Jerusalem: Summer 2020 Starting Ready or Not

Jerusalem: Summer 2020 Starting Ready or Not

Skies over Jerusalem, Israel, were not as bright this morning, with a partial eclipse of the sun. Sadly, my attempt to get a photo failed.

June clouds over Jerusalem Israel skyline

However, the clouds over the Jerusalem streets last week were amazing.

June clouds over Jerusalem Israel streets

Here’s another image of clouds with a view of the center of town.

Summer is a time for a vacation in Israel. After inbound tourism to Israel had reached a historic high of 4.55 million tourists at the end of 2019, the industry expected to break another new record of 5 million tourists in 2020. But as a result of the global tourism crisis, the tourism industry in Jerusalem has been hard hit.

Some smaller venues and the Tower of David Museum have started to open.

Israel Museum in Jerusalem closed because of coronavirus regulations

But the Israel Museum gates are shut. It stands empty at the start of summer. In the past, it would be a time filled with people of all ages from around the world.

Israel Museum no people grounds empty midday in June COVID-19

I always wanted a photo of the Israel Museum’s  ‘Turning the World Upside Down’ by Anish Kapoor without people standing around and in my way. Certainly, I never imagined it would be finally possible with the world turned upside down due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. As people around the world Zoom into funerals, conferences, and weddings, standing outside the Israel Museum all I needed was a simple zoom lens.

Construction on Israel National Library progress even during coronavirus restrictions and closings

However, across the street, the National Library construction was proceeding and visible well above ground. Interesting to compare to what the library site was like five years ago. 

The larger hotels, like the King David, Crown Plaza, and Orient are still closed.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Israel’s first international state visitor at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Jerusalem. In the framework of the G2G meeting between the governments of Israel and Greece, he met with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Greek and Israeli flags at Beit Hanasi for official state ceremony

Before COVID-19, Greek officials were received at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence with blue and white flags.

And an honor guard red carpet welcome, with national anthems, and media invited to attend and record.

But, the current smaller-scaled reception resulted in the signing by ministers of three MOUs – on cyber, agriculture, and tourism. Plus, it was announced that it will be possible for Israeli tourists to travel to Greece and possibly return from Greece and Cyprus without a quarantine requirement by August 1, 2020.

Prime Minister of Greece and President of Israel at Beit Hanasi
Photo credit: Mark Neyman (GPO)

Besides the important agreements, there was an official photo with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of Greece and President Reuven Rivlin at Beit Hanasi.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of Greece:and Israeli President at Beit Hanasi bump elbows
Photo credit: Mark Neyman (GPO)

And the new coronavirus greeting of bumping elbows and not shaking hands.

There was also to be an official visit from Cyprus, but it was postponed as the numbers of coronavirus cases has started to rise again in multiple Israeli locations.

Knesset in 2017 opening session Tzipi Hotovley

It was announced that MK Tzipi Hotovely is leaving the Knesset to replace Mark Regev as Ambassador to the United Kingdom. The usual anti-Israel sources are protesting the appointment. Remembering when Brazil would not accept Dani Dayan?   The best thing that happened to Dayan was when he went to New York as Israel’s General Counsel and has done an outstanding job.

View of Gaza from Israel where IDF monitors border

Back in November 2018, we were on a media tour near the Israeli border to see the IDF view of Gaza.

Israel Gaza border Tehilla Friedman on tour

There was Tehila Friedman in her signature red hat having a private guided tour. With the new Knesset arrangements, Tehila is one of the newest Knesset members. As Knesset members, the two female politicians are from different parties with very different political views, but both are concerned with the welfare of Israel.

New Jerusalem Israel summer tourist hamburger food trucks

The red food truck came back, with labeling for burgers, both meat and vegan burgers.

I love the name of Beyond Burgers in Hebrew – ביונד מיט-הדור הבה

In time for today’s International Yoga Day, Abraham Hostel announced rooftop Yoga.

What a contrast to two years ago and the big events for the first day of summer.

Man praying in Valley of Cross park area

Now a man praying alone in nature is more likely scene than group yoga.

Wildflower in Jerusalem Israel park area

The summer flowers around are blooming.

The sights and smells of summer abound.

