Yom HaZikaron and Yom Haatzmaut 2020

Yom HaZikaron and Yom Haatzmaut 2020

Seeing the world 20-20 used to be an expression of sight.

Hindsight was considered 20-20. This year 2020 took on new meaning.

This year Yom Hazikaron, Memorial Day, and Yom Haatzmaut, Independence Day, moved from the Jerusalem streets to the clouds, to Zoom, and went online.

Until this year, in Jerusalem, Israel, tens of thousands headed to Har Herzl Military Cemetery to visit graves of fallen soldiers on Yom HaZikaron, then on Yom Haatzmaut people gathered in Gan Sacher, Sacher Park, and every other Israeli green space for a mangal,  a barbeque, a huge family and friend-filled day.

Israeli Independence Day at Gan Sacher in 2017

Crowds and traditions and the plastic boppers for Yom Haatzmaut parties had grown to huge proportions.

And then there was this year’s schedule:

Lockdown until 8:00 pm on Wednesday night.

Independence Day at Israeli President house in 2017

The Presidential reception for foreign diplomats serving in Israel

Diplomat reception at Beit Hanasi in 2017

was an impressive gathering in the Beit Hanasi back garden.

Yom Haatzmaut at Beit Hanasi 1969 Diplomat Reception

Hundreds of dignitaries filled the area for the event.

This year is Israel’s 72 Independence Day celebration.

Israeli President and Foreign Minister raise a glass in toast with foreign diplomats for Independence Day
photo credit: Mark Neyman (GPO)

Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz joined President Reuven Rivlin at Beit Hanasi before the holiday and raised a glass to the diplomats who watched from a safe distance at home on their screens.

Monday, April 27

8:00 pm – one-minute siren
8:01 pm – ceremony from the Kotel, Western Wall
9:00  pm- Songs and readings in remembering the fallen

Screen shot of Kotel cleared before Yom HaZikaron

For Yom HaZikaron, the Kotel, Western Wall is cleared as usual for the main national opening ceremony.

military guard at flame for Yom Hazikaron at Western Wall

In the past, as seen for many years, the honor guards stood in dress uniform.

Memorial Day at Western Wall 3 in uniform with masks

Again in 2020, the uniforms, but with masks, and the huge crowd was missing.

Western Wall for yom hazikaron

The memorial flame was lit and the Israeli flag lowered.

Western Wall for Memorial Day state ceremony

The ceremony filled the plaza and was televised live.

It can be found on YouTube.

Israeli President Rivlin wearing a mask at Yom Hazikaron ceremony at Western Wall

Seeing President Rivlin stand wearing a mask during Hatikvah after speaking,

Kotel for Yom Haatzmaut ceremony beginning Yom HaZikaron

and honor guard standing with social distancing – was surreal and 2020 strange.

The siren sounded as usual, but even masks could not hide all the emotions.

Crowd and stage in Sultan's Pool for night of music on Yom Hazikaron

The huge musical events in the Sultan’s Pool – not this year.

Tuesday, April 28

11:00 am – two-minute siren
11:02 am – national memorial ceremony from Har Herzl
1:00 pm – a memorial ceremony for victims of terror

5:00 pm – a full lockdown – only leave home for an emergency

7:40 pm – ceremony ending Yom Hazikaron and the beginning of Yom Ha’atzmaut, the annual torch-lighting ceremony

Grave on Israeli Memorial Day with flag and flower

Israeli Memorial Day with flags and flowers was held but no visits to graves this year on the day.

To remember fallen soldiers and victims of terror

Yizkor memorial ribbons and pins and crowds might have been fewer in number,

but the number of online live and video opportunities has never been greater.

And at sunset on Tuesday night, Yom Haatzmaut celebrations started.

Israeli Independence Day signs, celebrating Independence at home 72

New signs lined the Jerusalem streets, “We are celebrating Independence at Home 72.”

The official state ceremony is broadcast annually on Israeli television before a huge crowd.

Israeli Independence Day stage at Har Herzl

This year the colorful sets and 12 honored torch lighters were prerecorded and available on social media outlets.

Still, lots of lights, but the number of performers was greatly reduced.

Coronavirus reduced IDF march of flags at Mount Herzl for Independence Day Yom Haatzmaut 5780

The IDF flag parade had fewer participants but marched again with social distancing.

