Jerusalem Returning to Life with New Colors

Imagine seeing more people you know in one day on the Jerusalem streets than in the entire past year!

The Jerusalem streets are coming alive again.

Shabbat morning the weather was lovely for a long walk. I passed people returning from prayers at the Kotel, Western Wall, and friends who had taken one of many morning nature walking tours. A family was celebrating the birth of a baby daughter – one year ago – in a park near their home.

There were new colorful art pieces in Mamilla Mall for the holiday season. I will have to go back with my camera to share some of the fun artwork.

The large blue flag of Kosovo was flying on their new Embassy opened in Jerusalem on Keren Hayesod Street.

Paris Fountain in France Square was gone, removed to start the renovation.

It will be some time until King David Street is open to traffic.

But the King David Hotel is one of the dozens opening to the public now, of course, with restrictions.

After construction work is completed, too often ripped up again and redone.

These metal moveable bollards will now make it possible to get into the Netanyahu family’s private driveway.

Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem posted very clever signs. Here an ancient icon sits on a suitcase near Bloomfield Gardens on King David Street.

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In another of their series ‘Returning to Life’ signs, a statue is holding a bottle of sparkling wine to celebrate the reopening. L’chaim to life.

The BLMJ YEMEN exhibit is to close on April 30th. It was a favorite exhibit. During Passover, March 29- April 2nd there are free admission and tours.

The opening venues require registration and numbers are limited.

On the streets, however, more and more people are seen sitting at cafes.

Tourists and student tour groups are back in the Jerusalem parks.

The Pais Arena announced 6 nights of – “All the World is a Stage” concerts.

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One concert was Hanan Ben Ari performing to a live and excited audience.

Pools are reopening, a guard was sitting outside of the YMCA entrance.

This past week was Passover holiday preparation time – which in Jerusalem means fresh garlic in the Machane Yehudah Market, the shuk, piled high.

This man was walking home with a large bag full of fresh garlic. Not only did he stop so I could take his photo, but he also insisted I wait until he took it out of the bag so I could get a better image of his proud purchase.

A musician in the shuk was being recorded, another sign of “normal.”

Restaurant and cafe owners were smiling to see customers to serve again.

Politicians were in the shuk campaigning, but not on the day I was there noticing the new roof and lights and colorful upgrades.

The protesters near the Prime Minister’s residence are always on the street. I wonder if they will pack up after the election on Tuesday?

Sadly, 6025 was the rising number of corona deaths this past year.

The Central Election Committee has set up tents at the Knesset ready to start counting the votes on election night.

Election Tuesday is a day off from work and a good time to come to Jerusalem to see the colors in nature.

One never knows what you will see on the Jerusalem streets, I often repeat.

For instance, as I was hurrying, late one morning to meet a friend in the shuk for coffee – another first time in a year event,

I saw a man along a nature path beginning his prayers, and using his blue face mask to cover his head instead of a kippah.

It was a difficult year, especially for those involved in tourism, and of course, for those families who were affected by illness and coronavirus.

But this past week with loosened restrictions and spring weather, more Israelis were able to enjoy the colors and sights both on and off the Jerusalem streets.

As we will say next week at the seder “Next year in Jerusalem!” for all.

How Many Jerusalem Sights Do You Recognize?

If you have not been to Jerusalem, Israel, for the past year, you are in for big surprises when you return to the Jerusalem streets!

Jerusalem on Rosh Chodesh Nisan 5781, is not as you remember it. You will not recognize many of the Jerusalem streets as they emerge from coronavirus lockdowns and closings

Today a new initiative was announced by the Mayor’s Office,  “ברוטינה” or ‘Be’rutina” as in return to routine. Hundreds of thousands of shekels will be invested to help revive the local cultural and creative scene and promote internal tourism by Israelis, as the airport is still closed to foreign nationals.

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It’s spring and feels like it today. Beginning on Rosh Chodesh Nisan there is a special blessing to say when seeing the budding fruit trees.

Last week, Jaffa Gate was open as COVID-19 restrictions lessened on Sunday.

People were at the Orient Hotel this week.

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The doorman was back at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. He would not let me inside, but was happy to pose for a photograph.

Banks are closing and moving online, and here on Palmach Street, a new supermarket is on its way. However, it remains to be see seen just how cheap it will be.

The carousel was turning again at Takhana Rishona, First Station.

The kiddie train was on the track with people and bikers on the path.

Sports and Culture Minister Chili Tropper spoke at the Run 4 Afikim start before runners left from First Station on the charity run to Eilat.

Benjamin Netanyahu hosted Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Czech Republic Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. The Czech Embassy opened an office in Jerusalem and they discussed vaccine distribution.

The Ivory Coast property is still available if any country is interested.

Cafes in Mamilla Mall had lines of customers again on Monday.

Even the tourist train was running again as the Old City opened up.

School groups were touring and learning about the Jewish Quarter.

By the Kotel, Western Wall, dividers kept the still-limited numbers of worshippers allowed for prayer services apart. Thousands were coming during the whole day on Monday.

This is one of the new water fountains for washing hands. There was also a new row of taps for drinking water installed near the restrooms,

Restoration work on the stones of the Western Wall is still underway. I keep watching that scaffolding as it moves from one location to another.

On Monday, there was one bar mitzvah celebration after another, all day long with music and balloons and festivities. It felt like the good ol’ days.

Workers on the major building project in the Armenian Quarter should send more customers to this small shop nearby. The Old City shops were shuttered for so long, it will take time to recover.

Jaffa Road cafes were busy, with chairs lining the Light Rail tracks.

