourist spot.

It is located in the Valley of the Cross below the Israel Museum.

 Passover with its potato rolls ended on Monday night… and Mimouna celebrations began.

This celebration by North African Jews the day after Passover is now an official holiday.

It begins at night with the baking of fresh mufletas and continues into the next day.

Large crowds kept coming all day to Gan Sacher, Sacher Park.

 There were plenty of mangals with grilled meat and many serious photographers.

The afternoon scene included a group of Arab women and children

and Mahmoud and his friends playing soccer.

 Arab families enjoying Jerusalem parks as usual, even though,

  BenYosef Livnat was shot and killed at Joseph’s Tomb by Palestinian police just hours before.

Holiday celebrations in Jerusalem were large and festive this year, but since there was no violence,

it is not news for the mainstream media…

Now it’s back to school and back to washing  and cleaning up from the holiday celebrations.

Birchat Kohanim

17 Nissan 5771

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Jerusalem

Birkat Kohanim,  the Priestly Blessing at the Kotel, the Western Wall.

Major streets were closed to traffic.

Security was out in force

as thousands of people walked to the Old City,

trying to get close enough to hear

and see the Birkat Kohanim.

From every entrance

 

and stairway the crowds gathered.

Dignitaries did not need an umbrella this year, as the weather was pleasantly cool.

Thousands of people stood completely still,

 except for a couple of security men watching the crowd,

as everyone looked toward the Kohanim.

The chief rabbi began to recite a psalm and people began to move.

 As the Kes walked toward the Kotel

 other people began to leave the area. 

In the mass of people

it was possible to find a friend. 

Awesome event… but it’s Passover,

so time to eat… again.

Jerusalem Spring

 Syria is lifting emergency law after 48 years and

the ‘Arab Spring’ is grabbing headlines coming from the Middle East.

News of the murder of an anti-Israel Italian ISM member in Gaza,

came as Jews were busy shopping before the Passover holiday.

Many Arab shoppers were also in the stores buying the potato noodles and matzah.

 Daniel Viflic, the 16-year-old riding on a school bus who was injured by an anti-tank missile from Gaza,

died from those injuries and was buried just before the holiday began.

A tragic beginning…

for the Jerusalem spring.

There were photos of President Peres visiting the Shalit family and reports of new negotiators, but

 Gilad Shalit missed the Passover seder for the fifth year,

the protest tent was dark and empty on Tuesday night.

Nevertheless, Jerusalem spring

 is a time of families get-togethers,

 

and fanning

the flames

of the mangal in Gan Sacher, Sacher Park– 

that has evolved into a Passover holiday tradition.

While millions of people take to the roads to travel North, 

many others descend on Gan Sacher to picnic,

to play ball,

to relax,

to take a walk,

and enjoy nature.

It is a place

 where even used coals can be shared and the news can be forgotten…at least for a bit.

Happy Passover… it’s time to eat.

Spring Cleaning

 

As the Passover holiday approaches, full-page newspaper ads announce

extra garbage collection in most of Jerusalem.

You never know what will be put out on the street,

or how long it will last there.

750 new paper collection bins

and 800 bottle collection bins have popped up all over the city,

some leave little room for people.

In Machane Yehuda Market, the Shuk, customers are lining up at the home supply stores

to buy new cleaning supplies.

Even the fish are ready for Passover.

The sign at Gan Sacher got a cleaning after the marathon,

however, it will be some time until the grounds are fully restored.

The park is still a great place for those not busy cleaning

to relax.

Some birds seem to clean up better than the humans who use the park.

Birds were lined up

on top of the Kotel, the Western Wall

as notes in the wall were overflowing before their spring cleaning.

And all these preparations are just a prelude…as next week

huge pots of boiling water will be out ready to get rid of every last crumb.

Passover begins Monday night, April 18, 2011.

Special Tourists

Three weeks ago a bomb exploded in Jerusalem, killing one woman and injuring many others.

Over the weekend 150 rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel,

and the Iron Dome defense system was employed to defend the residents of Ashkelon and Beersheva.

Nevertheless, on Monday, 

 a delegation of government officials from India toured Jerusalem

and Beit HaNasi, the official President’s residence,  got spruced up for a visit by Spanish royals.

It is amazing that despite all the negative press, official visitors,

 ordinary tourists,

and tour groups of all kinds

come from

around the world to see Israel…

and they keep coming.

On both the cold and cloudy days of winter

and the warm days of spring,

whether following a blue sign

or a red rose,

they come each day by the thousands.

Some come dressed

in distinctive clothing,

to see the Kotel, the Western Wall, from a distance

or up close.

Some children are happy to pose for the camera,

while others are not willing targets.

Foreign tourists want to be photographed with security personnel.

The estimated number of visitors to Jerusalem this year is in the millions

and the official tourist season is just beginning.

It’s really amazing, so many special tourists…

and perhaps those taking photos

will help to show the world…

 the real Jerusalem streets.

 

Impossible to Predict

“A Coup Will Topple Qaddafi If We Just Keep Our Hands Off”,

so proclaims a Washington Post headline dated April 13, 1986!

Middle East expert Lisa Anderson, then associate professor of political science at Columbia University,

advises the Reagan administration, “He’s ripe for a coup, my guess is that he’ll be gone in a year.”

Hmm … just which year?

Almost as hard as the Middle East “situation” to predict, has been the weather in Jerusalem.

One day it is hot enough to get everyone outside

and bring out the summer drinks,

and then it changes and is wet and cold.

Tourists descending the steps to visit the Kotel, the Western Wall on Tuesday afternoon,

had no idea that minutes before the entire area was cleared for a ‘suspicious object’.

When and where these incidents occur is impossible to predict.

 

This week doctors are holding a two-day “warning strike”

and holiday schlepping and spring cleaning are in full swing.

Where else is “schlepping” an official medical diagnosis and house cleaners get paid twice as much as doctors?

It is impossible to predict the outcome, as anything can happen.

As anything can be seen on the streets, wonder if the mate to this shoe will found with spring cleaning?

Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit has been held in Gaza for more than 1745 days,

as much as his family wants his freedom before Passover… it is impossible  to predict.

 

There are some things easy to predict,

most people will get together with family and friends Passover seder night.

Schools are ending soon for holiday and with all the preparations,

plus having the kids home… stress levels will rise.

 

In an earlier post about the food festival in the Old City,

were these  “Eat at Joe’s Diner” type of electric signs.

They have been removed

 

and traditional signs are in place to direct the holiday crowds.

However,

 meters of new lights are being installed around the walls of the Old City.

Safe prediction… some people will love them and some will not.

 

And certainly, no cleaning, schlepping or cooking will not get done sitting here…

Have a good week!