Online, In-Line Jerusalem

Days go by. Weeks go by.

Time during the COVID-19 pandemic has become a blur.

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Jerusalem tourism went from unprecedented highs down to zero.

Chayei Sarah in Hebron in past years became one giant Shabbat celebration with thousands crowding into the area around the Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs.

This year before Shabbat, Chabad of Hebron hosted an online celebration of this week’s Torah reading marking the death and burial of Sarah in Hebron. Three men danced to a downsized band in an area near the walls.

The OUD international music festival is going on line for its 21st year.

Ethiopian Sigd holiday and women praying.

Sigd celebrations in the past years were major events with tens of thousands on the Tayelet in Jerusalem for prayers and breaking the fast.

This year there are smaller events being organized for the November 15th and 16th holiday celebration, 50 days after Yom Kippur, one which started in Ethiopia centuries ago.

One year ago, the AYLN Wheels of Love cyclists arrived in Jerusalem at the end of their annual fund-raising ride. This year riders met as a virtual group on a Zoom event and raised funds for the special rehabilitation hospital without the ride up the hills of Jerusalem.

The annual Pianos Festival at the Jerusalem Theater was held online and shown on YouTube and Facebook – for free. No lines to stand in while waiting to enter the concert halls.

Standing in line for parking stickers at the city hall is history. Those cherished parking spot stickers can be gotten from home by registering with the municipality online.

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As corona lockdown restrictions were lifted to a second stage, the areas near the Old City walls were still quiet on the sunny first Monday.

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The entrance toward Jaffa Gate not crowded as in “normal” times.

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Jaffa Gate was open, and guarded by two security women.

Standard and Poor’s, the global credit rating company, left Israel’s credit rating unchanged at its high level during the global coronavirus crisis, as reported by the Prime Minister’s Office.

Construction in Jerusalem proceeded during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Signs for Museum Lane have gone up along the renovated street by the new National Library. One of the huge cranes has been removed from the building site across the street from the Knesset, while the 6th National Library film festival was run online.

Commerce moved online and in-person shopping came to a halt for months.

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Jerusalem’s Mamilla Mall was filling with eager shoppers as stores on the street were finally allowed to open with four customers at a time.

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The longest line at Mamilla was waiting for Nespresso coffee.

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Shoe stores also had customers waiting in line.

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The store selling eyeglasses had a line. It had been allowed to be open during the lockdown and was often empty of customers.

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Walking by Kikar Safra, the Municipal Government plaza, the new landscaping was in full bloom, but the stones below were empty of people.

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However, minutes away on Jaffa Road, lines could be found outside many shops. Children need new clothing for size and season.

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The longest line award in downtown Jerusalem goes to FOX. I took a Facebook live video to show how far down the block people were waiting in line to enter on the first nice shopping day in town.

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Jerusalem’s Jaffa Road was coming back to life with stores open and people strolling in the midday sun.

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Ben Yehudah Mall looked so busy and full, I decided to go a different way.

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People ate lunches of takeaway food, sitting outside to enjoy the warmth of the sun on a November day.

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Shops on Yoel Salomon Street were open, but there were no lines when I walked by on my way home.

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The music was playing again on the oversized radio near Kikar Safra.

When the sun comes out, so do people.

Jerusalem, Israel shops and streets are slowly getting back to business and showing signs of renewed life. The youngest school students are back in class, while older students are online.

Hoping the corona numbers will stay down and we can see you soon on the Jerusalem streets.

Jerusalem Time is Flying

October the holidays are over. It’s time for Jerusalem and the Jerusalem streets to get back to “normal.”

Sure.

Two weeks after the end of the holiday season and we changed the clocks, falling backward into standard corona time.

I hate changing the clocks any time.

It’s been a time when it’s hard to keep up with the news bulletins.

First the normalization agreements between Israel and UAE and Bahrain. The United Arab Emirates diplomats arrived in Israel to sign trade agreements. Israeli travel companies are busy working out how to proceed with daily flights as an option, even with COVID19.

Sudan has joined the Gulf states making positive connections with Israel. Did you know Golda Meir and Israel were the first to acknowledge Sudan’s independence? The opening of air space alone is a big deal. Other financial deals we will wait and see.

The old holiday signs were replaced new ones from Mayor Lion for a successful new academic year. However, Hebrew University was open for less than a week and closed today, due to a computer problem.

The nursery schools were allowed to open under the new COVID19 restrictions. But most students are still at home, zooming and waiting to get back to classrooms and their friends.

One group was meeting in an outdoor open area under today’s cloudy sky.

Dog school, however, seems to be going strong in spite of corona.

During this time many Jerusalem streets have gotten a new look.

Some streets are unrecognizable with constantly changing barriers and infrastructure improvements.

The Great Synagogue is still closed, but a covering provides shade for limited prayer outside in the plaza.

During the lockdown, I was finally able to get a photo of the horse in Gan HaSoos, the Horse Park. Usually there are people around or on it.

In town was a bloodmobile site and new art pieces, but the clothing stores were closed. The supermarket and WeWork were allowed to be open.