Yom Haatzmaut at Tower of David

Jerusalem’s official municipal event was held at the Tower of David, a very different event. The Mayor welcomed the audience at home. Rachaeli Fraenkel spoke and musicians sang prayers. No production numbers or dancers, simple and no pulsating lights.

Late-night music was provided by performers who rode around to various neighborhoods.

Wednesday, April 29

10:00 am – annual Jerusalem broadcast from Beit Hanasi
11:00 am – annual World Bible Quiz

3:22 pm  – IAF flyovers saluting medical workers

7:30 pm – Israel Prize Ceremony

I did not go to the President’s house today as I had wanted.

Israeli President House on Independence Day

The big Outstanding Soldiers of the Year event is to be at some future time.

Israeli President Rivlin

However, this year the President came to my house for Yom Haaztmaut.

His official presentation “All Israel from Jerusalem” ended with the Israeli Philharmonic playing Hatikvah.

However, I liked this prayer group gathered outside on the streets also ended with Hatikvah.

Yom Haatzmaut Google with Israeli flag

This was the year Yom Haatzmaut went online, from Jerusalem out to the world.

You can just google it from anywhere now.

Tanach Hidon on Yom Haatzmaut from Jerusalem Israel

Or watch the popular International Bible Quiz competition HERE.

Yom Haatzmaut flyover in Jerusalem Israel

The annual airshow did not happen, but an IAF did flyover the Knesset and Israeli hospitals to honor hospital workers.

The 2020 Israel Prize Award ceremony at the end of Yom Haatzmaut was also prerecorded and broadcast online.

After Israel Independence Day IDF band on Facebook

And at night after Yom Haatzmaut 2020, the IDF provided more music on Facebook with”Party like it’s 1948.”

Now you can join in anytime to celebrate Israel’s 72 Independence Day at home.

It’s possible from your homes around the globe this year.

Jerusalem Independence Day dinner for two

We’re celebrating and staying off the Jerusalem streets, this year 2020.

Let’s hope we can all celebrate together, next year in Jerusalem.

Israel’s Northern Exposure

Israel’s Northern Exposure

Lebanon formed a new government with Hezbollah approved Prime Minister Hassan Diab.

A quarter of a million residents live within five miles of the northern Israeli border with Lebanon. According to the Confrontation Forum, nearly 70,000 residents have no home security solutions and many more have no easily accessible public shelters. Five billion shekels were allocated for a protection program, but the program has yet to begin.

The killing of Iran Quds Force Commander, Qasem Soleimani, could bring Iran to seek revenge by targeting Israel, through its proxy, Hezbollah, along the northern border. A staggering number of residents within the targeted communities will have no shelters to run to and nowhere to take cover.

Some times you have to get up and get going and see what’s happening in other areas of the country.

Train in Israel ready to go on overpass

On the road north from Jerusalem the train passed going south toward Jerusalem.

Israeli town in Galilee

Arab villages line the main highway Route #6 as one travels north to the Galilee.  

This is a photo summary of a full day of activities, which included meeting Mateh Asher Regional Council (Arab al-Aramshe) Moshe Davidovich, Chairman of the Confrontation Line Forum and Head of the regional council; from Ma’ale Yosef Regional Council (Shtula) Shimon Guetta, Head of the Ma’ale Yosef Regional Council; and  Col. (ret) – Luchy Yossef – Former Commander of the north district of the home front command and CEO of Shlomi.

Water in Israeli field after heavy ran and flooding

After the heavy rains, pools of water remained in some fields even on a clear day.

Cat eating food left over on a table

A Jerusalem cat found its way to the rest stop on Route 6? It is a long trip to the Upper Galilee.

Israel Route 6 Highway Habad House sign

At the rest stop, we saw a sign for the Habad House on Route #6.

Israel Lebanon border fence

At the border fence between Israel and Lebanon, there were few cars.

Bus waiting for sheep to cross the road near Israel border with Lebanon

However, our driver had to wait for a herd of sheep to get off the road.

Israel Lebanon border fences

At the border, there is both new fencing and a bit of the old.

UN Blue Line marker near Israel Lebanon border

A close up of the UN Blue Line, this is the DO NOT TRESPASS marker which marks the Lebanon border.

Israel side of border to take photos of Lebanon

Photographers were lucky to have a perfect weather day on the border for views.

Lebanese village near Israel border

This was the view of Lebanon from the Israeli lookout point over Lebanon.

Buildings near Lebanon border Blue LIne

On a close-up of the view, I wondered how many of those buildings are really residential homes?

