Hanukkah in Jerusalem is always a busy time, filled with events and family gatherings, nights with candle lighting, and plenty of oily, fried foods.
This year the week started off with glorious weather outside. The stone walls of the Old City were under a blue sky as colorful flags flew over the Cinematheque.
Inside the Isrotel Orient Hotel, on November 29, IMPROVATE launched its first Forum to introduce Israeli future technology to world finance leaders.
Champion Chess Player Garry Kasparov was one of the special guests. The former President of Bulgaria mentioned that after flight delays he arrived in Israel five minutes before the midnight closure to tourists.
Of the 300 invitees, only 3 were unable to attend the live conference which ended with a Black-Eyed Peas performance at the Jerusalem Pais Arena.
Kaf Tet–November 29th in 1947, the UN voted for the Partition Plan of Palestine, recognizing Jewish rights and leading to the establishment of Israel.
In 1977, the UN General Assembly called for the annual observance of 29 November as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
In her opening remarks Irina Nevzlin, Cofounder and Chair of IMPROVATE recognized the importance of November 29 in her life, for she was born in the former Soviet Union and was able to move to Israel – ‘to come home.”
Annually Hanukkah in Jerusalem means sufganiyot, each year new fancy flavors are produced and millions of donuts are consumed.
The large chanukiah (menorah) was back in Mamilla Mall
and at Jaffa Gate near the entrance to the Old City.
The traditional menorah stood at the Kotel, Western Wall.
The new US Ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, lit the candles on the seventh night at the Kotel and tweeted, “As the Hanukkah song goes, we come to banish the darkness,ׁ and together, we shine a bright light. Hanukkah sameach!”
This year, for the first time, a lighting ceremony took place on top of the new Western Wall Heritage Center, built at the back of the Kotel Plaza.
As night fell, politicians and other invited guests who were honored at the ceremony stood on the rooftop overlooking the Kotel.
I was there on the second night when these flames were lit.
MK Miri Regev was impressed enough to share the event with her fans and followers with her phone.
The view of the Kotel Plaza from above was impressive as always.
However, in the new building, the view below was fascinating also. For years the area was a construction site, as archeologists carefully dug down and the site was covered from view. Now those digs are exposed and are seen here in the new educational building.
But there is much more to see underground. New levels of history have been revealed under the Western Wall Tunnels.
Before going on the new Big Bridge Tour there is a video to help explain with multiple drawings.
The blue mark shows where we were standing.
And here is how the area of arches looked in the time of the Romans.
The steps down show the new/old mikvah, but it is not a colorful image.
However, with new technology, the Roman waterfalls flow for visitors.
The arched rooms and columns are impressive, but not easy to photograph.
Workers were finishing up the wooden bridge for the opening the next day.
Anyone else have the feeling that Hanukkah was long ago?
Hanukkah ended Friday night and was immediately followed by Shabbat.
Under the corona time blur, Hanukkah 2020 already feels long gone.
During Hanukkah, hundreds of people made aliyah, and arrived to live in Israel, from around the world. They included Bnei Menashe from India and Falasha Mura from Ethiopia. This time the group arrived on an Ethiopian jetliner and not sneaking out of Sudan by boat as they did in Operation Moses in 1984.
With COVID-19 regulations, all those arriving were to go straight to a quarantine location for two weeks.
For those of us in Jerusalem, Israel parks have new outside seating areas for nice weather, but much of the week it rained.
Which of these shuttered restaurants will reopen after being forced to close?
The scene at the New Gate was bleak as well, at a time when it is usually full of holiday pilgrims and tourists.
But it was Hanukkah in Jerusalem, and the electric chanukiah was out.
For his last Hanukkah in Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence, Ruvi Rivlin came out to light candles with his neighbors on the fourth night.
Each night President Rivlin went to a different location to celebrate Hanukkah. On a trip north, he stopped to give suffganiot and a special orange cake to soldiers on guard duty.
Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion had a special Hanukkah event for volunteers, and like most events this year, it was online with attendees on Zoom.
The chanukiah on top of the Knesset on the fifth night was lit up as usual.
The new street lights were lit after dark along some Jerusalem streets.
This chanukiah was lit near the Prime Minister’s residence where protests are still going after 26 weeks. This was the fifth night.
There was this chanukiah many stories above the street, visible during the 5th day.
But in Jerusalem, you have to get out to see the lights at night.
The Chabad lights at Paris Square (an off-protest night) on the fifth night,
and street lights lined the way over King David Street.
A few lights were on at the King David Hotel. Though closed to the public due to corona restrictions, a few rooms on the top floor had lights on.
The King David Hotel had a very corona-downscaled 90th-year celebration.
In Mamilla Mall friends were taking photos, but there were no huge dancing crowds as in the past ten years with free suffganiot for all.
People came day or night to Mamilla Mall- when it wasn’t raining hard.
Hanukkah is the one time of year in Jerusalem that at night you can see in people’s windows and the lights shine out.
But that was one of the only things that was “normal” this year.
Last year Ambassador Danny Danon brought a group of UN Ambassadors to Israel to see the country themselves, as he had for a number of years.
This year his conference went online with Nikki Haley as guest speaker.
Certainly not the same experience as last year when these UN Ambassadors were in Israel with Danon’s diplomatic mission.
On Monday night the walls near Jaffa Gate, were lit up with comments
from around the world, sent in by participants for “Our Common Destiny.”
In September 2019, Jewish community leaders from around the world were invited into Beit Hanasi to work on a Common Destiny statement.
For Hanukkah 2020, the result of the pandemic, was a program online.
The major excitement this year at the Kotel, Western Wall candle lightings was the participation of visitors from the United Arab Emirates. It was one night that the heavy rains did not dampen enthusiasm and attendance.
In spite of pandemic, 50,000 Israelis have already flown to the UAE.
Yes, the number sounds high, but since November 26 – 10 flights a day!
This Hanukkah 2020 was not canceled but curtailed and quiet.
I prepared four latkes, instead of 400–no big family get-together this year.
It was not the usual Hanukkah in Jerusalem with thousands from around the world gathering to celebrate. Eilat and the Dead Sea were green islands for some Israeli families who managed a holiday getaway.
Meanwhile, the Tower of David was the location of a live music broadcast sponsored by Jerusalem municipality. Instead of fighting crowds and finding parking, one could sit at home, dry and warm in PJs, and watch your favorite performers on-screen this Hanukkah.
Candles were lit before the Jerusalem Theater Hanukkah performance.
The concert was recorded and available to see at your convenience.
Even if Hanukkah feels so long ago, the music and program were well done.
Enjoy Nes Gadol Haya Po, a Great Miracle Happened Here.
And let’s hope all can join together for Hanukkah next year in Jerusalem.