Jerusalem Getting Back to Normal

People are slowly coming back onto the Jerusalem streets, like bears emerging slowly from hibernation, lumbering up from deep in their caves.

Recognizing friends you have not seen in over a year (or was it two?) whose faces are hidden behind a mask is not so easy. But what a pleasure it is to reunite and speak to people in real life, rather than via a computer screen.

Weddings with bubbles and brides! What could be better this week? Albeit with caution and held outside, but celebrations are back, better than last year and with anticipation and enthusiasm.

Organized tour groups have returned to the Jerusalem streets.

The Kotel (Western Wall) train is back in business.

Not your usual train tunnel

or usual train track,

but the Kotel train, love it or hate it, is back on the Jerusalem streets.

Inside and even outside the walls of the Old City, photoshoots for bar mitzvahs and other celebrations are common again.

Shopping at Mamilla Mall? Masks are needed inside stores, but not outside.

The cats are not back, they never left the Jerusalem streets. Need at least one cat photo, here in the new parking lot in the Armenian Quarter.

Parking in Jerusalem has never been easy, but these workers found a convenient spot on the sidewalk near the construction area at the Paris Fountain.

Remember the parking lot at Shaare Zedek hospital that opened up and swallowed cars? Repair work has progressed, but the area is still not back to normal.

Construction outside the hospital parking area is only part of the story.

The work on the new Route 16 nearby is extensive.

Mountains of dirt are being moved, and

tunnels are emerging from underground.

On the other side of Shmuel Bait Street, there is more huge equipment.

Part of the mountain is gone to make room for new lanes of traffic.

A whole new scene awaits when you return to these Jerusalem streets.

As mentioned last week the Jerusalem Marathon is back!

The Sports Expo returns for two days, October 26-28, at a new venue in the Jerusalem Cinema City, before the Friday marathon races.

Will the new children’s playground at Sacher Park be ready in time?

Participants will see new buildings in the city center as they run by.

The Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference is to be held at the new The Museum of Tolerance building. Last year it was held online.

Israeli President House lunch for German delegation in Jerusalem Israel

Andrea Merkel is back again. Three years ago this was the table set for the German Chancellor at a special lunch at Beit Hanasi, with then-President Reuven Rivlin and Israeli Nobel Prize winners. This time no media, private lunch for two, but I did see her motorcade leave.

The First Station parking lot has been full at night. People are back in large numbers. But, the winter igloos have popped up for those who still need more time in a cave and are not ready to party in crowds.

Here’s to celebrating, coming back, and enjoying life.

Hope to see you soon on the Jerusalem streets!

Sukkot in Jerusalem 2020

Oh, Jerusalem of 2020.

It used to be that “20-20” was an expression for hindsight.

This year of 2020 has taken on a different context with the COVID-19 pandemic. The novel coronavirus has changed the world and certainly life as we knew it in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem, Israel, endured a holiday season so unlike recent years, the excited holiday crowds and tens of thousands of international visitors were missing from the Jerusalem streets.

The huge Birkat Kohanim at the Kotel, Western Wall, was extremely limited.

The Israeli Chief Rabbis, Mayor Moshe Lion, US Ambassador David Friedman attended, however, the main plaza was empty. People watched from home on a screen, on Facebook for a live stream of the service.

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On other days a lone Kohen could be found blessing the small prayer groups. Regulations for the holiday week this year limited outdoor groups to 20 people, and within one kilometer from home.

This was the year for the private home sukkah, tucked away in the garden,

or up on the roof,

in all shapes and styles.

Some sukkot blended into the architecture,

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while others were easier to see.

A wooden one on this small porch is an annual sight,

but there seemed to be many more new white walls in driveways this year,

as more people had to stay home and not travel near or far.

They were placed in parking spots next to apartment buildings.

On the last night of Sukkot, I took a walk around the neighborhood and found a friend eating dinner. This “communal” sukkah is shared by many people in the building, but this year families were eating at separate times and not sharing meals.

When I started going each year, President Shimon Peres was at Beit Hanasi, hosting the Israeli President’s sukkah which was open to the public.

But this year, President Rivlin missed out hosting the public, and the “open sukkah” was a two-hour program online, which included

the Israel Space Agency, a program involving young Israelis.

The little Professor G got my vote as the cutest presenter.

Photo credit: Aleksandr Tokar

Even the sukkah at the Kotel Plaza, though brightly lit, was much smaller this year and was used only by those who lived near by.

Instead of running around all night long in Jerusalem to attend classes, now one can sit anywhere in the world and zoom in and out to learn Torah.

This year went online for dozens of lectures for Hashana Raba.

And music – last year Akiva Tourgeman was singing at Beit Hanasi, this year he was on Israeli TV.

This year Tourgeman was on stage for Hashana Raba televised concert.

Yemima Mizrachi spoke and introduced Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion and other performers on the outdoor stage for an online Hashana Raba event.

This was the year of the small sukkah and even smaller holiday businesses.

Hoshanot at the Kotel, were seen live on Facebook and now on YouTube.

The Jerusalem March with tens of thousands from around the world coming to show love for Jerusalem did not happen.

The Bible Marathon was run online, not over the Judean landscapes.

Tourism which had been in the millions of visitors, went down to zero.

Small business owners have really been suffering with forced closings.

This was a year to find simple pleasure in nature close to home.

Repurposed unused school lunch bags made into a sukkah decoration.

Of immediate family time together,

seeking quiet time and some sun up on the roof,

or on a rock in the park for solitude.

The Sukkot and Simhat Torah under corona limitations for many were at home, home alone without the usual dancing and large parties.

None of the crowds of past years.

Oh, Jerusalem of 2020!

The sun set on another holiday season so different than last year.

Sukkot 2020 one to remember or one to try and forget?

Next year in Jerusalem.