How to Spend Time in Jerusalem in 2020

How to Spend Time in Jerusalem in 2020

Time.

Time in Jerusalem, Israel, as in much of the world during the corona pandemic, has become a blur. Days have become weeks, then months and a New Year is almost here.

Since March 2020, an 8:30 backyard minyan, morning prayer service, has been one constant. No need for a watch. I could set my clock to the minute when they start.

We live in a “mixed” Jerusalem neighborhood, and there is no synagogue on our street. But starting after Purim, I have woken up to the sounds of morning prayers. As  I brush my teeth or stand at the kitchen sink, I have been able to receive the Priestly Blessing from a distant voice.

Kotel during coronavirus for morning services

The Kotel, Western Wall, in the morning, was set up for bar mitzvah groups in keeping with the latest COVID-19 regulations. This time of year the area is often packed with thousands of people.

Kotel Plaza divided into sections for late night selihot during coronavirus pandemic limitations on size of gatherings

But this year at night, there are chairs set for Selihot placed “socially distant” from each other.

Chairs placed in Wilson Arch Kotel at night

The Kotel area inside Wilson’s Arch was set at night, ready for the next morning.

This screenshot of prepared prayer spots feels frozen in time.

Jerusalem path near the Israel Museum above the Valley of the Cross

In the past, I walked the Jerusalem streets for hours, looking for crowds, people, and interesting sites to share. Now going out means staying away from those crowds and avoiding people.

Recognizing friends at this time is not so simple. With hats, sunglasses, and masks, someone who you have not seen a few months can be difficult to recognize.

Sign for New Year gatherings in Jerusalem Plarks

Over the summer during this coronavirus time, Jerusalem began offering park camping opportunities. Families were encouraged to come to outside green areas. A sign in Nayot Park is encouraging families to spend their holiday time in nature areas.

Bunch of grapes growing on Jerusalem street

One image for the passing of time are grapes ripening on the vine.

Polce vehicle turning to exit park area

No, this police vehicle was not trying to block these people. The driver was on this part of the path–with no vehicular exit–for his first and last time.  He got stuck, and had to back up and try and turn around to get out of the area.

old Belarusian flag, now used as the opposition flag in the rallies against Lukashenko

There have been eleven weeks of loud protests near the Prime Minister’s Residence and the Knesset. However, this was the first time seeing a protester near the Knesset with a Belarus flag.  His aim, which is for Israelis to pay attention to the situation in Belarus, worked – the large red and white flag got me to notice.

Jerusalem Israel Hebrew signs posted on street corner

As summer ends, new signs were up and it is time to support the Jerusalem Symphony.

At the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem, there’s a  YEMEN Fest – מופע גרוב-ג’אז-פאנק

entrance of the Jerusalem Bible Lands Museum

There’s still time to book a tour in person or watch online at the Bible Lands Museum.

Jerusalem Yad Vashem exhibiit

After many months, Yad Vashem also announced it’s opening its doors at limited times.

Sacher Park new seating near the play equipment

The summertime weather was pleasant and  Jerusalem nights were cool. But now a heatwave has arrived.  It’s too hot for the play equipment or midday picnics in Gan Sacher. 

Jerusalem school year sign during coronavirus

School is to start on September 1, 2020. It’s going to be an interesting time for all.

The usual back to “Kita Aleph” – first-grade mega productions have been toned down. With COVID-19, it’s one parent, wearing a mask, holding the hand of a small child walking into the unknown new classroom. Capsules, masks, and moving online is the pandemic era new norm.

Wishing all students and teachers a good and healthy year!

Women soldiers in the Israel army

And now is the time for new Israeli recruits to the IDF to begin their army training.

Six years ago, Chazan Shai Abramson led the IDF Choir at the Jerusalem Great Synagogue.

As the Jewish holiday season with so many unknowns approaches is a good time to repeat the prayer for the Israel Defense Forces and all of Israel, and the world.

Stay safe. Stay well. Stay healthy.

Hope to see you sometime soon on the Jerusalem streets.

Jerusalem 7 New Signs and Colors for Elul

Jerusalem 7 New Signs and Colors for Elul

Jerusalem is working its way back.

It almost feels like a “normal” end of summer on the Jerusalem streets.

Parents are worried about school supplies, but even more about school openings.

Rosh Hodesh Elul was last week and religious schools have started.

Sacher Park in Jerusalem summer day

In Gan Sacher, Sacher Park, children played by day, and families filled the park in the evening.

Sacher Park clean up in morning after big night for Rosh Hodesh Elul

But by the morning of Rosh Chodesh, it was cleaned up and ready for the families to return.

Jerusalem street next to Sacher Park

The street along Gan Sacher which was filled with cars the night before was back to normal.

End of Summer events sign posted near Wolfson center across from Sacher Park

It’s lined with new Jerusalem signs for the end of summer events,

Hebrew sign Jerusalem stands with all of Israel during coronavirus pandemic

and this new one stating: Jerusalem stands with all of Israel.

