Jerusalem Looking Forward to New Year 2021

As the calendar year of 2020 comes to a close, I think it is safe to say 2020 has been a most unusual year. Not the best of years, unless computers and online sessions are your favorite things.

In 2019, millions of visitors were in Jerusalem, Israel, and things were thriving and growing and going great.

But then, in March, closings due to the novel coronavirus pandemic hit Jerusalem – hard. Businesses closed. The poor got poorer. Seniors living alone became more isolated than before.

The view from the Tayelet was one of the few things familiar in 2020.

The newest popular spot is a seat in the health fund, in the chair for the COVID-19 vaccine. Interestingly the information sheets were in Hebrew and Arabic, and not in English.

With a third lockdown looming, people took advantage to get outside when the skies cleared this past week.

Tayelet scene Muslim woman  near Hanukkah menorah

I went to the Tayelet after Hanukkah and the large Menorah was still there.

Not all was Hanukkah in Jerusalem this past week.

Tour group on Tayelet

Tours from Israeli business groups were spotted in multiple locations, and not just the Tayelet with its view of Old City.

Piano by Tayelet

The public pianos attracted small groups and music filled the brisk air.

Jerusalem parks have been upgraded, new ones built, and were open for all.

As in past years, the Jerusalem Municipality gave out free trees to the Christian residents. And as usual, though the distribution was advertised as between 9-12:00 near Jaffa Gate, they went quickly.

Here is a gift shop near Jaffa Gate. An Arab woman passes by the store where Jewish religious garments are on display. Bethany wearing the blue jacket is from Canada, inside with her tree safely stashed in her cart.

Later she told me she came with her friend Sarah at 9:00 am. to be sure and get a tree. People stopped as we chatted at 11:00 am to ask where she got it.

Sorry, every year, only the early birds get those trees.

Seems when the post office near Jaffa Gate is open, there is a waiting line.

Santas were there early in the week, but gone by Friday, December 25th.

The crowds on Friday were headed to Muslim midday prayers.

However, Friday, I did spot a few of Santa’s helpers, or at least the red hats.

At Jerusalem’s New Gate, it was not a bright and happy holiday season.

However, the lights were bright all month at night at the YMCA.

And those lights strung down from the YMCA bell tower lit up the sky impressively from a distance.

Take out food was allowed. People came to Mamilla Mall to eat. Stores were open, and to shop, but access was limited.

However, the open malls are to close by 5:oopm Sunday, December 27, 2020.

These capsule plastic igloos popped up at First Station for small groups to eat their takeout meals. But for lockdown #3 these are a new no-no.

While people did come to eat, the craft stalls have been empty for months.

It was sad to see that the first dairy restaurant to open in the new First Station is now closed.

With Saturn aligned with Jupiter many looked to the heavens for light.

This year the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens offered colorful lights at night.

From across the pond the reflections were quite a popular show.

But December 26, 2020 was the last chance to register and go for now.

It is also had to close. Nature reserves and parks are not to open for at least two week, and maybe more.

The Israel Museum was lit in red at night on December 26, in support of an international Red Alert Campaign. Before I had a chance to share that the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem was open again, and go see YEMEN, it had to close. Culture has been hard hit, with institutions closed for months.

February 2020 seems like a life time ago.

But not to leave you and December 2020, on such a low and down note –

here is a favorite scene from this past week. An elderly Arab man had dropped his cane and could not bend down to pick it up. Several people walked by either not noticing or pretending not to see his problem. As I walked toward him, a Jewish woman also noticed. She had been on her way to Jaffa Gate, but came back and bent down to give him the cane.

So there you have it some of this past week in Jerusalem, Israel.

He was speaking about upcoming Israeli elections, but Eyal Arad’s comment about the Israeli Air Force – “the thing you don’t see is what shoots you down” seems apt here for this past corona year.

Of course, there was more, but this is getting too long and I want to conclude with a new video with added English subtitles.

The novel coronavirus vaccine program is going strong.

From Sunday to Wednesday 650,000 people were vaccinated.

Let’s hope a 3rd lockdown is the last one.

Take care and stay well and

hope to see you in 2021 on the Jerusalem streets.

Oh, Hanukkah 2020

Anyone else have the feeling that Hanukkah was long ago?

Hanukkah ended Friday night and was immediately followed by Shabbat.

