Jerusalem Lag B’Omer to Yom Yerushalayim

Jerusalem Lag B’Omer to Yom Yerushalayim

Jerusalem, Israel center of the world?

Jerusalem at center of world

This mural, based on a medieval map, is at Kikar Safra, Municipal Square, and is called “Center of the World.” There’s Jerusalem in the center with Europe, Asia, and Africa positioned around it.

Walls of Old City Jerusalem Israel light with flags and we stand with you COVID-19

With the world going virtual and viral during this coronavirus crisis, a night of unity with the Diaspora was held with a projection on the walls of the Old City near Jaffa Gate, which had flags and the message “Israel stands with you.”

Now is a good time to stay inside.

A May heatwave is not unusual in Jerusalem.

Neither is the weather going from too cold to too hot.

However, this week is very hot!

Jerusalem Israel view of Valley of Cross from above

On my last walk before locking down, the Valley of Cross was bright green.

Today in the dry heat it is rapidly turning to summertime dead yellow.

But the big news, after over 500 days and 3 elections – there is a government.

Israeli Government 35 cabinet in Chagall Hall

The new Israeli Government #35 has 36 Ministers and 15 Deputy Ministers. The first socially distanced meeting was held in the Chagall Hall. Already there is the discussion (or rather dispute) whether this is better than a 4th election. Time will tell, but stability and progress would be nice. Meanwhile coming up with clever names for ministerial positions kept some folks entertained.

Lag B’Omer was very different this year, besides the cool weather last week.

In Jerusalem, we could open our windows, as air quality was a great improvement over past Lag B’Omer celebrations.

The smell of forest fires was in the air this morning, though we cannot see anything burning.

However, for Lag B’Omer, Jerusalem is not the place to be, but usually Meron is.

Light large fire at Meron on Lag B'Omer

This year the only legal large bonfires were in Meron.

Where, instead of the usual tens of thousands of people crowding around, 50 guests were allowed for each of three fires.

One of the Lag B’Omer events at Mount Meron was broadcast live by the Government Press Office.

Singers on Lag B'Omer at Meron at night

Musicians and speakers were spread out on various outdoor positions.

Screen shot GPO live of Meron on Lag B'Omer coronavirus

The guitarist was wearing a mask.

Boyaner rebbe wearing gloves at Mount Meron

The Boyaner Rebbe who was honored to light the fire wore gloves.

Two Haredi men wearing hats and face shields COVID19

These two men wore face shields, at a very different Meron celebration this Lag B’Omer.

In Jerusalem, for Lag B’Omer in the afternoon, our local Chabad tried to provide some music.

It was not quite Macy’s parade but was meant to entertain the children at home.

Now schools have reopened and traffic appears to be back to normal.

Emergency MDA bus
Credit MDA Spokesperson

COVID-19 new cases and other numbers have gone down. But MDA is ready with its latest emergency vehicle – a MDA bus.

Inside demonstration of new MDA bus treatment center
Credit MDA Spokesperson

Inside multiple patients can be treated at the same time as seen demonstrated above.

Israel transports into Gaza in May 2020 COVID-19

The entire time of this novel coronavirus Israel has sent supplies into Gaza on a regular basis. The first week of May, 260 tons of medical supplies crossed over from Kerem Shalom Crossing.

View of Nachlaot in Jerusalem Israel

On my last photo walk, this was a view of Shaarei Hesed.

Liberty Bell Park in Jerusalem Israel in January 2020

Here is another image from the Liberty Bell Park.

For the first time, Jerusalem has overtaken Eilat in the number of hotel rooms (11,100) and now has the most in Israel. Some hotels are planning to start open next month.

No idea when photo walks will start up again.

King George Street Yom Yerushalayim

The crowds of singing and dancing for Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, will not happen as in the past years. The major official event will begin at Mercaz Harav Yeshiva on Wednesday evening with the Prime Minister and President scheduled to speak.

Music and songs will be broadcast by Jerusalem municipality and multiple organizations. Smaller events are to be held in Jerusalem community locations.

Plus, there are to be small local flag dances in dozens of cities around Israel to celebrate the 53 yeas of the reunification of Jerusalem.

Yom HaZikaron and Yom Haatzmaut flags and flowers

Neighbors have their flags ready for Yom Yerushalayim. 

Jerusalem Pesach crowd on Jaffa Road

Celebrations changed drastically this year. The large holiday crowds did not appear as last year.

Jerusalem Israel Dome of Rock Old City

For centuries Jerusalem has been an attraction. Last year, 1.26 million tourists stayed in Jerusalem, spending a total of 4.17 million nights in the city.

Jerusalem continues to be Israel’s largest city, with 919,400 residents.

For a second consecutive year, there was negative migration of -6000, the lowest level for a decade. Of those leaving the city, 46% have left for communities in the Jerusalem metropolitan area. The number of those moving to Jerusalem is the highest ever – 12,800 people.

Red sky at sunset over Israel Museum in Jerusalem Israel

And the blazing sky over the Israel Museum and Jerusalem streets at sunset – impressive.

Counting Days in 2020 – Lag B’Omer 5780

Counting Days in 2020 – Lag B’Omer 5780

What have you been counting lately? Days? Weeks? Months?

A half a million Israeli children went back to gan, nursery school, this morning. Parents have been counting the days for these youngsters who were home to return to their organized classrooms with warm and welcoming, smiling teachers. More than the usual apprehension was behind this “first day” of school – for the second first day of school this year – for their little ones. This new round of “first-day” photos filled Whatsapp groups and Facebook pages.