Trying hard to get back to “normal” after COVID-19 closures.

Menachem Begin Center and Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem signs displayed on Jerusalem street corner

New end-of-summer signs for the Menachem Begin Heritage Center and the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem were posted among other museums cautiously reopening with new entrance policies.

Giro stage in Safra Square for opening of cycling event

It was announced that Jerusalem’s Safra Square  is now a new  coronavirus-safe venue for cultural events, allowing concerts and performances to return after months of such events being prohibited.

One of many previous events, the Giro d’Italia opening was held in the large plaza area of the Jerusalem Municipal Building. Numerous concerts have been held there as well.

Cyclists from United Arab Emirates in Jerusalem for Giro d'Italia

The announcement of the United Arab Emirates and Israel to sign a normalization agreement made headlines. However, for the Giro, UAE riders–and Bahrain–were on the Jerusalem streets two years ago.

Jerusalem Israel view from top of Kikar Safra municipal building

One of the great views from the 6th floor of the Municipal Building is the Mount Of Olives

Jerusalem Har Hazetim grave stone of HaRav Avraham Kook

Gimel Elul was the memorial of the 85th anniversary of the passing of Abraham Isaac Kook z”l, the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of British Mandatory Palestine in the Land of Israel.  Today’s commemoration was unlike other years and was a socially distanced and very limited event.

Rav Kook’s house has been kept as a museum, offices, and synagogue, while the area around HaRav Kook Street in Jerusalem has been built up.

Lion Fountain in Jerusalem Park near First Station with water

The Lion Fountain near First Station was a fun place during past summers.

bird in Jerusalem photo

Some of my favorite photos were taken there. This past week though,  the fountain was dry.

This has been a summer when most everyone has had to deal with changes.

Near Jerusalem Israel Museum sculpture The Struggle

I often pass “The Struggle” by Samuel Bar Even on my way to the Israel Museum.

Jerusalem path near the Israel Museum above Valley of the Cross

Israeli officials trying to keep the virus under control without lockdown is more of a struggle than my deciding which path to take each day.

Jerusalem Israel Museum open again after closing for months of coronavirus

A new welcome sign was posted at the Israel Museum. After being closed for months, it is open part-time, with restrictions and prior ticketing.

But no entrance fee for children in August as usual.

Jerusalem Israel Old City Western Wall Tunnel

Also, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation announced that the Western Wall Tunnel site was reopening after having been closed for five months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Kotel in August 2019

Preparations are underway for Selichot, penitential prayers, at the Kotel, the Western Wall. It will NOT look like this photo from last August!

The first two weeks of the month of Elul will be a test for managing Selichot services at the Kotel prior to the upcoming peak-crowd days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Jerusalem sehilchos

The  Jerusalem Great Synagogue with its 1,200 seats is not to reopen for the High Holidays.

It is also not planning to open its doors for ShabbatSelichot, or the Sukkot holidays.

Water bottle disposal sign in Jerusalem to keep streets clean

The campaign to keep Jerusalem clean has been going strong all summer. New signs were posted for everyone to clean up their mess.

Jerusalem Israel pickup truck for things left on street

Here’s a new truck collecting discarded items along the street.

The truck stopped. A man jumped out and grabbed a sweater on the side of the road.

He tossed it into the back of the truck and drove off.

The days of furnishing your Jerusalem apartment with other folks abandoned property could be much harder now. Everyone will have to move quickly before that truck comes by.

Workers in Jerusalem filling a pot hole in street

This large truck and work crew arrived. They stopped traffic and blocked the street.

They repaired a pothole in a few minutes while I watched.

Jerusalem woman crossing street as traffic waits

Near the same spot the day before, this frail woman crossed the street.

What was newsworthy and worth sharing about that?

She stepped off the curb into traffic, not near crosswalks. However, cars in both directions stopped. They waited until she safely crossed to the bus stop. And, not one car behind them honked!  I wished I had taken a video.

Exit of Jerusalem Israel Museum toward the Knesset

This is the view on the way out of the Israel Museum. The Israel Knesset Building is across the way. “LAST HOPE” is painted on the pavement. Tonight we will find out if the “unity” government can agree on how to proceed with a budget or if we go to a fourth election this year.

It has been a crazy year, with struggles not only to cross the street but for many to survive.

Much of Jerusalem’s economy is based on international tourism.

The closed skies due to the coronavirus pandemic have led to extremely dire financial situations.

Selihot at the Kotel, will not be the same as in the past. There are planned Selihot tours in the Old City, limited in numbers and with social distancing precautions. As with all tours and sites, check ahead to make sure you have a spot and a ticket.

It’s been an unusual summer with few tourists on the Jerusalem streets.

Flowers planted near Jerusalem street

However, as we enter the month of Elul and look forward to a New Year, colorful flowers are blooming to brighten the Jerusalem streets.