Jerusalem: Summer 2020 Starting Ready or Not

Jerusalem: Summer 2020 Starting Ready or Not

Skies over Jerusalem, Israel, were not as bright this morning, with a partial eclipse of the sun. Sadly, my attempt to get a photo failed.

June clouds over Jerusalem Israel skyline

However, the clouds over the Jerusalem streets last week were amazing.

June clouds over Jerusalem Israel streets

Here’s another image of clouds with a view of the center of town.

Summer is a time for a vacation in Israel. After inbound tourism to Israel had reached a historic high of 4.55 million tourists at the end of 2019, the industry expected to break another new record of 5 million tourists in 2020. But as a result of the global tourism crisis, the tourism industry in Jerusalem has been hard hit.

Some smaller venues and the Tower of David Museum have started to open.

Israel Museum in Jerusalem closed because of coronavirus regulations

But the Israel Museum gates are shut. It stands empty at the start of summer. In the past, it would be a time filled with people of all ages from around the world.

Israel Museum no people grounds empty midday in June COVID-19

I always wanted a photo of the Israel Museum’s  ‘Turning the World Upside Down’ by Anish Kapoor without people standing around and in my way. Certainly, I never imagined it would be finally possible with the world turned upside down due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. As people around the world Zoom into funerals, conferences, and weddings, standing outside the Israel Museum all I needed was a simple zoom lens.

Construction on Israel National Library progress even during coronavirus restrictions and closings

However, across the street, the National Library construction was proceeding and visible well above ground. Interesting to compare to what the library site was like five years ago. 

The larger hotels, like the King David, Crown Plaza, and Orient are still closed.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Israel’s first international state visitor at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Jerusalem. In the framework of the G2G meeting between the governments of Israel and Greece, he met with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Greek and Israeli flags at Beit Hanasi for official state ceremony

Before COVID-19, Greek officials were received at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence with blue and white flags.

And an honor guard red carpet welcome, with national anthems, and media invited to attend and record.

But, the current smaller-scaled reception resulted in the signing by ministers of three MOUs – on cyber, agriculture, and tourism. Plus, it was announced that it will be possible for Israeli tourists to travel to Greece and possibly return from Greece and Cyprus without a quarantine requirement by August 1, 2020.

Prime Minister of Greece and President of Israel at Beit Hanasi
Photo credit: Mark Neyman (GPO)

Besides the important agreements, there was an official photo with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of Greece and President Reuven Rivlin at Beit Hanasi.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of Greece:and Israeli President at Beit Hanasi bump elbows
Photo credit: Mark Neyman (GPO)

And the new coronavirus greeting of bumping elbows and not shaking hands.

There was also to be an official visit from Cyprus, but it was postponed as the numbers of coronavirus cases has started to rise again in multiple Israeli locations.

Knesset in 2017 opening session Tzipi Hotovley

It was announced that MK Tzipi Hotovely is leaving the Knesset to replace Mark Regev as Ambassador to the United Kingdom. The usual anti-Israel sources are protesting the appointment. Remembering when Brazil would not accept Dani Dayan?   The best thing that happened to Dayan was when he went to New York as Israel’s General Counsel and has done an outstanding job.

View of Gaza from Israel where IDF monitors border

Back in November 2018, we were on a media tour near the Israeli border to see the IDF view of Gaza.

Israel Gaza border Tehilla Friedman on tour

There was Tehila Friedman in her signature red hat having a private guided tour. With the new Knesset arrangements, Tehila is one of the newest Knesset members. As Knesset members, the two female politicians are from different parties with very different political views, but both are concerned with the welfare of Israel.

New Jerusalem Israel summer tourist hamburger food trucks

The red food truck came back, with labeling for burgers, both meat and vegan burgers.

I love the name of Beyond Burgers in Hebrew – ביונד מיט-הדור הבה

In time for today’s International Yoga Day, Abraham Hostel announced rooftop Yoga.

What a contrast to two years ago and the big events for the first day of summer.

Man praying in Valley of Cross park area

Now a man praying alone in nature is more likely scene than group yoga.

Wildflower in Jerusalem Israel park area

The summer flowers around are blooming.

The sights and smells of summer abound.

Wild flower in Jerusalem Israel

Even this bead tree or Indian lilac flowers were pretty, though it’s toxic and intrusive.

The pleasant senses of nature will have to suffice.

This summer of 2020 the large annual festivals are not happening.

Protests from the cultural community, one of the daily protests near the Prime Minister’s Office and Knesset, could be heard from kilometres away.

I will leave you with one of the favorite sights and sounds from the Jerusalem Light Festival of 2018.

Here’s to hoping next year – or better – this year to see you on the Jerusalem streets.

Jerusalem 8 Contrasts in First Week of June

Jerusalem 8 Contrasts in First Week of June

The first week of June in this time of novel coronavirus pandemic has been a week of contrasts.

Scenes of continued isolation versus images of huge protest gatherings.

Cities appearing under siege with rioters breaking windows and burning stores.

Watching educators provide a memorable graduation ceremony for their classes of 2020.

