Jerusalem Time is Flying

October the holidays are over. It’s time for Jerusalem and the Jerusalem streets to get back to “normal.”

Sure.

Two weeks after the end of the holiday season and we changed the clocks, falling backward into standard corona time.

I hate changing the clocks any time.

It’s been a time when it’s hard to keep up with the news bulletins.

First the normalization agreements between Israel and UAE and Bahrain. The United Arab Emirates diplomats arrived in Israel to sign trade agreements. Israeli travel companies are busy working out how to proceed with daily flights as an option, even with COVID19.

Sudan has joined the Gulf states making positive connections with Israel. Did you know Golda Meir and Israel were the first to acknowledge Sudan’s independence? The opening of air space alone is a big deal. Other financial deals we will wait and see.

The old holiday signs were replaced new ones from Mayor Lion for a successful new academic year. However, Hebrew University was open for less than a week and closed today, due to a computer problem.

The nursery schools were allowed to open under the new COVID19 restrictions. But most students are still at home, zooming and waiting to get back to classrooms and their friends.

One group was meeting in an outdoor open area under today’s cloudy sky.

Dog school, however, seems to be going strong in spite of corona.

During this time many Jerusalem streets have gotten a new look.

Some streets are unrecognizable with constantly changing barriers and infrastructure improvements.

The Great Synagogue is still closed, but a covering provides shade for limited prayer outside in the plaza.

During the lockdown, I was finally able to get a photo of the horse in Gan HaSoos, the Horse Park. Usually there are people around or on it.

In town was a bloodmobile site and new art pieces, but the clothing stores were closed. The supermarket and WeWork were allowed to be open.

Ben Yehuda Street was basically deserted during the lockdown.

Stores shuttered with people allowed only 1 kilometer from home.

The Light Rail was running, but Jaffa Road appeared midday as quiet as early morning, instead of the busy shopping location it had become.

Too many of the Jerusalem streets and alleyways were too quiet.

The First Station area has announced a development plan but needs the tourists to come back for businesses to reopen.

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Construction has been ongoing.

But too often it seems to be workers redoing areas where work was just done?

With all the challenges and noisy protests, closings and corona, suffering, and death, I am happy to share, young couples have found new ways to meet with theaters and museums, hotel lobbies, and cafes closed.

Walking and talking in nature is new norm, with or without a mask.

So the clocks have changed, the days are shorter, but the clouds make for colorful sunsets.

Today is Aliyah Day. In spite of a pandemic people have arrived home to Israel on a regular basis, and the number of applications is causing inpatient waiting times.

The real Jerusalem streets – good, bad and not so ugly.

Stay well and hope to see everyone here soon. At least flight times from most parts of the world should be shorter now with flights to Israel allowed over so many new Gulf countries.

Next year in Jerusalem! (or Dubai?)

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.

Rosh Hashana 5781

This year in Jerusalem, Rosh Hashana was not like in previous years. As with most of the world, the Jewish New Year was spent alone at home or in small gatherings rather than in crowded synagogues and overflow services. 

At the Kotel, the Western Wall, the usual huge crowds were missing.

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Sections were divided into small prayer groups before Rosh Hashana for late-night Selihot.

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Those smaller groups filled some of the plaza areas this year.

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And then at night after Rosh Hashana, even those small groups were gone.

Such a sorry sight, at a time usually filled with tourists and visitors. 

The Jerusalem Great Synagogue was empty for the first time in its history.

The green spaces of Jerusalem, all of its parks, were called into use.

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These signs were posted wishing park visitors’ good health and a good year.

Jerusalem Gazelle Valley opening day

A special announcement was made that the Gazelle Park would be open during the lockdown, with everyone required to wear a mask.

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Hope they turned off the water sprinklers on the holiday for Gan Sacher, Sacher Park. Extra bins for holiday trash were available. 

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The ads for juice near Gan Sacher had a happy holiday greeting.

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Almonds were ripe on the tree and falling to the ground. Only they were so hard I could not crack the ones I brought home with a hammer.

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Machane Yehuda Market, the shuk, was busy the week before the impending holiday shutdown. Shoppers were rushing to stock up with food and supplies. Supermarkets were filled to overflowing capacity. 

Display of unusual fruits for Rosh Hashana in shuk, Mahane Yehuda market

Fresh new fruits for the second night of Rosh Hashana are especially popular this time of year.

pomegrante seeds

A long time favorite, yummy pomegranate pie for the holiday. 

Family of beekeeper at Beit Hanasi before the New Year.

No little bees photo ops this year, and a very much smaller reception for beekeepers was held at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence. 

Tzipi Hotovely taking a photo of the food at Beit Hanasi

No big New Year event for foreign diplomats at Beit Hanasi as in the past.

Photo credit: Mark Neyman GPO

This year President Rivlin hosted a socially distanced private reception for diplomats who were seated apart and all wearing masks.

The Selihot in the Beit Hanasi Synagogue was an annual event during Rivlin’s tenure. This was the last chance as his 7-year term is up in July.

However, this year due to religious service size restrictions these will not be held during this three-week lockdown period.

For a lockdown, this new Jerusalem project in the Schneller Compound is the place to live, to enjoy parks and open spaces. It is a magazine perfect neighborhood.

From Jerusalem this past week, all eyes were watching the signing of treaties with UAE and Bahrain. Only later I noticed on the left side for Israelis, a man in the front rows got up to take a photo on his phone, as the US side sat politely.

The Old City Walls that night were illuminated with flags of Israel, the US, UAE, and Bahrain in honor of the historic occasion.

Already numerous interactions have taken place. The webinar on health and technology I listened to is worthy of sharing with you soon, it was so impressive what they have done in Abu Dhabi in the last few years.

Photo credit: Shifra

However, also on the Jerusalem streets near the Prime Minister’s Residence, the protests continue. Though there was a supposed lockdown, a large table was set for 120 people, with no distancing, no masks, and lots of noise for Rosh Hashana on the first night. Protests in democratic Israel are legal.

Sorry, but I find their behavior UNEXCEPTIBLE.

New security cameras are being installed in the area, and new security is reinforcing the regular police and border police who have had to deal with these loud mob scenes week after week.

Sweet New Year poster for Rosh Hashanah

But for now, hoping all have a sweet and healthy year.

President Reuven Rivlin gave New Year greetings in English this year.

Next year in Jerusalem!

Meanwhile, preparing for Sukkot holiday to start October 2, 2020,

We spotted the first sukka of the season!