Where are the windows? Water tanks? People? Only one satellite dish?

How many missiles and rockets could be fired at us from those open windows?

Hezbollah in Lebanon as seen from Israel

There was Lebanon, with a Hezbollah watchtower and a black-draped ladder against the fence, a close distance just to the left of that “village.”

Israel Lebanon border bus stop for view and food

Israeli-style, a table appeared out of nowhere with cake and fruit and drinks

Upper Galil Israel near Lebanon

along the Blue Line border fence.

Upper Galilee village near Lebanon border

These Jewish, Arab Christian, Muslim and Druze villages are so close, residents have no seconds to run for shelter from a Hezbollah missile or rocket.

Green Galilee in winter in northern Israel

The Upper Galilee scenes from the bus were magnificent, green and lush from the winter rains.

Winter green hills of Upper Galilee as seen from backyard in a moshav

This backyard view from a private Israeli home was one of dozens of impressive landscapes.

Separation wall near Lebanon Israel border

This was what was in the distance, the border with a more serious wall. Israeli forces on the right and Lebanon on the left.

Warning sign near Lebanese Israeli border for IDF army area

This old IDF sign was by an opening in the wall warning of a restricted military zone.

Lebanon as seen from Israeli side of border

Repeated attempts to explain the red and black flag failed. The experts were not sure of its exact meaning.

The posters were said to be of psychological warfare significance. Under the flag was a man in uniform shooting – shooting photographs of us photographing him.

But what I only noticed when trying to get hundreds of images down to this one piece, the photographer was not alone. There is another man dressed in black on the left side of this photo.

They saw us approaching on the Israeli side near the border. Within a few minutes, they appeared to watch us, though we could not see their base.

Shelter in Israel small village near the northern border

After two stops at border locations, we came to meet Israeli residents. The older members of this community are upset. This community shelter is not accessible. There are too many steps and the distance too great for their security needs.  Warfare has changed in the past 14 years of quiet. These old shelters have not been updated.

Northern Galilee view in Israel

Another view from the bus of the Upper Galilee.

Northern Galilee road near Lebanese border

Driving this far up north you can forget about modern highways. We entered this one-lane road with a cement barrier at the side ready to block it, just in case.

Oops, our bus took a wrong turn and met military vehicles going the other way.

iDF vehicle and bus on narrow road

While our driver backed up slowly for quite a distance, to a spot wide enough for the IDF vehicles to pass, I had time to take a photo.

Shlomi municipal center in northern Israel

Shlomi – where nature and city coexist-was the last stop of the day.

Map of upper Galilee Israel near Lebanon border

This map was in the security center of growing area with a population of 7000 residents.

Photo of Habad Rebbe in Shlomi command center security room

After a long day of hi-tech security projections, I was amused to see a photo of the Lubavitcher Rebbe on the wall.

Farms covering looking like water in northern Israel

We emerged from a Shlomi bomb shelter in drastic need of modernization to meet today’s needs. In the distance there appeared to be a large body of water.

No, we were not near any sea or a lake. Those were covers over agricultural fields glistening in the late afternoon light.

Shlomi sunset in winter northern Israel

As the sun was setting, we headed back to Jerusalem. A beautiful day trip to the most northern and a gorgeous part of Israel.

Quiet for fourteen years. But the IDF must constantly stay on guard.  Hezbollah is just over the Blue Line. UNIFIL is supposed to be watching. However, under their watch, terror tunnels were dug down and into Israeli territory. The known terror tunnels were recently destroyed.

What will happen next? We will have to wait and see Iran’s next moves.

A few hours drive, so near, yet so different from the Jerusalem streets.

Jerusalem, Israel Diverse and Democratic

Jerusalem, Israel Diverse and Democratic

Jerusalem, Israel is a busy place in the winter holiday season.

“It is no surprise that both the Jewish and Christian traditions share holidays of light – the light of faith and hope, even in the face of darkness…

As guardians of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, the State of Israel is committed to religious freedom for all,” said President Reuven Rivlin.

“Jerusalem must serve as a model for peace and harmony between religions.”

Jerusalem Israel for Hanuka at Old City Jaffa Gate near Tower of David

This past week Hanukkah was celebrated in Jerusalem, Israel.

Jerusalem lights on Agron Street for Hanukkah

Also this year Hanukkah coincided with the Christmas holiday season.

Neutral lighting lined some of the major streets.

