Israel at 71 – Who Would Believe, Who Could Imagine?

Israel at 71 – Who Would Believe, Who Could Imagine?

On Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel Independence Day, Israelis celebrated 71 years since the state was founded.

Beginning with sunset, it was obvious to visitors that this was no ordinary day. At Mamilla Mall, shops were closed and restaurants were closing early on Wednesday.

Jerusalem memorial for remembrance day in Mamilla Mall

The Yizkor, Remembrance Day memorial with its floral wreath was displayed near the entrance.

Independence Day sign in Hebrew near Jaffa Gate Jerusalem Israel

By the walls of the Old City near Jaffa Gate, a large sign said ‘Happy Independence Day! 71.’

View of Tower of David in Jerusalem Israel from across the street near Teddy Park

The Tower of David stood tall against the blue sky, with the setting sun reflecting gold hues upon its stones.

Jerusalem Israel Tower of David free on Independence Day

On Yom Ha’aztmaut there was free admittance to the Tower of David, as well as to other attractions.

Entrance sign for Teddy Park in Jerusalem Israel

Across the road, there were big signs marking the entrance to Teddy Park.

Only one problem–for security reasons, no one was allowed to enter at this entrance.

Going around to the other entrance, I saw that hundreds had already arrived.

Men davening mincha in Teddy Park

A group of men had gathered for afternoon prayers. From Teddy Park, knowing which direction to face when you pray is easy. Jews pray towards Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, and have done so for millennia.

Crowd in Teddy Park for Independence Day celebration at night in Jerusalem

Slow singing started at 6:00 pm. Though it was an unusually cold night for spring, thousands arrived and filled the park.

The music turned to loud and joyous as celebrations for Yom Haatzmaut began at dark.

Teddy Park was only one of many places in Jerusalem with free public music.

The list is too long for now, as neighborhoods gathered to celebrate with music and fireworks.

Jerusalem Israel celebrating Independence Day

At First Station there was a musical prayer service

First Station Yom Haatzmaut Prayer service led by Shlomo Katz

led by Rabbi Sholom Katz, and it was well attended again this year.

Independence Day 71 Israel in Jerusalem at night

It was hard to get a good photo of such a large crowd.

But this short video should give you an idea of the energy.

Scene from Yom Haazmaut at Har Herzl show

The main state event is held on Har Herzl and is televised.

Har Herzl for Israeli Independence Day 71

Tickets are in big demand for the open theater and stage near Herzl’s grave.

Israel Independence Day show at Har Herzl with Yuli Edelstein

The event was held under the offices of Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev.

Israel Independence day at Mount Herzl

Military colors play a major part of the program, and IDF, Fire and Police participated.

Two female Israelis in military dress uniform at Har Herzl

 

To take close up photographs of so many soldiers,

Army colors at Har Herzl Yom Haaztmaut

or photos from a distance is an annual dilemma.

Israel Independence Day 71

This event might be better appreciated watching at home on TV.

The outdoor mountain setting can also be very cold and windy.

Look at screen on the upper left side of the photo, you will see that these marchers form a menorah.

Israeli army in formation for Independence Day show in tV

Special this year, at the base of the menorah were these soldiers in wheelchairs.

Yom Haatzmaut official opening ceremony

The program has musical numbers with fireworks.

The popular Shalva Band performed during the program.

The program also included 12 torches representing the 12 Tribes, lit by 16 individuals who had overcome difficulties, all representing the “Spirit of Israel.”

People celebrating Independence Day in Jerusalem

But in spite of staying up late celebrating, tens of thousands of Israelis were off to parks during the day.

In Jerusalem, there may be fewer hikers, but there are a whole lot of grills in the parks.

This year was the first time in long time I was not in Gan Sacher, Sacher Park, for Yom Ha’atzmaut.

Highway outside of Modiin on Independence Day

Riding on Israeli highways, like this one toward Modi’in, is a time to remember the old Route 1, with its single lanes winding through the Jerusalem hills.

View of Modiin, Israel, new city built

The municipality of Modi’in-Maccabim-Reut developed from nothing but barren land, and is now a thriving and growing city of over 90,000 residents.

Then Yom Ha’atzmaut, with all its grilled food, concludes with the Israel Prize ceremony.