Wild flower in Jerusalem Israel

Even this bead tree or Indian lilac flowers were pretty, though it’s toxic and intrusive.

The pleasant senses of nature will have to suffice.

This summer of 2020 the large annual festivals are not happening.

Protests from the cultural community, one of the daily protests near the Prime Minister’s Office and Knesset, could be heard from kilometres away.

I will leave you with one of the favorite sights and sounds from the Jerusalem Light Festival of 2018.

Here’s to hoping next year – or better – this year to see you on the Jerusalem streets.

Jerusalem Streets Cleaner after COVID-19 Closures

Jerusalem Streets Cleaner after COVID-19 Closures

Creating. Innovating. Resilience. Responding to challenges.

Oh, with at least a dash of chutzpah too–all are important to living in Israel.

In Jerusalem last week the news highlighted the story that the old street Bezek payphone booths were to be converted to defibrillator stations. Mifal HaPayis and MDA have begun to place AEDs at crucial public places under a joint venture.

Israeli defibrillator posted on street with connection to MDA
Photo Credit: Iki Maimon

As part of the project, 600 initial advanced devices will be deployed with wireless communication to MDA’s 101 Emergency Call Center.

Also new on the Jerusalem streets, small refrigerators would host ‘food salvage’ – good food placed inside free for anyone in need to take.

Jerusalem Israel Knesset as seen over the Valley of the Cross

The Knesset was finally back in business. Then it closed.

A member of Knesset was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Visitor Entrance to Israeli president residence being disinfected for coronavirus
Photo Credit: Tomer Reichman

At Beit Hanasi, a staff member has tested positive for the coronavirus, so the President’s house is getting a thorough cleaning.

Spraying street to clean during COVID-19

I’ve lost count how many times our street has been cleaned.

Jerusalem COVID 19 disinfection

But this is the first time I saw them spraying inside this passageway.

Jerusalem Israel park with new rubbish bag

Check out the brand-new garbage bags in the old cans!

Jerusalem Israel park path fixed

And they patched up parts of this path.

Jerusalem Israel new traffic lights

New traffic lights were installed at this dangerous pedestrian crossing.

Valley of the Cross Monastery repair

Even the monastery in the Valley of the Cross was cleaning up this week.

Cleaning dried weeds at Jerusalem Valley of the Cross

The dry foliage is a serious fire hazard. So glad to finally see the dried weeds being cut.

Jerusalem food truck

Getting ready to host visitors in Jerusalem?

Park benches are social distanced in Jerusalem Israel

These socially distanced park benches are ready.

Valley of the Cross in Jerusalem Israel man sitting in dried grass

Or go for the extreme social distancing, alone with nature.

Slowly Jerusalem seems to be coming back from the coronavirus shut down.

Jeruslaem street signs in Hebrew for cinema

The signs were still up for the end of March Brain and Art Week at the Cinematheque.

Many cultural events were canceled and some programs have moved online.

The 2020 Israel Festival has rescheduled for September.

Night lights at Israel Museum

The hilltop was dark after Shabbat, these usual Israel Museum lights did not go on.

However, The Islamic Museum announced its reopening.

Trespassing exhibit at LA Mayer Museum of Islamic Art in Jerusalem Israel

Trespassing” will be on display until the end of the month.

Tower of David image for BANAI exibit

 Bachora and Meir Banai with their eldest son Shmuel – 1915    Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi Photographic Archives

The Tower of David Museum will be re-opening its doors this week on June 17 – and opening a brand new exhibition BANAI, the personal story of the Banai family while painting a much broader panorama with a saga going back to 1881 when Rachamim Bana came to the Holy Land from Shiraz, Persia.

Kikar Musica sign in Hebrew posted in Jerusalem

Kikar Musica, Music Square, off of Yoel Salomon Street is offering live events again.

And planning for the future, Avraham Fried wants to perform in Sultan’s Pool at the end of August.

Two years ago, Fried was the featured entertainment at Rabbi Steinsaltz’s 80th birthday bash at the Orient Hotel. Oh, that was a busy week with June events.

The big hotels are still dark, but working on reopening plans with the new Ministry of Health guidelines.

The Jerusalem streets are getting back to business, slowly, but cleaner and better than before.

 

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.