Celebrating Yom Yerushalayim 2020

Celebrating Yom Yerushalayim 2020

Yom Yerushalayim 5780, Jerusalem Day 2020, marks the 53rd year of the liberation of Jerusalem from Jordanian rule and the return of Jews to the Old City after 19 years of exile.

With restrictions due to pandemic COVID-19 still enforced, the usual large public musical gatherings did not happen. However, multiple events were held and broadcast live. The backyard minyan in the back of our house concluded their morning prayer service with the singing of HaTikvah.

Music going around to neighborhoods on Jerusalem Day

A truck blasting holiday music went around Jerusalem streets on the eve of Yom Yerushalayim. I noticed later all the Israeli flags on the cars following behind.

Israeli Ethiopian memorial in cemetery on Mount Herzl

It has become a tradition on the eve of Yom Yerushalayim to remember the Ethiopians who died on the treacherous journey to reach Jerusalem. The annual ceremony is held at Har Herzl near the monument in their memory.

Ethiopians who died on journey to Israel remembered before Jerusalem Day
Photo credit: Mark Neyman

Here President Rivlin greets the religious leaders after the official state event, held before a much smaller audience this year.

New olim from Ethiopia arrive in Israel
photo credit: Shlomi Amsalem

Later in the day, Jewish Agency Chairman of the Executive Isaac Herzog and the new Minister of Aliyah and Integration Pnina Tamano-Shata welcomed 119  new olim from Ethiopia to Israel. Each year for Sigd, I marvel at how they prayed toward the holy Temple in Jerusalem,  yearning to return to Zion, long before Herzl and political Zionism.

Kotel for Yom Yerushalayim restricted for COVID19

At night the scene at the Kotel, Western Wall, was also different than in the past, divided into sections and numbers greatly limited.

Kotel for Yom Yerushalayim with large Israel flag

This Israeli flag displayed before the evening prayers was not small at all!

Jerusalem Day special prayer book at Western Wall

There was a live broadcast of the special evening service, with a special prayer book,

Rabbis at Kotel for Yom Yerushalayim prayers

and with the Israeli Chief Rabbis in attendance.

Cantor Shai Abramson once again led the service with his powerful and impressive voice.

Flagdance at the Kotel on Yom Yerushalayim coronavirus

Thousands of people singing and dancing with flags – not this year.

But there was an enthusiastic FlagDance of coronavirus proportions.

Remembering fallen soldiers at Ammunition Hill official state ceremony

At Ammunition Hill the official state celebration of the liberation of Jerusalem 53 years ago began with remembering fallen soldiers.

President Rivlin speaking on Yom Yerushalayim
photo credit: Mark Neyman (GPO)

President Rivlin spoke and also Prime Minister and Jerusalem Mayor.

Ammunition Hill on Yom Jerusalem 2020

Fireworks ended the program which included musical performances.

The traditional celebration at Yeshivat Mercaz Harav was held outdoors this year, and featured the Prime Minister as a speaker.

Each year the Mayor of Jerusalem rushes from one event to another.

The rest of us have to decide where to go and how to get around the crowds.

This year it was not such a big problem.

Everything was new and different this year and most of it online!

Musical performance near old City walls for Jerusalem Day

Want more? See 2 hours of Jerusalem songs from Yom Yerushalayim   HERE

I love Jerusalem on Tel Aviv municipal building

Even Tel Aviv lit up its love for Jerusalem on Yom Yerushalayim.

This video was taken 5 years ago, but it’s worth sharing again to hear such beautiful voices.

I posted the video on LinkedIn for Yom Yerushalayim, and surprise!  I found out that the ‘soldier’ on the left is the cousin of an old friend!

On or off the Jerusalem streets, there is always something happening.

Yom Yerushalayim Sameach!

Happy Jerusalem Day

 

Jerusalem Past, Present and Future

Jerusalem Past, Present and Future

Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, celebrates the reunification of Jerusalem, after the Six-Day War in June 1967. Under Jordanian occupation, from 1948-1967, there were no Jews living in or allowed to visit the Old City.

