Jerusalem Yom Kippur Eve

Oh Jerusalem!

When I lead photo walks, I try to arrive across from Jaffa Gate as the sun is setting to show off the Jerusalem of Gold. The sun reflected off the stones, depending on conditions, appears either golden or pink on cloudy days.

On Friday afternoon, before Shabbat, the Kotel, Western Wall, stones were pure golden hues, However, there was no one there to appreciate the moment. No crowds to pray afternoon or evening prayers.

At 2:00 pm on Friday, September 25, 2020, a lockdown was to begin, after a sharp rise in COVID-19, people are not to go more than 1 kilometer from home.

The Israel Museum and all others are again closed, this time until at least October 11, after the Sukkot holidays.

Most people, like the ants, were out busily preparing for whatever might be needed for holidays and the unknown weather- and whatever is to happen next.

Even before the lockdown announcement, for the solemn day of Yom Kippur, 61% of Jewish Israelis said that they do not intend to attend synagogue at all this year, and only 34% planned on coming to some or all of the services. In the past those numbers were much higher.

Now, like Rosh Hashana, we plan to be home and alone.

Yom Kippur services with reduced numbers of 20 are planned for outside. This is to be a holiday season like none other.

Bar Ilan University posted a day of Zoom live courses on Facebook on Wednesday for the public on various related holiday topics. The list of lectures, classes, and changing regulations seems endless.

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People were out on paths getting in their 1 kilometer from home walks.

I hope my less known route does not become as popular.

The Jerusalem Municipality sponsored programs and selihot for the week before Yom Kippur, with singer Moshe Louk scheduled for Wednesday night leading Piyutim.

Two years ago Louk led Selihot at Beit Hanasi, in the Israeli President’s Residence Synagogue. Sadly there will be none there this year.

Stores were closed and locked up on Friday afternoon.

I wonder how many businesses will never open up again.

The Jerusalem cats were out in full force on the streets Friday afternoon.

Major intersections were quieter, much quieter than a regular Friday.

Even the cats seemed quieter, waiting, not sure what would be next.

A sharp increase in the number of corona patients in the Arab sector was of concern. Large weddings were held in the afternoon to get around curfews.

Photo credit: United Hatzalah spokesperson

Jerusalem Municipality and United Hatzalah of Israel, with more than 20 EMS volunteers driving ambucycles, an ambulance, fly cars, and an ATV, drove through neighborhoods in order to spread awareness of the dangers of COVID-19 to the residents.

Mayor Moshe Lion also joined the procession in order to strengthen the efforts of the volunteers and encourage the residents to stay home and safe.

At the same time, nature seems normal, with shorter days, fall colors, and a new season.

President Rivlin’s term is up in July 2021. There will be no next year Selihot for him to host at Beit Hanasi.

This year with very limited numbers and restrictions on religious services.

The main Selihot erev Yom Kippur were very different.

The Kotel, Western Wall plaza was mostly empty during a live broadcast.

Meanwhile, thousands arrived by car to Jerusalem on Shabbat, and for two hours after, heading to Paris Square to protest against the government.

New bright lights lined Ruppin Street outside the Knesset as they met to work out the latest coronavirus regulations.

As Israel goes into the Yom Kippur holiday, with people alone at home, or on the streets fasting and praying, pray for wisdom and unity as well as health this year.

At the very first of many webinars on COVID-19, way back in March, the expert from South Korea stated the number one factor in controlling the virus was trust in the government.

May all be sealed for a good and healthy year.

Next Year in Jerusalem!

Rosh Hashana 5781

This year in Jerusalem, Rosh Hashana was not like in previous years. As with most of the world, the Jewish New Year was spent alone at home or in small gatherings rather than in crowded synagogues and overflow services. 

At the Kotel, the Western Wall, the usual huge crowds were missing.

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Sections were divided into small prayer groups before Rosh Hashana for late-night Selihot.

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Those smaller groups filled some of the plaza areas this year.

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And then at night after Rosh Hashana, even those small groups were gone.

Such a sorry sight, at a time usually filled with tourists and visitors. 

The Jerusalem Great Synagogue was empty for the first time in its history.

The green spaces of Jerusalem, all of its parks, were called into use.

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These signs were posted wishing park visitors’ good health and a good year.

Jerusalem Gazelle Valley opening day

A special announcement was made that the Gazelle Park would be open during the lockdown, with everyone required to wear a mask.

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Hope they turned off the water sprinklers on the holiday for Gan Sacher, Sacher Park. Extra bins for holiday trash were available. 

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The ads for juice near Gan Sacher had a happy holiday greeting.

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Almonds were ripe on the tree and falling to the ground. Only they were so hard I could not crack the ones I brought home with a hammer.

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Machane Yehuda Market, the shuk, was busy the week before the impending holiday shutdown. Shoppers were rushing to stock up with food and supplies. Supermarkets were filled to overflowing capacity. 

Display of unusual fruits for Rosh Hashana in shuk, Mahane Yehuda market

Fresh new fruits for the second night of Rosh Hashana are especially popular this time of year.

pomegrante seeds

A long time favorite, yummy pomegranate pie for the holiday. 

Family of beekeeper at Beit Hanasi before the New Year.

No little bees photo ops this year, and a very much smaller reception for beekeepers was held at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence. 

Tzipi Hotovely taking a photo of the food at Beit Hanasi

No big New Year event for foreign diplomats at Beit Hanasi as in the past.

Photo credit: Mark Neyman GPO

This year President Rivlin hosted a socially distanced private reception for diplomats who were seated apart and all wearing masks.

The Selihot in the Beit Hanasi Synagogue was an annual event during Rivlin’s tenure. This was the last chance as his 7-year term is up in July.

However, this year due to religious service size restrictions these will not be held during this three-week lockdown period.

For a lockdown, this new Jerusalem project in the Schneller Compound is the place to live, to enjoy parks and open spaces. It is a magazine perfect neighborhood.

From Jerusalem this past week, all eyes were watching the signing of treaties with UAE and Bahrain. Only later I noticed on the left side for Israelis, a man in the front rows got up to take a photo on his phone, as the US side sat politely.

The Old City Walls that night were illuminated with flags of Israel, the US, UAE, and Bahrain in honor of the historic occasion.

Already numerous interactions have taken place. The webinar on health and technology I listened to is worthy of sharing with you soon, it was so impressive what they have done in Abu Dhabi in the last few years.

Photo credit: Shifra

However, also on the Jerusalem streets near the Prime Minister’s Residence, the protests continue. Though there was a supposed lockdown, a large table was set for 120 people, with no distancing, no masks, and lots of noise for Rosh Hashana on the first night. Protests in democratic Israel are legal.

Sorry, but I find their behavior UNEXCEPTIBLE.

New security cameras are being installed in the area, and new security is reinforcing the regular police and border police who have had to deal with these loud mob scenes week after week.

Sweet New Year poster for Rosh Hashanah

But for now, hoping all have a sweet and healthy year.

President Reuven Rivlin gave New Year greetings in English this year.

Next year in Jerusalem!

Meanwhile, preparing for Sukkot holiday to start October 2, 2020,

We spotted the first sukka of the season!

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.