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The Light Rail stops were filled with passengers waiting for the next train, as people converged upon Jerusalem’s central shopping area.

When tourists return to Jaffa Road they will not recognize the area. Look up, and tall buildings tower over the Machane Yehuda Market , the shuk.

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At least the piles of ripe strawberries look familiar in the shuk.

It was announced that Paris Fountain in France Square is getting a major makeover.

This is the simulation published by the Mayor’s Office last week.

Near the Jerusalem Theater, Chopin Street is open to traffic at last. It will take a while for drivers to get used to the major changes.

And after all these years, the Ohel Nechama synagogue on Chopin Street finally got an elevator up in time for Disability Month in March.

The Hansen House has reopened with signs for ‘Spring in Jerusalem’. The gardens inside the gates welcome visitors, with masks and social distance.

More signs for the outdoor nature event are along the Jerusalem streets.

Multiple new children playgrounds have been developed over lockdowns.

Building and construction continued over the past year.

For the first time in a very long time, someone I did not know on a Jerusalem street asked me to take a photo.

It’s been quite an unusual year for sure!

Too many have been sick and died.

Certainly, not everyone is happy with the construction, as building new projects often involves the loss of smaller older buildings, like this Sephardi synagogue.

There was a lot happening on the Jerusalem streets and though some are getting a slow start preparing, excitement is building with anticipation of families together this year for Passover.

And oh yes, another election! Number four in two years on March 23rd.

Outside the Knesset Building they are preparing to count votes – again.

it would be nice if the next Knesset would finally pass a budget.

That’s it for now, though more was happening on Jerusalem streets.

Book a zoom photo tour for your group or a Jerusalem photo walk.

3 Special Visitors and One Above the Jerusalem Streets

Have you also been getting reminders it’s been an entire year since the last- event, gathering, conference, meal out, or whatever?

Slowly signs of life are returning to the Jerusalem streets. Today a new list of restrictions went into effect, with new openings and relaxed regulations.

A tour group was outside the walls of the Old City ready to enter Jaffa Gate.

Though inside Jaffa Gate, there were still more birds than people.

Four special international visitors made headlines this past week. On Monday morning, the airport was open for the arrival of the first United Arab Emirates Ambassador to Israel, Mohammed Al Khaja.

In the afternoon, he arrived at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence.

The flag of the United Arab Emirates was flying on the Israeli official limousine as Mohammed Al Khaja came to present his credentials.

The motorcycles did not use sirens, but led the limo into the open gates.

Orange monster over Beit Hanasi in Jerusalem for Purim

You will note the Purim monster from last week was no longer over the gates!

A full red carpet was rolled out, though the IDF band and honor guard were limited in size due to corona restrictions. The fancy red UAE folder to be presented to the Israeli President can be seen here, on the far right.

Surprise! I ended up on Dubai TV news. Yes, that’s me across the street lurking by the white van. Very glad I did not wear my red hoodie.

Inside the Beit Hanasi main hall, both President Rivlin and Mohammed Al Khaja spoke. The new Ambassador presented his credentials and signed the official guest book. No months-long wait as for some other ambassadors.

When it was over President Rivlin walked his guest outside as music played.

The UAE and IDF military honor guard stood as the newest Ambassador to Israel entered the limousine to go to the King David Hotel.

King David Street in front of the hotel is closed, but officials usually use a side entrance. There was almost no one around, but I decided to go home instead of trying to get inside.

Also this week the King David Hotel hosted Prime Minister Netanyahu, Austrian Chancellor Kurz, and Danish PM Frederiksen.

Around the corner the Dan Panorama Hotel was busy, but with a very different group of international arrivals. Returning Israelis were required to quarantine in assigned hotels.

On Friday afternoon, people were dropping off packages before Shabbat. One man was let free after his isolation. If you want to see long emotional hugs, this is the place. No photo though, after travel ordeals and delays, I decided to let you use your imagination when she was finally able to greet him.

The requirement to quarantine in designated hotels is canceled as of today and will be replaced by increased enforcement by the Israel Police regarding those returning from abroad who are quarantining at home.

The night I went by the Panorama Hotel, and I saw that the YMCA was lit for the “Follow the Lights” which because of the Purim restrictions were short-changed.

Even the signs were not posted until late. Millions of shekels and hundreds of hours went into the “social distanced” event and half of the nights, sad to say, most of the lights were out during the curfew.

Back were the Flea Market and Bezalel Arts and Crafts Fair. Shots for shots, vaccinations in Machane Yehudah Market on Thursday night were given at a bar.

The fourth election in two years is set for March 23rd, and signs that go up are then taken down if they are posted in illegal locations. Jerusalem street cleaners are at work, day, and much of the night.

Anti-Bibi people are not happy even though there is another election. They come out daily, rain or shine, with umbrellas to scarves matching their signs of protest. And of course, they are loud at night too. I will spare you those photos and videos here.

Instead, I want to share the newest tourism campaign to ‘return to nature’ this spring in Jerusalem.

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From March 3-20, 2021, Jerusalem invites a return to exploring nature locations.

Winter rains may have been cold and bone-chilling, but the fields are green.

My quiet walking paths will be much busier soon.

There were new signs posted along the way in the Valley of the Cross.

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Will be nice though to see visitors returning to the Jerusalem streets, and off the streets in these nature locations as restrictions are now lifted.

Oh, and the One visitor above the Jerusalem streets?

Pope Francis flew over Israel on his way to Iraq and sent greetings to President Reuven Rivlin from the airplane. President Rivlin was so pleased he tweeted a reply as soon as Shabbat was over.

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