Jerusalem Saint Louis Hospital over the green line from old city

The story is told of a woman who lost her dentures when they fell from a window of the St. Louis Hospital on the border on May 22, 1956. One of the French nuns retrieved it, requiring the cooperation of both the Israeli and Jordanian forces. “Unfortunately three teeth had melted loose in the Jerusalem sun.”

The hospital is still active and seen here with freshly painted blue trim on its windows. Today, the light rail train tracks run where, for nineteen years, No Man’s Land divided Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Israel as seen from St. Louis Hospital

This is the view from the hospital roof today.  The walls of the Old City look the same, but No Man’s Land is much different today from 1948-1967.

Jerusalem Old City Walls

Under Jordanian control, this was as close as a Jewish person could get to the Temple Mount, so the above photo was taken from a lookout at Notre Dame, which is next door to the hospital.

The inviting modern view approaching the Old City with Mamilla Mall on the left, a stark contrast to the days when the area was under threat by Jordanian snipers shooting.

Image from Tower of David before Mamilla Mall renovation
photo credit: C. Goldberg

Here’s an interesting view looking toward Mamilla after the wire and barriers that divided the city had been removed, but before the area was developed.

Stones fallen from Temple Mount at base of Old City Western wall

The ancient stones thrown from the Temple Mount remain at the base of the Western Wall as a reminder of the destruction of the Second Temple.

under the Kotel excavation
photo credit: IAA

Under the ground near the walls of the Temple Mount archaeologists have carefully continued to work and find layers of history.

Floor found under Western Wall Plaza
photo credit: IAA

A new discovery, an ancient mosaic floor was uncovered and is carefully being preserved.

Yom Yerushalayim is a day to celebrate old and new Yerushalayim.

Going back over previous years on Yom Yerushalayim.

Three years ago President Trump was in Jerusalem,  it seems like a lifetime ago.

Remember two years ago the Giro d’Italia cyclists filled the Jerusalem streets?

Tower of David on Jerusalem Day

The Tower of David in past years hosted huge crowds.

This year the Tower of David will reopen for Yom Yerushalayim to more modest numbers of guests and only outside venues will be open.

Jerusalem Day Israeli flags dancing in street

Tens of thousands young people singing and dancing with hundreds of Israel flags – not this year.

Jerusalem Israel King George Street crowded for Jerusalem Day

Those huge crowds filling King George Street are a scene from the past.

Jerusalem Israel Damascus Gate on Jerusalem Day

No marching through the streets of the Old City entering in the Damascus Gate.

Kotel at end of Jerusalem Day

The Kotel, Western Wall plaza overflowing with people will have very limited numbers this year for evening prayers on Yom Yerushalayim.

Jerusalem Day celebration in Jerusalem

Last year with endless huge events who would have imagined this year?

The usual celebrations in Jerusalem are very limited this year due to COVID-19.

The big 50 year celebrations are nice to remember.

Fewer people are to be on the Jerusalem streets to celebrate.

But this year from around the world more can join and participate.

The Jerusalem Municipality, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, the Office for Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage, and the Jerusalem Development Authority for the Development of Jerusalem will hold a special festive broadcast on Thursday, 27 Iyar, 5780 (May 21, 2020) from 7:30 pm to 8:30 pm in honor of 53 years since the reunification of Jerusalem. 

A virtual two hour live broadcast from special sites in Jerusalem, alongside stories of heritage and interviews with those who fought in the Six-Day War of June 1967, will be broadcast on the Facebook Pages and YouTube of the World Zionist Organization and B’nai B’rith International on Thursday, May 21, 2020, between 2 pm and 4 pm Israel time.

There are many other Yom Yerushalayim programs offered online.

From wherever you are in the world, the Jerusalem streets are only a quick click away.

Crowds in the past for major holidays will not be on the Jerusalem streets this year.

Hoping next year we can all be out on the Jerusalem streets together.

 

 

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.