Ben Yehuda Street was basically deserted during the lockdown.

Stores shuttered with people allowed only 1 kilometer from home.

The Light Rail was running, but Jaffa Road appeared midday as quiet as early morning, instead of the busy shopping location it had become.

Too many of the Jerusalem streets and alleyways were too quiet.

The First Station area has announced a development plan but needs the tourists to come back for businesses to reopen.

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Construction has been ongoing.

But too often it seems to be workers redoing areas where work was just done?

With all the challenges and noisy protests, closings and corona, suffering, and death, I am happy to share, young couples have found new ways to meet with theaters and museums, hotel lobbies, and cafes closed.

Walking and talking in nature is new norm, with or without a mask.

So the clocks have changed, the days are shorter, but the clouds make for colorful sunsets.

Today is Aliyah Day. In spite of a pandemic people have arrived home to Israel on a regular basis, and the number of applications is causing inpatient waiting times.

The real Jerusalem streets – good, bad and not so ugly.

Stay well and hope to see everyone here soon. At least flight times from most parts of the world should be shorter now with flights to Israel allowed over so many new Gulf countries.

Next year in Jerusalem! (or Dubai?)

Jerusalem Locked Down

In the middle of a conflict, later called the Second Lebanon War, I made aliyah and moved to Jerusalem, Israel.

I accompanied missions to southern Israel during multiple “operations.” We watched early Iron Dome successes over our heads at a rest stop café. From our van (buses were too big to exit in time) we ran to a ditch during a red alert. Crowded into a family’s bomb shelter in a border community during one warning siren, the mother could tell where the rocket landed by the sound. The bomb shelter was her children’s bedroom, they had never known another existence.

I used to really get around. Israel is really not so big.

There were northern border excursions during “heightened” alerts.

In an Arab town with Yassir Arafat and Abu Mazen photos looking down at me, I sat and listened to a woman’s land ownership story go unchallenged. For sure, I was very careful to stay with the group that time.

Even during the “stabbing intifada” I was out on the Jerusalem streets.

And then came along the microscopic novel coronavirus and I stayed home.

Finally, and for many weeks my morning walk was aimed to avoid people.

As the end of the second lockdown came to an end, I decided it was time to get out again and see what was really happening on the Jerusalem streets.

Some people used the time at home to improve their front porch gardens.

The building construction was so overwhelming, it requires a post of its own in the future. As you can see, there was no ban on building construction.

With less cars on the roads, road work closed and changed many streets.

Shops in Jerusalem’s Mamilla Mall were closed during the lockdown.

The end of February was the last time I had gone to the Old City.

Usually, this area outside of the Old City near Jaffa Gate is filled with traffic, day or night. Not during this lockdown.

Usually, this area outside of Jaffa Gate, is filled with people.

Jaffa Gate was closed, as it was during the first lockdown.

Security was posted at the entrance, checking vehicles and pedestrians.

I had to show my press pass to enter. There was security at all gates. With the one-kilometer distance restriction, only residents were allowed to enter.

The only crowd I saw was waiting outside the Old City post office.

The stores inside Jaffa Gate were closed, as they have been for weeks. The tourism business has been extremely hurt for months.

The Armenian way had more flags than usual, but what was a very busy road in the past, with people and cars, day and night, was mostly empty.

There is a new archeological stop in the Rova HaYehudi, Jewish Quarter, but no visitors to learn the stories of these ancient finds.

A couple of the food places in the Jewish Quarter had take out prepared food, but no sit-down dinners or the usual walking noshers in sight.

There were more construction workers than worshipers near the Kotel, Western Wall. Construction of the new elevator is finally moving along.

The 1-kilometer distance regulation was enforced with more security by the Kotel. Showing my press pass was not enough, the guard wanted me to get close and hand it over for inspection.

I decided not enter the empty plaza to get to the partitioned area.

Two workers were on the scaffolding doing repair work along the Western Wall near the Southern Wall. More on that later also.

Jerusalem’s usually vibrant Old City was locked down and quiet.

What a contrast to the the traffic on other Jerusalem streets last week.

The sounds of traffic could be heard as the sun rose this morning, October 18, as some restrictions were lifted. The idea is to open slowly to avoid the increase in coronavirus cases as happened after the last COVID-19 lockdown.

This morning the family Whatsapp had the smiling faces of the under 6-year-olds off to gan, nursery school for the first time – again – this year.

The “Time” exhibit opened at the Islamic Museum in August.

What a time it has been! This most unusual holiday season is over.

Despite these crazy times of political and health uncertainty, the sunsets last week were colorful spectacles.

Nature, the sun and moon, the seasons changed as usual, despite the pandemic.

Another day, I also walked into town for the first time in months – but will save those lockdown photographs for next time.

חודש טוב

This image from Yoel Salomon Street of the hanging umbrellas overhead waiting for the summer tourists who never arrived, was popular on social media as a Shabbat Shalom greeting.

So I thought to use it again for a new greeting of Chodesh Tov.

The new Hebrew month of Marcheshvan is here.

May it be a good month and good year for all.

Stay safe and well!