18 Good Things in Jerusalem: From Yom Kippur to Sukkot

Oh what a different year this is in Jerusalem!

Jerusalem, Israel was the destination for millions of visitors for the autumn holiday season. The streets were filled with rental cars and excited tourists.

This year due to the coronavirus restrictions, the Kotel, Western Wall Plaza is mostly deserted, day and night time.

The area inside the Wilson’s Arch is closed again.

For Yom Kippur most synagogues were closed.

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Some synagogues made use of their outdoor spaces with tents.

Pop-up street services were held by small groups of neighbors coming together. Doing the best they could manage with cars, cyclists, children on noisy scooters, and dog walkers coming through the random plastic chairs spread around.

  1. The sounds of prayers filled the Jerusalem streets.

In spite of COVID-19 restrictions, hundreds of cars noisily made their way to Jerusalem and to the Knesset after Yom Kippur.

After months of loud late night disturbances in Jerusalem, the black shirts were again on their way in the morning to the Knesset.

Loud, some profane, some with young children, they paraded and screamed in the midday sun. The over the top display could still be heard when after midnight the Knesset voted to limit the protesters numbers and locations to one kilometer from home. Rules the rest of the country we’re supposed to follow.

The protesters are getting more than their share of headlines and filling news feeds. COVID-19 pandemic is a global problem, the deaths tragic.

I have decided to share good things happening you might have missed.

2. The weather has cooled, colorful clouds cover the Knesset at sunset.

That bit of red is a postal truck, nice to know the mail has not stopped moving during the latest set of lockdown restrictions.

The big crane on the left is for the new National Library under construction.

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3. Building has continued all these months of pandemic.

I am fascinated by the work on the library roof structure. One day in the future I will share the progress with you.

4. The Harvest Moon was shining bright.

Mars was too far away to get a good photo of both together. However, a Blue Moon is due to appear the end of the month. Another chance.

Photo credit: GIRO PR

5. Israeli Start-Up Nation was on the front line of the Giro d’Italia.

In the international bike race, Maglia Azzurra, King of the Mountains, was Rick Zabel representing Israel in the blue uniform.

6. There are quiet spots to meet and keep your distance in Jerusalem.

Hotels are closed again with the new COVID-19 restrictions. A few had opened partially over the summer for Israeli guests.

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Photo credit: United Hatzalah spokesperson

7. Lights were visible at night at the Crowne Plaza.

The hotel had been dark every night, closed since March. Presently, United Hatzalah workers are based in the conveniently located hotel.

8. Mayor Moshe Lion said keeping Jerusalem clean is a priority.

The Jerusalem Municipality clean up trucks have become a regular sight on the Jerusalem streets. The days of furnishing your apartment with cast-offs off the street are over unless you are very quick before a truck arrives.

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Photo Credit: Jerusalem Mayor Spokesperson

9. Three Machane Yehudah Market, shuk, streets got names and signs,Ha-Tut” or “Strawberry” Street was one.

Photo credit: Jerusalem Mayor Spokesperson

Another was “Arbaat Haminim” or “Four Species” Street. The sign over a nearly deserted street which would have been packed with shoppers any other year before the Sukkot holiday.

Men looking at etrogim

Thousands of careful shoppers would have come to select their etrog and luluv and greens for their four-holiday species as in this old photo. This year the small kiosks on Jerusalem streets in various neighborhoods filled the void.

lulav sukkot

The Kotel, Western Wall would be packed with tens of thousands of people for the Sukkot holiday in the past.

Not this year. Numbers are extremely limited and distanced.

The huge Birkat Kohanim – Priestly Blessing did not happen this year.

A lone kohen did the blessing on the second day of Sukkot.

On Monday, October 5, the corona style Birkat Kohanim was recorded and put on YouTube for all to have a front-row view. HERE

10. With the impending corona restrictions, many sukkot were put up early, before Yom Kippur instead of after or last minute.

On roof tops,

and on porches,

and even our open-air sukkah for two instead of twenty was ready early.

11. Imagine, a sukkah in Dubai ready for kosher meals!

12. A sign of normal in crazy times! Cut palm branches tied to top of a car to take home for the sukkah.

This will be the year a small porch sukkah is “in” in Jerusalem.

With fabric walls up on a porch,

or tucked away in the garden.

Reuven Rivlin greets public at open house on Succos

Last year President Rivlin was surrounded by crowds of visitors for the annual Open Sukkah at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence.

Two years ago he invited the public to the presidential sukkah that had a health theme at a press conference before Sukkot.