Children from grades 1-3 went back to school last week.  Also, those students in grades 11-12 who have been counting the days until the end of the year or end of school exams.

Screen shot from video of Eli Varenberg to get into shuk first day repopened

Hundreds counted the days for the Machane Yehudah Market, shuk, to reopen. Long lines of customers appeared wanting to enter on the first day, Thursday, May 7th, as seen in a video taken by tour guide Eli V.

Transportation, parks, museums are opening, including the Jerusalem Aquarium. 

Near Israeli Knesset buses lined up on road outside

I lost count long ago of the number and reasons for recent protests. Buses lined the road to the Knesset this past week for one.

Counting the days of the week until Shabbat is the old normal.

Jews have been counting the days from Pesach until Shavuot for centuries.  During the 49 day time period, the 33rd day or Lag B’Omer has been a day of celebration. In Israel, huge bonfires have been the norm, with children starting before Pesach to gather wood of all types to burn on that night.

This year Lag B’Omer, starting May 11 at night, is to be very different.

From Thursday, May 7, 2020, until Wednesday, May 13, 2020, lighting fires are prohibited throughout the country.

bonfire on lag b'Omer

Lighting bonfires and being present near bonfires will be prohibited, except for the bonfires on Mt. Meron according to special directives. The huge fires in Jerusalem parks and open spaces as in the past are not to be this year.

Jerusalem for Lag B’Omer usually is not the place to be.

However, Meron is where tens of thousands of people converge.

Blue dome at Meron in day light

Last year I shared photos of Meron without crowds.

For the upcoming holiday of Lag B”Omer, 3 bonfires are to be lit on Mount Meron. One for Ashkenazi Jews, one for Sephardi Jews and one for the Religious-Zionist community, with no more than 50 people at each.
Rabbi Haim Drukman will lead the bonfire of the Religious-Zionist community, the bonfire for Ashkenazi Jews is meant to be lit by head of the Boyan Hassidic dynasty Rabbi Nachum Dov Brayer and the bonfire for Sephardi Jews is to be lit by Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Shlomo Amar.
From Thursday, May 14, 2020, until 6:00 am on Sunday, May  17, 2020, entry to – and presence in – the immediate area of the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and the community of Meron shall be prohibited, including the renting of bed-and-breakfasts and guestrooms in this area to anyone who does not reside there, as stated in the official government memo.
Meron women praying
 But note near the end of official notice – the Religious Services Minister shall give equal representation to various communities, including fair representation for women.
I did not take the opportunity to go last year, certainly not this year.
Lag BOmer Chabad Rechavia ad from your porch
In Jerusalem, Chabad Rechavia has come up with an alternative to its annual parade through the streets. A limousine parade to be viewed from home.
Chabad Lag B'Omer parade in Jerusalem at Mamilla Mall
And a virtual drumming event, instead of the real deal from past Lag B’Omer celebrations. Chabad Talbiya also has a stay at home and see the parade event planned.
Around the world, we are seeing events, summer fairs, and international conferences begin cancelled because of the current coronavirus pandemic.
The Jerusalem Writers Festival at Mishkanot Shaananim is moving online starting May 13th.
The Jerusalem Film Festival is also to go online at the end of the month with other international film festivals.
Israeli soccer is to return on May 30, the date that El Al flights are also set to resume.
Meanwhile, instead of running around, I will keep on Zooming from meeting to meeting.
Screen shot of a Dr Suess Zoom slide
Stay well out there.
Old City lions painted with wash your hands during COVID19
Photo Credit: Joshua Wander
And as my friends, the lions in the Old City, now remind visitors – wash your hands.
Jerusalem Streets Go Virtual for Passover Pleasure

Jerusalem Streets Go Virtual for Passover Pleasure

Jerusalem, Israel this time of year is usually one of the busiest.

Pesach, Passover, has many other names, including the holiday of spring, and the holiday of freedom. Streets are usually full of people, rental cars, tour buses, and holiday pilgrims.

This year the yearning for freedom from home isolation was felt around the world as the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic kept people inside their homes.

This year with Pesach and Easter coinciding streets should have been packed.

Instead, they are empty.

Three years ago this was the scene at the Kotel, Western Wall for Birkat Kohanim, Priestly Blessing.

Ten men prayed together at the Kotel and recited the blessing today.

A tiny microbe has done what wars, stabbings, suicide bombers, car-rammings and other forms of terror could not accomplish.

However, if nothing else, Israelis are resilient.

Moving off the streets and online, here are five suggestions to experience Jerusalem over this holiday week.

  1.  Instead of sharing places to go and things to do in Jerusalem, Fun in Jerusalem is offering at home ideas.

2. The Tower of David Museum has virtual tours free for this week, check out one introductory tour HERE

Or take time and explore the site for other tours HERE

3. The Jerusalem Cinematheque is closed. Last month when I went to a special performance, already concerned about the virus, I heard a woman coughing. Quickly I went in ahead of and away from her. Hard to believe that was just over a month ago and one of their last events.

However, the Cinematheque is offering a wide variety of entertainment links, from first-rate old US movies to ‘Peter and the Wolf’ performed by the Royal Ballet and Metropolitan Opera mega productions: HERE

4. The Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem is also at work getting more content online: HERE you can see the video from Yemen exhibit.

5. Experience the Western Wall Tunnel Tours from home:

Sadly the exciting Jerusalem night shows are on hold.

But here is a bit of the introduction to the Tower of David Night Show.

And the City of David Sound and Light Show Finale.

Hoping all stay well, wishing you a healthy holiday.

Let’s keep in touch virtually, until we can see you again soon on the Jerusalem streets.