Israel, meanwhile, began to emerge from COVID-19 isolations and lockdown.

Path in Jerusalem Valley of the Cross

Not sure if I should share secrets – but this path is in the Valley of the Cross.

New landscaping along Jerusalem bike path

The new landscaping seems to have burst out in color along the new bike path.

Milton's Way new bike paths in Jerusalem Israel

How many times did I walk this way and not notice “Milton’s Way Bike Path?”

Walking and bike path Jerusalem Israel Valley of Cross

Not the usual wheels one sees on this bike trail. It seems even individuals more at risk took time to get out and exercise in the pleasant weather.

Mask on ground in Jerusalem park path

A sign of the times – a discarded mask on the path in the Valley of the Cross.

Contrast #1 – this peaceful location was a scene of a terror attack.

Prof Menahem Stern memorial in Valley of Cross murdered by terrorist in June 1989

The path where Prof Menahem Stern was murdered by a terrorist in June of 1989.

Path in Valley of Cross Jerusalem Israel

Contrast #2 – the green growth so close to the dried weeds, with the Israel Museum overlooking the stones of an ancient dwelling.

Jerusalem Israel street construction and traffic stopped

Contrast #3 – This intersection of Herzog, Tchnernichovsky, and Haim Hazaz Streets,

Herzog Street being repaired in Jerusalem Israel

with the same intersection two days later. Each image shared tells a different story. With less traffic Jerusalem construction work has proceeded.

Jerusalem Israel pillbox with Scouts banner posted for June event

One sign of normalcy, the Scouts put a banner on the Pillbox at the corner.

Protest sign on Jerusalem Pillbox

Contrast #4 – a protest sign in the same location two days later. This group wants to keep the Jerusalem hills green with no building. Corona or not, protests have continued on a daily basis, for multiple issues.  At least the new “save the hills of Jerusalem” protest was quiet.

Jerusalemschool closed to COVID-19 being sprayed to disinfect building
Photo credit: Spokesperson Municipality

Contrast #5 – Israeli schools reopened after being closed for weeks. However, Jerusalem’s Gymnasia Rechavia closed after two teachers were diagnosed with COVID-19, and many students tested positive also. Crews went into the high school building after it was shut and disinfected everything. Today 22 more schools were reported on the list as closed.

With the spring holiday season over, the Israeli flags have been removed from over the Jerusalem streets, while new colorful signs were put up.

Jerusalem sign for coronavirus summer.

Contrast #6 – Things are to be very different this summer than in past summers. 

Fewer Israelis will be traveling overseas and fewer international tourists arriving.

The hotels by the Kinneret have started advertising for guests to come again.

But wait, Jerusalem wants Israelis to come to spend their holiday time here in the city.

Signs in Jerusalem for summer tourists to come to city instead of going overseas vacations

The new signs are for food, music, street entertainment, and more.

Jerusalem street closed for restaurant opening after coronavirus closures.
Photo credit: Aaron Katsman

One idea was to temporarily close streets to traffic so restaurants could serve patrons outside. Azza Street was one of the first of 13 locations to close.

Unity Prize at Beit Hanasi was one of many Jerusalem events held at the beginning of June.

President Reuven Rivlin hosted, the sixth Jerusalem Unity Prize award ceremony in memory of Eyal Ifrah, Gil-ad Shaer, and Naftali Fraenkel ז”ל at Beit HaNasi on Tuesday, June 2. During the ceremony, Uri Ifrah spoke on behalf of the families and former Jerusalem Mayor, now MK Nir Barkat, one of the founders of the prize, also spoke.

Photo for Jerusalem Unity Prize 2019 at Israel President's Residence

Last year on stage for the final photo, winners stood behind the Israeli dignitaries.

Unity Prize founders three families Fraenkel, Ifrach and Shaar at Beit Hanasi for Unity Awards Ceremony

Two years ago the room was filled with families and guests and entertainers,

Shuli Rand and Guri Alfi were highlighted in the program.

Beit Hanasi for Jerusalem Unity Prize awards in corona-virus masks
Photo credit: Mark Neyman (GPO)

Contrast #7 – This year was a very different scene.

Protest signs not to divide Jerusalem

As the “Trump Plan” and Sovereignty are hotly debated, these posters were posted in Jerusalem.

No one knows for sure what the future will bring.

Contrast #8 – I want to end with something positive.

Muslim and Jewish female United Hatzalah volunteer team
Photo credit: United Hatzalah

This photo from United Hatazalah, with a caption on Tweeter: “a secular Israel, a religious Arab Israeli, and an Ultra-Orthodox Israeli saving lives together on an ambulance shift today in Jerusalem,” mentioned @RealJStreets.

As of now, it has been retweeted 200 times from the original and has well over 600 likes.

Not to worry, the women all wore masks working and only removed them to smile for the camera.

A week filled with contrasts, and highs and lows.

But as always things were happening on the Jerusalem streets.

Which images and contrasts did you see shared?

Ray of Light from Jerusalem

Ray of Light from Jerusalem

Eggs. Eggs?