Israel Prize on Independence Day 71

A day which began with military honors at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence, and a Bible contest for teenagers at the Jerusalem Theater, comes to an end with Israel honoring its citizens who have contributed to various fields of knowledge or a lifetime of service for the public good.

Israel Prize on Independence Day 71

Miri and Chaim Ehrental started Zichron Menahem after their son died of cancer.  It is an organization which has helped thousands of families cope with cancer.

Winners of Israel Prize on Independence Day 71

The laureates who accomplished so much in their fields bring honor to themselves and all Israelis.

As President Rivlin said in his Yom Haatamaut greeting, “Dear friends at home here in Israel and around the world. Happy Independence Day! Chag Sameach!  Israel is seventy-one years old. Who would have believed seventy-one years ago that we would build cities from the swamps? That roads and railways would cross the sands?  Who could have imagined then the wonder that is the State of Israel?”

Who would have believed, who could have imagined?

Israel at 71!

Jerusalem Old and New in Sacher Park on Passover

Jerusalem Old and New in Sacher Park on Passover

Jerusalem, Israel.

So many extremes, highs and lows, and contrasts of old and new.

Monastery in Valley of Cross on Passover and Easter in Jerusalem

The ancient stone monastery in the Valley of the Cross is surrounded by new spring wild flowers and a sea of green after a winter of significant rain.

Valley of Cross bike path in Jerusalem Israel near Sacher Park

The new biking/walking path leading to Gan Sacher, Sacher Park, from the monastery not only has new benches, but also a shaded area to rest in the midday sun.

Sacher Park in Jerusalem on Pesach, family in matching outfits

It is nothing new that on Passover, families in Gan Sacher could be seen walking in matching spring outfits. On outings with five young children in a busy public area, it is a good idea to let everyone know to which family they belong.

Gan Sacher picnickers on Pesach in Jerusalem park

As usual, family and friends reunited for picnics in the park.

In 2011, the situation in Gan Sacher was outrageous.

The lack of proper public facilities was shocking.

Sacher Park holiday sign on public toilet building Jerusalem Israel park

This building with proper toilets has been in use for a few years.

Clean and ready bathroom for disabled and place to change babies in Jerusalem park

While it is not new, the toilets and the handicapped facilities were clean and stocked with supplies.

This baby changing area is also near the entrance on the women’s side.

It was midday and crowds were still not large, but such a drastic improvement in the situation must be noted and complimented.

Jerusalem Sacher Park new stairs to fitness equipment park improvement

New stairs lead up to the fitness exercise equipment area.

Sacher Park children's play area with people picnicking.

Nothing new with many families near the play area.

Two Jerusalem gardeners in Sacher Park on Pesach

Remember those yellow vests on the new gardening staff before Passover?

This clean up team with those vests was a new sight in Gan Sacher.

Sacher Park on Passover Jerusalem Israel

Little children running in the park is not new.

Sacher Park new paths for disabled access

However, wheelchair access is new.

Finally there are easy access routes into and through the main areas of the park.

Sacher Park walking path and new shaded area

Young couples meeting and walking around is not new.

But notice the new benches and sun shade they are passing.

Sacher Park on Pesach with men watching for fire hazzard

Also new, quality control workers were wearing those black tee shirts with identification in white on the back. This pair had just instructed a family to move their grill to a safer spot.

Friends said the smoke from grills got so strong later in the day, they are thinking not to return next year.

Mangal on Pesach in Gan Sacher

Not everyone was an expert at grilling, but no worries. One man stopped to help another get his fire going to cook his hot dogs.

Gan Sacher on Passover Jerusalem Israel

Families were filling the park with tables, tents, and chairs,

Boy with big box of matza on Peasach in Jerusalem Israel park

and at least one big box of matzah.

Notice the warning sign in the distance. Large areas were fenced in and off limits to park visitors. Renovations are still ongoing. The Jerusalem Marathon crowds walking on the muddy grounds was not good for the grass.

Sacher Park on Pesach afternoon

But the new paths were marked and the smooth red area is perfect surface for wheelchairs and baby strollers.

Man walks down stairs to Sacher Park

New steps lead down from the street corner.

Gan Sacher on Pesach afternoon

However, some people like to enter Gan Sacher the old way.

More and more people were arriving to celebrate the spring holiday.

Near Sacher Park flowers in shape of butterly

New construction can be seen in the distance over the butterfly flowers located outside the park.

