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.
Oh Jerusalem, What Days in May

Oh Jerusalem, What Days in May

In Jerusalem, Israel, waking up on Tuesday morning the official email began:

* From yesterday (4 May 2020), additional businesses and activities will be allowed to open including: Libraries, all kinds of non-medical treatment on the human body, complementary medicine, hotels and guest houses, nature reserves, heritage sites, national parks, zoos and safaris. Activity at swimming pools will be permitted for competitive athletes and therapy.

* Malls, open-air markets and gyms will be allowed to open on 7 May 2020.

Restrictions imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19 were working. Special intensive care units were closing.

People were looking forward to getting out of isolation and their homes.

Clouds over Jerusalem Israel

Clouds were began gathering over the Israel Museum.

Jerusalem Israel cloudy sky in May

Clouds were filling the sky over the Jerusalem streets.

Jerusalem cloudy day white clouds over Knesset

The large flag on the Knesset was blowing in the wind.

Jerusalem Israel clouds in sky

The weather forecast had called for rain. Rain in Jerusalem in May?

Jerusalem sky pink clouds

It was raining in the north. Then Tel Aviv, even Beer Sheva had rain. Clouds started to change over Jerusalem.

Dark grey sky over Jerusalem streets

The clouds in the sky turned dark.

Black sky over the Israel Museum in Jerusalem

The sky over the Israel Musem appeared almost black.

Then winter-like weather in May pelted Jerusalem with rain, heavy rain.

Jerusalem Israel during a stormy day in May

Dark enough in the middle of the day for some of the street lights to go on.

Sunset after rainy day May in Jerusalem

But by the time the sun was to set, the sky began to clear.

May sunset with colorful clouds after rainy day

It was a sunset that colored the sky. Facebook was filled with photos taken as the colors changed.

Jerusalem Israel sunset with many colors

After a day of crazy weather, as the sky cleared, the birds came out again.

* The restriction on praying more than 500 meters from the home or workplace is canceled; the restriction of no more than 19 people for prayers in an open space remains in force.

For the next few days, up to 300 worshipers will be allowed to come to the Western Wall plaza simultaneously, contingent on them wearing masks.  Should all of the prayer areas become full, worshipers will be requested to wait outside the entrances to the Western Wall, with the required distances between them, until space becomes available.

Western Wall at night

Late at night the Kotel, The Western Wall had people coming and going again.

Jerusalem Western Wall divided into sections for social distancing opening up

Bar/bat mitzvah families can return to celebrate at the Western Wall in accordance with regulations.

The Health Ministry calls on the public to continue listening to the directives on physical distancing, wearing masks and maintaining hygiene, in order to ensure public health and continue the common struggle against the spread of the coronavirus.

Old City Lions wearing masks
Photo credit: Joshua Wander

The lions in the Old City are ready with masks, though not social distancing.

Always something new to see on the Jerusalem streets.

Meanwhile another crazy weather day, and new storytime by Pres Ruvi:

Stay well, everyone, and safe inside or outside your house.

 

 

 

Jerusalem Moving Outside – but Aquarium?

Jerusalem Moving Outside – but Aquarium?

Jerusalem, Israel has completed most of the spring exhausting holiday season.

A very different holiday season it was!

Sunday, May 3, 2020, slowly some businesses and classrooms reopened.

Jerusalem Knesset at night

Finally, lights were on inside the Knesset Building, not just holiday lights strung on the street.

View of prayer plaza of Kotel divided for COVID-19 prayers

The Kotel, Western Wall was divided into smaller prayer areas.

Gan Sacher park empty on rainy day

Gan Sacher, Sacher Park, was empty for Yom Haatzmaut, Independence Day,

instead of being crowded with families and friends gathered for the usual mangals, BBQs.

Tourism is a huge factor in life in Jerusalem and its economy.

The municipality is looking for ways to slowly get back to “normal.”

Jerusalem Botanical Gardens

Jerusalem Botanical Gardens is one large open area where people could social distance.

Jerusalem Gazelle Valley opening day

Gazelle Park is another large open green space.

Entrance to Jerusalem Biblical Zoo

The Biblical Zoo, as the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens in Jerusalem is called, is another popular open area that could be reopened.

Entrance to Jerusalem Israel Aquarium

However, the new Jerusalem Aquarium which is further down the road from the zoo might be one of the last sites to be fully open again to the public.

At the end of January 2020, I finally got to the Aquarium.

I have had it on my list to share and now seems like the right time.

Remember that cute video of penguins walking around an aquarium after it was closed?

Sorry. It was not the Jerusalem Aquarium but could have been.

Near entrance to Jerusalem Aquarium

The Jerusalem Aquarium is an accessible and temperature-controlled space.

The inside venue would have been perfect for a hot summer day visit for all ages.

Fish tank in Jerusalem Aquarium

Beautiful tanks of fish and underwater flora line the walls.

Sections are divided according to Israel’s local bodies of water.

Dead Sea section of Jerusalem Aquarium

The Dead Sea exhibit will have to be updated.

Recently they have found life in the freshwater sinkholes.

Sea Horses in Jerusalem Aquarium

I could have spent hours watching the seahorses.

Large fish tank in Jerusalem Aquarium

There was an area to take a break and rest and listen to trained guides.

Jerusalem Aquarium long horn cowfish

Have you heard of the LongHorn Cowfish before?

Elmo exhibit at Jerusalem Aquarium

Can you find Nemo? Especially for children of any age or size, there is a special tank. You can get inside to search for and be photographed with the real fish that famous animated feature  Nemo was based on.

Jerusalem Aquarium

Coral reefs provide background in one of the seas.

Large fish in tank at Jerusalem Aquarium

Large tanks of large fish,

Colorful fish in Jerusalem Aquarium

and small tanks of colorful fish are inside the Aquarium.

There’s much more to see and to do to keep all ages engaged.

Jerusalem Aquarium

It was a wet wintry-like day when I finally got to the two-year-old tourist site for the first time.

Sure hope it is not another two years until the giant seahorse outside greets visitors.

Who could imagine that an enclosed and interactive space would be a problem?

Large and small roses in a vase

At least the cold wet weather and this most unusual spring was good for the roses.

Stay well and healthy.

Hope to see you all on the Jerusalem streets one day soon.