Yes, a rush on eggs has caused panic throughout the Jerusalem streets.

The rest of the world may have hoarded toilet paper but in Jerusalem, eggs were grabbed off the shelves and stashed away in large quantities. People might be in isolation for the Passover holiday, but they were not going to be caught short of eggs. Facebook friends were posting frantic messages.

Last week, before all the borders began to close, the Secretary-General of The Israel Farmer’s Federation said that in Israel there were 50 million eggs from Portugal ready for Passover.

I got the Sec-Gen’s phone number. In response to my message, he replied, “Tomorrow will be enough eggs in the supermarkets. People are in a little panic but I think that it’ll be stopped soon. Yours, Abu.”

So there you have it. But I still hear complaints about an egg shortage.

Wars. Bombs. Missiles. Stabbings. Coronavirus. Quarantine.

Eggs for Passover set off panic in the Jerusalem streets.

Meanwhile, Olim, new immigrants keep on arriving, knowing they will be sent into 14-day isolation because of COVID-19.

Having been off the streets this past week, I have been following Zoom sessions and webinars.

Jerusalem Israel closed for Corona image of Wilson's Arch Old City

I have also been following scenes from the Western Wall Heritage Center WebCam much more often. This view is of the locked Wilson’s Arch on the evening of Rosh Chodesh Nissan. They have since straightened up the chairs. However, that lone empty chair caught my eye.

Men at Kotel saying tehilim during Corovnavirus

For a mass prayer of tehilim, psalms for healing, there was a distanced crowd last week.

Rabbi speaking on Facebook live for mass prayer event at the Kotel

Facebook Live-streamed as the rabbi spoke and people watched around the world.

Western Wall Jerusalem Israel Old city web cam during COVID-19

On another coronavirus night, one lone man was seen near the Kotel.

Western Wall Cleaning
photo credit: The Western Wall Heritage Foundation

The notes were cleared out of the Kotel almost as usual before Passover.

There was a social distancing of workers and no holiday crowds this year.

More and more events have moved online for work and for conferences.

Benny Gantz speaker at Conference or Presidents with William Daroff and Malcolm Hoenlein

Hard to believe it was only last month that Benny Gantz spoke to the Conference of Presidents.

Benny Gantz and female admirers

And willingly posed for photos before running off to an election event.

I was hoping to say that the unity government was in place.

Maybe next week?

President Rivlin meeting with IDF on situation of Corona virus
Photo credit: Courtesy Beit HaNasi

President Reuven Rivlin met with the Head of the IDF Manpower Directorate, for a briefing on IDF efforts to halt the spread of the virus in light of the global pandemic. In light of the instructions, the meeting was held in the garden of Beit Hanasi, at the appropriate distance.

This current coronavirus operation has been named “Ray of Light” by the IDF.

No on-site visitors are allowed, but Beit Hanasi has posted its first virtual tour. I have shared many photos from these spots, but this video includes background information.

As Dr. Tzvi Sheleg said discussing the COVID-19 situation at the Galilee Medical Center, “Emergency preparedness is part of our DNA.”

The Defense Minister announced that hundreds of IDF teachers are helping the doctor’s children all over Israel as part of a project called “Educational Framework.” 

Magen David Adom (MDA) has begun collecting plasma units from those patients who recovered from Corona. Based on the assumption that those who have recovered from the disease have developed special anti-virus proteins (antibodies) in their plasma, these units could provide patients with a “passive vaccine” that may help them cope with the disease.

Magen David for MDA in Tel Aviv
Photo credit: Tel Aviv Jaffa municipality

The Tel Aviv municipal building was lit with the MDA symbol to show appreciation for the thousands of health care workers on the front lines in what has been described repeatedly as a war against the tiny microbe. Approximately 8,000 people were sampled yesterday by MDA teams, of whom 4,000 were in the “Drive-Thru” complexes across the country.

Deep Knowledge chart of safest countries with Corona virus

On the very good news front, the Deep Knowledge Group, a consortium of commercial and non-profit organizations active in the realm of DeepTech from scientific research, has ranked Israel above Singapore as the safest country to stay. Ok, for efficient treatment it is not rated so high.

But Singapore is a very different culture. There are cameras everywhere. Do NOT try spitting gum out on the street! People follow orders. They have smaller family units. In Israel, even with the President sitting away and outside with only one staff member, protests are still allowed. Dozens of people have assembled in Tel Aviv on the beach to drive to Jerusalem to protest at the Knesset.

Tel Aviv municipal building lit as US flag to show support in COVID-19
Photo credit: Tel Aviv Jaffa Municipality

Last night Tel Aviv municipal building was lit with the “US flag in solidarity with the American people and the residents of our partner cities…We hold you close to our hearts,” tweeted the Mayor of Tel Aviv.

Also, it was done as a sign of gratitude to supporters and friends of Tel Aviv around the US who have shown their support by making significant contributions to the individuals and communities most affected by the coronavirus in Tel Aviv.

Where ever you are, stay safe and healthy.

Hope to see you back soon for more from the Jerusalem streets.