What a year it has been!
It’s report card time.
Yet there are children who have been in their schools for only one day so far this COVID-19 school year.
In Jerusalem, the Kotel, Western Wall, is nearly deserted of people praying and visiting, there are no tourists at least until the end of January with new coronavirus restrictions.
The Kotel Plaza, divided into sections, is filled with construction equipment stored at night and ripping up old stones by day.
What a world it has become!
As the US Capitol was the scene of the swearing-in ceremonies of a new president and vice president, socially distanced and surrounded by security,
I was also attending a corona wedding held in an Israeli backyard,
and relaxing with the sounds of the Jerusalem Symphony providing another free concert. The first time I saw Gil Shohat, he was not conducting an online performance, but playing piano in a cave – Zedekiah’s Cave.
And here he is sitting in his dressing room that night before the show!
The Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra has an event called “Days of Light” planned to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27th. This year due to COVID-19 restrictions it is available online.
Last year the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz brought world leaders to Jerusalem, Israel for mega-events at Beit Hanasi and Yad Vashem.
The international media was invited to watch the VIP dinner held at Beit Hanasi from a screen in Zedekiah’s Cave. One year ago, I had forgotten!
Also on January 27, 2021, at sundown the holiday of Tu BiShvat begins.
I am still not sure the best spelling of ט”ו בשבט in English, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat, often called the ‘Jewish New Year for Trees’.
The almond tree on our street still has black old almonds from last year.
But I went looking in a warmer Jerusalem neighborhood and not only found one blooming, but the sky clear enough to see the half-moon above.
Every year I try to find something new for Tu Bishvat.
Last year was the impressive and colorful evening at the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem – for Malida, a holiday celebration originating in India.
In past years, President Rivlin hosted a Tu Bishvat Seder at Beit Hanasi, in the main hall of the Israeli President’s Residence.
Last year KKL-JNF held an event at Beit Hanasi for Tu Bishvat. Since then the Israeli President’s Residence has held very limited events due to COVID-19. President Rivlin’s last year of his seven-year term has not been like the others due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The carob trees are easy to identify with their fallen pods on the sidewalk. The old hard buksor was all we had in the US to celebrate Tu Bishvat.
Does anyone eat it now with all the fresh and dried Israeli fruit available?
Trees are important, not just for Tu Bishvat. On King David Street, one of many trees near the street work is wrapped with a sign posted to protect the trees from damage during construction.
Last week was one wild weather week, not feeling like spring!
Three times in one day hail came down, plus so much rain.
However, neither hail, nor sleet or cold rain kept the protesters away.
Day after day, they occupy the street near the Prime Minister’s Residence.
When the sun came out, so did people to spend time in the sun and to browse in the free street library for some reading material before Shabbat.
Socially-distanced chairs were ready for Shabbat on Friday afternoon and the sounds of young children singing prayers on Shabbat morning. As I walked by the sounds of Shema Yisrael of very young voices could be heard across the street.
It is sad to see the closed sign on the gates of Hansen House and elsewhere due to the lockdown restrictions from the spreading novel coronavirus.
But, it was good to see the first signs of spring and new growth on the Jerusalem streets, as a year has passed and we move toward a new year.
For the full story of almond trees and Israeli flowers please visit Sara’s wonderful and helpful website ‘Wildflowers of Israel‘ – HERE.
Tu Bishvat is coming, time to get ready.
Take care, stay well, and hope to see you soon on the Jerusalem streets.