13. President Rivlin’s last open house as President will be virtual.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020, between 10:00 and 12:30 Israeli time – join in www.sukkot-president-science.co.il 

The broadcast will be available on Beit HaNasi’s Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube channels.

No need to put on shoes, stand in a long line in the hot sun to enter, or even leave your house to attend this year.

Sukka photo, Image unusual sukkah

No big public Sukkot public events in parks are to be held this year.

15. However, this mobile sukkah is to be out on our Jerusalem street.

The sound and light shows will not have hundreds of people each night.

I couldn’t decide which to share, so here are two segments from shows:

16. City of David Sound and Light Show Finale

17. Tower of David Museum Night Show on King David

18. Such clever work by talented friends Jessica and Yael!

Moadim l’simcha.

Jerusalem Yom Kippur Eve

Oh Jerusalem!

When I lead photo walks, I try to arrive across from Jaffa Gate as the sun is setting to show off the Jerusalem of Gold. The sun reflected off the stones, depending on conditions, appears either golden or pink on cloudy days.

On Friday afternoon, before Shabbat, the Kotel, Western Wall, stones were pure golden hues, However, there was no one there to appreciate the moment. No crowds to pray afternoon or evening prayers.

At 2:00 pm on Friday, September 25, 2020, a lockdown was to begin, after a sharp rise in COVID-19, people are not to go more than 1 kilometer from home.

The Israel Museum and all others are again closed, this time until at least October 11, after the Sukkot holidays.

Most people, like the ants, were out busily preparing for whatever might be needed for holidays and the unknown weather- and whatever is to happen next.

Even before the lockdown announcement, for the solemn day of Yom Kippur, 61% of Jewish Israelis said that they do not intend to attend synagogue at all this year, and only 34% planned on coming to some or all of the services. In the past those numbers were much higher.

Now, like Rosh Hashana, we plan to be home and alone.

Yom Kippur services with reduced numbers of 20 are planned for outside. This is to be a holiday season like none other.

Bar Ilan University posted a day of Zoom live courses on Facebook on Wednesday for the public on various related holiday topics. The list of lectures, classes, and changing regulations seems endless.

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People were out on paths getting in their 1 kilometer from home walks.

I hope my less known route does not become as popular.

The Jerusalem Municipality sponsored programs and selihot for the week before Yom Kippur, with singer Moshe Louk scheduled for Wednesday night leading Piyutim.

Two years ago Louk led Selihot at Beit Hanasi, in the Israeli President’s Residence Synagogue. Sadly there will be none there this year.

Stores were closed and locked up on Friday afternoon.

I wonder how many businesses will never open up again.

The Jerusalem cats were out in full force on the streets Friday afternoon.

Major intersections were quieter, much quieter than a regular Friday.

Even the cats seemed quieter, waiting, not sure what would be next.

A sharp increase in the number of corona patients in the Arab sector was of concern. Large weddings were held in the afternoon to get around curfews.

Photo credit: United Hatzalah spokesperson

Jerusalem Municipality and United Hatzalah of Israel, with more than 20 EMS volunteers driving ambucycles, an ambulance, fly cars, and an ATV, drove through neighborhoods in order to spread awareness of the dangers of COVID-19 to the residents.

Mayor Moshe Lion also joined the procession in order to strengthen the efforts of the volunteers and encourage the residents to stay home and safe.

At the same time, nature seems normal, with shorter days, fall colors, and a new season.

President Rivlin’s term is up in July 2021. There will be no next year Selihot for him to host at Beit Hanasi.

This year with very limited numbers and restrictions on religious services.

The main Selihot erev Yom Kippur were very different.

The Kotel, Western Wall plaza was mostly empty during a live broadcast.

Meanwhile, thousands arrived by car to Jerusalem on Shabbat, and for two hours after, heading to Paris Square to protest against the government.

New bright lights lined Ruppin Street outside the Knesset as they met to work out the latest coronavirus regulations.

As Israel goes into the Yom Kippur holiday, with people alone at home, or on the streets fasting and praying, pray for wisdom and unity as well as health this year.

At the very first of many webinars on COVID-19, way back in March, the expert from South Korea stated the number one factor in controlling the virus was trust in the government.

May all be sealed for a good and healthy year.

Next Year in Jerusalem!

Remembering Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz z”l

Remembering Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz z”l

Knowledge is the key to growth in society, not wealth or power.

How do you create a lasting and egalitarian society?