Hebrew University had no classes on December 25th.

construction on Jerusalem Gaza Street backed up in morning

Traffic volume plus street repairs created backups even when the sun was shining.

In the rain? Forget getting anywhere in the usual amount of time!

Jerusalem Israel YMCA Christmas tree in lobby

In the past inside the YMCA was a sure bet for finding a holiday tree and decorations.

Jerusalem Christmas decorations at YMCA

This year the outside tree was decorated and additional lights placed at the entrance.

Suffganiot and Christmas tree at First Station

This year at First Station along with those Hanukkah donuts there was a Christmas tree.

Hanuka and Christmas in Jerusalem Israel

The banner sign at First Station next to the Hanukkah menorah had greetings for Hanukkah and Christmas.

Jerusalem Hotel in Old City with Christmas light

The lights at night in the Old City were bright inside of Jaffa Gate.

Santa in Jerusalem Israel for Christmas

That Santa Claus was not out at night when I looked for him, but he appeared in his annual spot near Jaffa Gate the next day.

Jerusalem Israel New Gate decorated for Christmas holiday

Inside the New Gate decorations greeted the holiday crowds to the Christian Quarter and churches.

Lights on Jerusalem Israel French Hospital at night in holiday season

Outside of the Old City walls, the lights on the St. Lous French Hospital brightened it up at night.

Jerusalem December Holiday crowds

The holiday week crowds filled the narrow streets in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City.

It’s official. A record number of holiday tourists were on the Jerusalem streets this year.

Israeli president cat in Beit Hanasi garden

At Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s residence, the Presidential cat was watching over the grounds at the annual New Year reception for the heads of the Christian denominations in Israel.

An Israeli police officer taking a group photograph for New Year reception

Inside at the reception guests posed and smiled for photos.

Christian leaders in Israel at Israeli President's Residence for annual New Year Reception

Israeli Minister of the Interior Aryeh Deri;  the acting Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem; the representative of the Armenian Patriarchate; head of the Franciscan Order in Jerusalem, the Custos of the Holy Land; and the Melkite Greek Catholic Church Archeparch of Akka (Akko) were among the participants.

Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem spoke on behalf of the religious leaders.

In his remarks President Rivlin invited the Pope to the dedication ceremony for the Land of the Monasteries project in 2020, saying:

“We are about to finish clearing all of the mines from the Land of the Monasteries at the very beginning of the coming year. Already the number of Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land is increasing each year. Just this year, close to 900,000 pilgrims visited the Land of Monasteries. We are working hard to complete the development of the entire area by the end of 2020.”

Land mines placed in old buildings for security near Jordan River Kasser-Al -Yahud

As part of this initiative, land mines laid in the 1970s for security reasons, which prevented access to the area, have been cleared.

Kasser Al Yahud area building of old

The process has been an ongoing project in the ancient area, which has been under development to a new tourist center for years.

Kasser al Yahud Israeli and Jordanian border

The area is called Qasr-Al-Yahud where the Jordan River is divided between Jordan and Israel.

Interior Minister MK Rabbi Aryeh Deri at Israeli President's house for new year reception for Christian leaders

Minister of the Interior, Aryeh Deri: “Freedom of worship and religion in Jerusalem, the Holy City, will be preserved for all and we will continue to preserve Jerusalem as the Holy City for all religions. Unfortunately, we live in an era when antisemitism raises its head around the world, most recently in the terrible incident in Monsey, New York. We must all fight antisemitism wherever it occurs, and we must all reject and condemn it in a loud and clear voice against any outbreak of antisemitism and violence.”

Israeli president shaking hands at new year reception with christian leaders

In his remarks, the President once again repeated, “We must remember that we are not doomed to live together, we are destined to live together, and we, therefore, must advance initiatives which will benefit all of us.”

“In a few weeks, I will host leaders from around the world at Yad Vashem, to commemorate seventy-five years to the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and to call on all humanity, to preserve the memory of the Holocaust, and fight antisemitism and hate.”

Antisemitism is becoming more blatant around the world.

Meanwhile, the Israeli leadership has become more “relaxed” and welcoming to religious diversity in Jerusalem with more neutral holiday lights and greetings, and enticing more Christian pilgrims to Qsar-Al-Yahud and other locations.

Some will find this very positive.

Others will find it the opposite.

The discussion of Israel, Jewish and democratic and diverse, will not cease with a new government.

But I will end with something new for me, I had to take out the video for this one.

Always something new on the Jerusalem streets.