Jerusalem Levels of Security

It was a very warm summer night and the line of large SUVs idling on the side of the street spewed off clouds of hot exhaust as their drivers sat waiting inside with the motors and air conditioning running.

Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, was hosting US presidential candidate Barak Obama for dinner. I don’t remember where I was coming home from late at night, but I took the shortcut down Smolenskin Street past #9, walking past the Israeli Prime Minister’s official residence on the street corner of Balfour Street.

For over four years, I have wanted to write about how the levels of security have increased. With the events of the past week now is finally the time.

View of Old City walls in Jerusalem Israel at sunset

The walls around the Old City of Jerusalem were for security. The Tower of David was used for defense until 1918 when the British first used the Citadel for cultural, not military purposes.

These ‘dragon teeth,’ the bollards of yesteryear, were collected from various locations and placed across from Gan Haaztzmaut, Independence Park.

One remains on Agron Street, but this photo is from a post four years ago, shared when writing about security for a Presidential Trump visit.

Also four years ago, I was able to get one photo of the then new black curtain put up near the Israeli Prime Minister’s Residence.

Year by year in Jerusalem new levels of security have been put in place.

New security at Beit Hanasi Jerusalem

Not only near the Prime Minister’s Residence but four years ago at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence, a new security screen was added to block the view from the street.

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Today there are bollards and a new security entrance, and guards.

White security tent for Leningrad dedication in Jerusalem Sacher Park

It may seem like ages ago, but the security for the January 2020 visit of the 49 world leaders for the Holocaust Remembrance took weeks to assemble.

Security in Old city near Western Wall

The increased security near the Kotel, Western Wall is well known.

Western Wall Plaza clear for VP Pence visit

Two years ago, the security for the official visit of Vice-President Mike Pence was extraordinary!

Entrance to Jaffa Gate

More than once this past year, security was increased at the gates of Old City due to the coronavirus lockdowns and distance limitations.

Protest Rally in Jerusalem Israel near Prime Minister's residence

There have been antigovernmental protests for months. The Saturday night events are loud and large and go long past noise time restriction limits.

However, last Shabbat protesters crossed a new line.

The main protest area near the Prime Minister’s Residence is across the street from Paris Square. It has been occupied for months by day as well the Saturday night noisy mega-events.

They are near this entrance to the street of the Prime Minister’s Residence.

This was a view of Smolenskin Street on Friday January 8, 2021.

The next morning on Shabbat, a van like this one blocked the street. Multiple border police officers were positioned there to make sure the demonstrators did not break through and get close to the building again.

By Friday, a new layer of security was added on Balfour Street.

Anyone needing a minyan of ten men to say kaddish could have tried here, as there was at least ten security personnel on hand.

Sorry, no photos of Shabbat, still no Shabbat camera.

However, Sunday morning the gate was open enough to get a peak inside.

It’s been a while since these simple barriers were used for the Prime Minister’s official security.

Now that type is used to warn of a bad spot in the sidewalk.

These are the new security barriers found around the neighborhood.

Solid and heavy, more each week, I will not bore you with dozens of photos.

But to leave you today on a more positive note, these barriers were used at a new art installation being prepared off Safra Square.

These are on top of the new National Library. I am obsessed with work on the roof throughout the past COVID-19 shutdowns and slowdown of this year. In the future, I plan to share more on the amazing project.

In Jerusalem this week, the scene at the US capitol was a quiet one.

The windows were open for fresh air at the Dan Panorama Hotel where travelers have been quarantined after arriving from overseas.

Roses are still in bloom in the winter sunshine and warm weather.

A great time to get out and explore, within a kilometer of home of course, the real Jerusalem streets.

Jerusalem Looking Forward to New Year 2021

As the calendar year of 2020 comes to a close, I think it is safe to say 2020 has been a most unusual year. Not the best of years, unless computers and online sessions are your favorite things.

