Where to begin this week!?
The Jerusalem streets experienced holiday highs, as well as extreme lows, and I am not just referring to the weather that has gone from summer to winter and now back to summer.
I decided to share what was different and unexpected this year.
The first surprise is for those who followed the news prior to Sunday, when Passover, Easter, and Ramadan were all to be celebrated in the Old City.
With all the talk of threats and pending trouble in Jerusalem and the Old City, there was no closure of the Jerusalem street between Mamilla Mall and the David Citadel Hotel. Gone was the usual big ugly closure truck.
Also, on Sunday morning, heavier security was not apparent inside Jaffa Gate either. A sign pointed to the Kotel, Western Wall.
In the Rova, the Jewish Quarter, a large tent was set up by the Hurva Synagogue and provided a shaded place to sit, which was a good idea on the sunny day.
Birkat Kohanim, the Priestly Blessing was said twice on Sunday morning. I missed the first time by a few minutes, and many people left. Here you see that the plaza was not full.
But it’s hard to count how many attend, as people are also watching from rooftops and lookout points around the Jewish Quarter.
From the top of the Aish Building where I was standing, there is a good view of the Al Aqsa Mosque. After the previous riots there, the windows were finally fixed. However, I noticed at least one was broken again.
With a zoom lens, here is what the Temple Mount looked like in the morning during the Birkat Kohanim. Not exactly what my social media was sharing over and over about police and violence.
At the other end, over the Kotel, the Dome of the Rock was shining in the blazing sun with police nearby, though not needed that day.
The Kessim have the right idea, those umbrellas the Ethiopian religious leaders carry are smart protection on the sunny Passover day.
Closer to the Kotel, men were crowded in with the Kohanim in the front.
Security personnel watched, from all directions, but missing were the helicopters, drones, and security balloons seen in years past.
While I waited for the second Birkat Kohanim to be recited, I took time to notice the dome of the Sharei Tefilah Synagogue is slowly progressing.
The view toward the Dung Gate where buses usually enter was off-limits to vehicular traffic.
A sign marking the exit hung over the gate, but few people were leaving.
Birkat Kohanim, men covered their heads with white tallis during prayer.
While the dignitaries watch the crowd from above,
and others watch from afar.
I wonder how many thousands of selfies were taken that morning?
During the prayer, you can see the crowd was fuller. In past years, the whole area might have been full. But the tens of thousands who came all week even after the media warned of pending trouble was remarkable.
Near the entrance to the Kotel Plaza, you could see people arriving, getting drinking water, and in the little shed-like area the Jewish people waiting to go on the Temple Mount.
On Sunday small groups were allowed until 11:00 am. During the last 10 days of Ramadan, those trips are forbidden. Eid al Fitr, the celebration at the end of the Ramadan month of fasting is at the end of this week.
The exits were clearly marked.
Pedestrians walked away from the Kotel, thousands at a time.
The popcorn and cotton candy vendors were in positions again as was a parked ZAKA motorcycle. With tens of thousands of people, there were no reported serious problems in spite of the heat, making it a good day.
And people were still arriving, all day and all week. The tourists are back!
Having been in a crushing crowd once in the Old City on the way to Birkat Kohanim, I appreciate that there is better enforcement of pedestrian traffic flow. This woman was not happy to follow the plan, however, it is much safer.
As you see, when I was leaving, people were coming to go inside
and outside Jaffa Gate, and the same during the rest of the week.
While Birkat Kohanim is an annual highlight, there were activities galore for families, as school was out and tourists were around all week.
One event was a special children’s program at the Tower of David.
Mamilla Mall was busy and watched closely by security.
Amazing after the big holiday meals, there were still long lines waiting for food. Plus, there were lines for car rentals on Sunday.
I thought it amusing that this shop was open during the pandemic more than the others in Mamilla Mall, but for Passover, the window was covered.
There was a new way to patrol Mamilla Avenue.
Jerusalem is colorful, but one new art exhibit was black and white.
People were in Gan Sacher, Sacher Park when the sun came out. On cold rainy days, I assume it was not so popular, but I did not go to check it out.
The Jerusalem Theater was warm and dry and the impressive quilts of the Israel Quilt Association lined the lobby walls again – more HERE
There you have a taste of the Holiday of Matzah in Jerusalem.
Now the weather hopefully will not have the extremes of hot and cold that we suffered last week. The annual ‘Yoms‘ with their highs and lows, begin with Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day Monday night, April 17, this year.
One of the first events for Yom HaShoah was the Zikaron BaSalon meeting hosted at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Official Residence.
The special musical numbers included Kobi Oz and Yonatan Raisel, but more on that for next time.
So much more is happening on the Jerusalem streets if you missed it –
see you Next Year in Jerusalem!