Valley of Cross, Jerusalem, Israel Easter time with spring flowers

Walking home, I went back past the old monastery again.

With Passover, Easter and Orthodox Easter, and Druze Nabi Shu’eib, Baha’i Ridvan, Muslim Lailat al Bara’ah, this was a very busy spring holiday season on the Jerusalem streets. Hotels were near capacity with tens of thousands of visitors.

Large flags on Jerusalem municipal building.

Before the ‘Happy Spring Holiday’ signs come down, the flags are already being put up for the Yoms.

Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Yom HaZikaron, Remembrance Day for Israel’s Fallen.

Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day.

No down time in Jerusalem, Israel, on these busy streets..

Passover — This Year in Jerusalem

Passover — This Year in Jerusalem

Cold. Wet. Rainy. Hail. Thunder.

These are not words one normally associates with Jerusalem, Israel, on Passover.

The holiday of spring feels more like winter this year.

Kotel for Birkat Chohanim

However, tens of thousands of people crowded around the Kotel, the Western Wall,

Kotel for Birkat Kohanim on Pesach

and the Western Wall Plaza for the annual Passover Birkat HaKohanim, the Priestly Blessing.

In Talpiot, the bowling alley had a long, long line of people waiting to roll.

Due to the weather, museums with free entrance for children were more popular this year than traditional tiyulim, hikes in the countryside. The Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem was “packed.”

Pesach section in Israel Museum

The Israel Museum has a special section devoted to Passover.

There is even a video where one can watch how matzah is made by hand.

Pesach seder plate in Israel Museum

Special, distinctive seder plates are on display as well.

1925 silver seder plate in Israel Museum

This is a 1925, three-tiered silver seder plate from Vienna with three sections for matzah.

Men cleaning notes from Western Wall Kosel before Pesach

The annual Passover clean up of notes left in the Kotel stones was done a week before the holiday.

Jaffa Gate Jerusalem Israel

On that morning I entered the Old City by way of the Jaffa Gate,

Jerusalem Israel inside Jaffa Gate

and unlike this morning, the plaza area inside was quiet.

Jerusalem Israel Jewish Quarter street

It was possible to get this photo without any people.

Jerusalem Israel Hurva Synagogue Old City

Next to the Hurva Synagogue in the Rova, Jewish Quarter, this man sat and talked on his phone near the golden menorah.

Kotel in women's section with a little girl and boy dancing.

In the women’s section a young boy and girl had plenty of room to dance.

View from steps of Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem Israel Old City

This is the area that was entirely filled with people today in spite of the cold weather.

Jerusalem Israel view of Kotel

In the area where a stone fell last year, blue scaffolding was next to the wall.

Old City Jerusalem new steps and elevator

And new stairs have been added near the elevator which is still under construction.

View of Har HaZeitim from Old City

The ancient Mount of Olives Jewish Cemetery still looks the same.

Near Zion Gate view of Yemin Moshe Jerusalem Israel

The wet winter was great for greenery, as seen in this view of Yemin Moshe.

Jerusalem Israel view of Artists Colony from Old City

Mitchell Park nearby next to the Artists’ Colony is also full of green.

King David Hotel in Jerusalem Israel

Wild flowers behind the King David Hotel stand out after the spring rains.

For Passover in shuk covered with foil for holiday food

In the Machane Yehudah Market, the shuk, this store covered its counters with foil, and was ready to put out its kosher for Passover food before the holiday.

Piles of fresh garlic on street before Pesach

One of the annual sights and smells of Passover on Jerusalem streets are the piles of fresh garlic for holiday cooking and to be dried out to use for the rest of the year.

Jerusalem Israel Passover preparation on street

And of course, around Jerusalem huge vats of boiling water were ready to kasher metal utensils.

Gardeners going to clean up Jerusalem Israel public spaces before Passover

One new and welcomed sight this year was these young men wearing gardener vests and carrying brand new shiny rakes and rolls of garbage bags. Mayor Moshe Lion had announced that the municipality was going to clean up public areas. Too bad I was on my way home and did not take the time to follow them to see their work area.

Happy Spring Holiday sign in Jerusalem Israel

Chag Aviv Sameach in Yerushalayim.

Happy Spring Holiday in Jerusalem.

Tomorrow is to be warmer and it should  start feeling like spring again on the Jerusalem streets.