Under the corona time blur, Hanukkah 2020 already feels long gone.

During Hanukkah, hundreds of people made aliyah, and arrived to live in Israel, from around the world. They included Bnei Menashe from India and Falasha Mura from Ethiopia. This time the group arrived on an Ethiopian jetliner and not sneaking out of Sudan by boat as they did in Operation Moses in 1984.

With COVID-19 regulations, all those arriving were to go straight to a quarantine location for two weeks.

For those of us in Jerusalem, Israel parks have new outside seating areas for nice weather, but much of the week it rained.

Which of these shuttered restaurants will reopen after being forced to close?

The scene at the New Gate was bleak as well, at a time when it is usually full of holiday pilgrims and tourists.

But it was Hanukkah in Jerusalem, and the electric chanukiah was out.

Photo credit: Mark Neyman GPO

For his last Hanukkah in Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence, Ruvi Rivlin came out to light candles with his neighbors on the fourth night.

President Rivlin giving donuts to soldiers
Photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom (GPO)

Each night President Rivlin went to a different location to celebrate Hanukkah. On a trip north, he stopped to give suffganiot and a special orange cake to soldiers on guard duty.

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion had a special Hanukkah event for volunteers, and like most events this year, it was online with attendees on Zoom.

The chanukiah on top of the Knesset on the fifth night was lit up as usual.

The new street lights were lit after dark along some Jerusalem streets.

This chanukiah was lit near the Prime Minister’s residence where protests are still going after 26 weeks. This was the fifth night.

There was this chanukiah many stories above the street, visible during the 5th day.

But in Jerusalem, you have to get out to see the lights at night.

The Chabad lights at Paris Square (an off-protest night) on the fifth night,

and street lights lined the way over King David Street.

A few lights were on at the King David Hotel. Though closed to the public due to corona restrictions, a few rooms on the top floor had lights on.

The King David Hotel had a very corona-downscaled 90th-year celebration.

In Mamilla Mall friends were taking photos, but there were no huge dancing crowds as in the past ten years with free suffganiot for all.

People came day or night to Mamilla Mall- when it wasn’t raining hard.

This chanukiah was much more interesting lit at night than last week during the day.

Hanukkah is the one time of year in Jerusalem that at night you can see in people’s windows and the lights shine out.

But that was one of the only things that was “normal” this year.

UN Ambassadors at Israeli President's house on tour led by Danny Danon

Last year Ambassador Danny Danon brought a group of UN Ambassadors to Israel to see the country themselves, as he had for a number of years.

This year his conference went online with Nikki Haley as guest speaker.

Beit Hanasi garden in Jerusalem Israel photo with visiting UN Ambassadors

Certainly not the same experience as last year when these UN Ambassadors were in Israel with Danon’s diplomatic mission.

On Monday night the walls near Jaffa Gate, were lit up with comments

from around the world, sent in by participants for “Our Common Destiny.”

Common Destiny meeting with Israeli President

In September 2019, Jewish community leaders from around the world were invited into Beit Hanasi to work on a Common Destiny statement.

For Hanukkah 2020, the result of the pandemic, was a program online.

The major excitement this year at the Kotel, Western Wall candle lightings was the participation of visitors from the United Arab Emirates. It was one night that the heavy rains did not dampen enthusiasm and attendance.

In spite of pandemic, 50,000 Israelis have already flown to the UAE.

Yes, the number sounds high, but since November 26 – 10 flights a day!

Man lighting candles in house while grandchildren watch from outside due to COVID10

This Hanukkah 2020 was not canceled but curtailed and quiet.

I prepared four latkes, instead of 400–no big family get-together this year.

It was not the usual Hanukkah in Jerusalem with thousands from around the world gathering to celebrate. Eilat and the Dead Sea were green islands for some Israeli families who managed a holiday getaway.

Meanwhile, the Tower of David was the location of a live music broadcast sponsored by Jerusalem municipality. Instead of fighting crowds and finding parking, one could sit at home, dry and warm in PJs, and watch your favorite performers on-screen this Hanukkah.

Candles were lit before the Jerusalem Theater Hanukkah performance.

The concert was recorded and available to see at your convenience.

Even if Hanukkah feels so long ago, the music and program were well done.

Enjoy Nes Gadol Haya Po, a Great Miracle Happened Here.

And let’s hope all can join together for Hanukkah next year in Jerusalem.