“Giving people access to knowledge,” says Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

Mourners of RAbbi Adin Even Israel

On Friday, August 7, 2020, the 17th day of Av, the funeral of Rav Adin Even-Israel z”l, more commonly known as Rabbi Steinsaltz z”l, was held in Jerusalem, Israel. He was buried in the Chabad section of the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives.

Mount of Olives funeral of Rav Adin Steisaltz on Friday August 7, 2020

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the number of mourners allowed was restricted.  Were it not for those restrictions, thousands would have come to pay respects in person in spite of the blazing sun on a Friday afternoon. These images are screenshots from a live broadcast.

During this past week of shiva, the traditional mourning week, also under coronavirus restrictions, many testimonials have been published. I, too, have also thought back to my encounters with the famed rabbi.

Australian mission at Beit Hanasi listening to Ezer Weitzman speaking -1995

Back in 1995, Ezer Weizman was in the midst of his first term as President of Israel.

Australian leadership mission at Heichel Shlomo with Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau in 1995

Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau was the Chief Rabbi, the Chief Rabbinate was still based in Heichel Shlomo.

Rabbi Bill Altshul and Isi Leibler from Melbourne, Australia with Rabbi Steinsaltz in Jerusalem after a lecture

Isi Leibler, (right) was the president of the Australian Institute for Jewish Affairs and led an ECAJ (Executive Council of Australian Jewry) leadership mission to Israel. One of the most memorable sessions of those full days was a talk by Rav Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz z”l. “Yichus,” the Rabbi told his audience, is like the potato: the best part of the plant lies in the ground.

Rabbi Adin Even Israel at Jerusalem International Book Fair in 2015

A more recent encounter was at the 2015 International Book Fair at First Station in the Hangar, which had sparse attendance. Rav Steinsaltz sat to sign books at the Koren booth, largely unnoticed by the few people in the vast hall.

Rabbi Adin Steinslatz speaking at Beit Hanasi for 929 program

In October 2016, at one of the early 929 Bible Study groups at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence, hosted by President Reuven and the late Nechama Rivlin z”l, Rabbi Steinsaltz z”l had his arm in a sling, and left eye was blackened, but he rose to speak and shared words of Jewish wisdom with the diverse crowd.

Rabbi Adin Even Israel with son Meni and grandson at dinner in his honor at Orient Hotel

However, in June 2018, at the Jerusalem Orient Isrotel Hotel, Rabbi Adin Even-Israel z”l walked into the ballroom escorted by his son Meni and his grandson.

Dinner crowd for Rabbi Adin Even Israel Steinsaltz gala 80th celebration

The room was filled with admirers at a gala dinner to honor the rabbi’s 80th birthday and the success of the Steinsaltz Center.

People greet Rabbi Adin Even Israel at gala dinner celebration

President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein offered video greetings.  A constant stream of well-wishers came to speak with the frail rabbi, men and women, young and old.

MK Zeev Elkin greeting Rabbi Adin Even Israel Steinsaltz

MK Zeev Elkin was one of the many dignitaries present at the dinner event.

Dinner for Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz at the Orient Lord Rabbi Sacks speaking

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks was the keynote speaker.

And what an eloquent, erudite, and inspiring talk it was!

Avrum Fried performing at gala for Rav Adin Even Israel 80th celecration

The musical performance by Avrum Fried was exceptional.

The popular singer sat next to Rabbi Adin Even-Israel z”l near the conclusion of the evening. People stood around. The niggun went on and on as if people did not want the marvelous evening to end.

Steinsaltz Center video screen

Rabbi Arial Holland was of the many people involved with the Steinsaltz Center to appear in the video comments. “Be it children or adults, the work and words of Rabbi Steinsaltz z”l have affected millions.”

Rabbi Adin Even Israel Steinsaltz at gala dinner at Jerusalem Orient in 2018

It was quite a night, a night to remember. Honors were paid to one man who changed the world of Jewish knowledge. His translations, at first criticized, opened up ancient Aramaic texts from the study hall to a larger readership, first in Hebrew, then in English, French, and Russian.

Six years ago for the funeral of the 3 boys, Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali z’l, Rav Adin Steinsaltz’s inspiring words are worth sharing again:

“A dark cloud has befallen our nation today. Our hearts are broken, yet united with the hearts of the boys’ families, as we mourn and we cry with them. We cannot erase the evil. But we can create good. We can transform the world through goodness by living as Jews and acting as Jews, with our Torah and mitzvot.”

We cannot erase death. But we can acknowledge the good.

The life and work of Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz z”l exemplify how one man could transform the world. His life and actions continue to enable more and more Jews to learn Torah and do mitzvot. 

May his memory be for a blessing.