In 2019, millions of visitors were in Jerusalem, Israel, and things were thriving and growing and going great.

But then, in March, closings due to the novel coronavirus pandemic hit Jerusalem – hard. Businesses closed. The poor got poorer. Seniors living alone became more isolated than before.

The view from the Tayelet was one of the few things familiar in 2020.

The newest popular spot is a seat in the health fund, in the chair for the COVID-19 vaccine. Interestingly the information sheets were in Hebrew and Arabic, and not in English.

With a third lockdown looming, people took advantage to get outside when the skies cleared this past week.

Tayelet scene Muslim woman  near Hanukkah menorah

I went to the Tayelet after Hanukkah and the large Menorah was still there.

Not all was Hanukkah in Jerusalem this past week.

Tour group on Tayelet

Tours from Israeli business groups were spotted in multiple locations, and not just the Tayelet with its view of Old City.

Piano by Tayelet

The public pianos attracted small groups and music filled the brisk air.

Jerusalem parks have been upgraded, new ones built, and were open for all.

As in past years, the Jerusalem Municipality gave out free trees to the Christian residents. And as usual, though the distribution was advertised as between 9-12:00 near Jaffa Gate, they went quickly.

Here is a gift shop near Jaffa Gate. An Arab woman passes by the store where Jewish religious garments are on display. Bethany wearing the blue jacket is from Canada, inside with her tree safely stashed in her cart.

Later she told me she came with her friend Sarah at 9:00 am. to be sure and get a tree. People stopped as we chatted at 11:00 am to ask where she got it.

Sorry, every year, only the early birds get those trees.

Seems when the post office near Jaffa Gate is open, there is a waiting line.

Santas were there early in the week, but gone by Friday, December 25th.

The crowds on Friday were headed to Muslim midday prayers.

However, Friday, I did spot a few of Santa’s helpers, or at least the red hats.

At Jerusalem’s New Gate, it was not a bright and happy holiday season.

However, the lights were bright all month at night at the YMCA.

And those lights strung down from the YMCA bell tower lit up the sky impressively from a distance.

Take out food was allowed. People came to Mamilla Mall to eat. Stores were open, and to shop, but access was limited.

However, the open malls are to close by 5:oopm Sunday, December 27, 2020.

These capsule plastic igloos popped up at First Station for small groups to eat their takeout meals. But for lockdown #3 these are a new no-no.

While people did come to eat, the craft stalls have been empty for months.

It was sad to see that the first dairy restaurant to open in the new First Station is now closed.

With Saturn aligned with Jupiter many looked to the heavens for light.

This year the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens offered colorful lights at night.

From across the pond the reflections were quite a popular show.

But December 26, 2020 was the last chance to register and go for now.

It is also had to close. Nature reserves and parks are not to open for at least two week, and maybe more.

The Israel Museum was lit in red at night on December 26, in support of an international Red Alert Campaign. Before I had a chance to share that the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem was open again, and go see YEMEN, it had to close. Culture has been hard hit, with institutions closed for months.

February 2020 seems like a life time ago.

But not to leave you and December 2020, on such a low and down note –

here is a favorite scene from this past week. An elderly Arab man had dropped his cane and could not bend down to pick it up. Several people walked by either not noticing or pretending not to see his problem. As I walked toward him, a Jewish woman also noticed. She had been on her way to Jaffa Gate, but came back and bent down to give him the cane.

So there you have it some of this past week in Jerusalem, Israel.

He was speaking about upcoming Israeli elections, but Eyal Arad’s comment about the Israeli Air Force – “the thing you don’t see is what shoots you down” seems apt here for this past corona year.

Of course, there was more, but this is getting too long and I want to conclude with a new video with added English subtitles.

The novel coronavirus vaccine program is going strong.

From Sunday to Wednesday 650,000 people were vaccinated.

Let’s hope a 3rd lockdown is the last one.

Take care and stay well and

hope to see you in 2021 on the Jerusalem streets.