Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem

On the Jerusalem streets, there are sounds of normal, with cars on the road.

Children in school and music from loudspeakers can be heard.

At least, for now, most schools have reopened after COVID-19 restriction closures.

However, from across the ocean, the scene is not the same.

Receiving this video from a friend in New Jersey,

I thought to wish all a Shabbat Shalom with its sweet sounds,

a perfect time to be connecting through song.

שבת שלום

Jerusalem 8 Contrasts in First Week of June

Jerusalem 8 Contrasts in First Week of June

The first week of June in this time of novel coronavirus pandemic has been a week of contrasts.

Scenes of continued isolation versus images of huge protest gatherings.

Cities appearing under siege with rioters breaking windows and burning stores.

Watching educators provide a memorable graduation ceremony for their classes of 2020.

Israel, meanwhile, began to emerge from COVID-19 isolations and lockdown.

Path in Jerusalem Valley of the Cross

Not sure if I should share secrets – but this path is in the Valley of the Cross.

New landscaping along Jerusalem bike path

The new landscaping seems to have burst out in color along the new bike path.

Milton's Way new bike paths in Jerusalem Israel

How many times did I walk this way and not notice “Milton’s Way Bike Path?”

Walking and bike path Jerusalem Israel Valley of Cross

Not the usual wheels one sees on this bike trail. It seems even individuals more at risk took time to get out and exercise in the pleasant weather.

Mask on ground in Jerusalem park path

A sign of the times – a discarded mask on the path in the Valley of the Cross.

Contrast #1 – this peaceful location was a scene of a terror attack.

Prof Menahem Stern memorial in Valley of Cross murdered by terrorist in June 1989

The path where Prof Menahem Stern was murdered by a terrorist in June of 1989.

Path in Valley of Cross Jerusalem Israel

Contrast #2 – the green growth so close to the dried weeds, with the Israel Museum overlooking the stones of an ancient dwelling.

Jerusalem Israel street construction and traffic stopped

Contrast #3 – This intersection of Herzog, Tchnernichovsky, and Haim Hazaz Streets,

Herzog Street being repaired in Jerusalem Israel

with the same intersection two days later. Each image shared tells a different story. With less traffic Jerusalem construction work has proceeded.

Jerusalem Israel pillbox with Scouts banner posted for June event

One sign of normalcy, the Scouts put a banner on the Pillbox at the corner.

Protest sign on Jerusalem Pillbox

Contrast #4 – a protest sign in the same location two days later. This group wants to keep the Jerusalem hills green with no building. Corona or not, protests have continued on a daily basis, for multiple issues.  At least the new “save the hills of Jerusalem” protest was quiet.

Jerusalemschool closed to COVID-19 being sprayed to disinfect building
Photo credit: Spokesperson Municipality

Contrast #5 – Israeli schools reopened after being closed for weeks. However, Jerusalem’s Gymnasia Rechavia closed after two teachers were diagnosed with COVID-19, and many students tested positive also. Crews went into the high school building after it was shut and disinfected everything. Today 22 more schools were reported on the list as closed.

With the spring holiday season over, the Israeli flags have been removed from over the Jerusalem streets, while new colorful signs were put up.

Jerusalem sign for coronavirus summer.

Contrast #6 – Things are to be very different this summer than in past summers. 

Fewer Israelis will be traveling overseas and fewer international tourists arriving.

The hotels by the Kinneret have started advertising for guests to come again.

But wait, Jerusalem wants Israelis to come to spend their holiday time here in the city.

Signs in Jerusalem for summer tourists to come to city instead of going overseas vacations

The new signs are for food, music, street entertainment, and more.

Jerusalem street closed for restaurant opening after coronavirus closures.
Photo credit: Aaron Katsman

One idea was to temporarily close streets to traffic so restaurants could serve patrons outside. Azza Street was one of the first of 13 locations to close.

Unity Prize at Beit Hanasi was one of many Jerusalem events held at the beginning of June.

President Reuven Rivlin hosted, the sixth Jerusalem Unity Prize award ceremony in memory of Eyal Ifrah, Gil-ad Shaer, and Naftali Fraenkel ז”ל at Beit HaNasi on Tuesday, June 2. During the ceremony, Uri Ifrah spoke on behalf of the families and former Jerusalem Mayor, now MK Nir Barkat, one of the founders of the prize, also spoke.

Photo for Jerusalem Unity Prize 2019 at Israel President's Residence

Last year on stage for the final photo, winners stood behind the Israeli dignitaries.

Unity Prize founders three families Fraenkel, Ifrach and Shaar at Beit Hanasi for Unity Awards Ceremony

Two years ago the room was filled with families and guests and entertainers,

Shuli Rand and Guri Alfi were highlighted in the program.

Beit Hanasi for Jerusalem Unity Prize awards in corona-virus masks
Photo credit: Mark Neyman (GPO)

Contrast #7 – This year was a very different scene.

Protest signs not to divide Jerusalem

As the “Trump Plan” and Sovereignty are hotly debated, these posters were posted in Jerusalem.

No one knows for sure what the future will bring.

Contrast #8 – I want to end with something positive.

Muslim and Jewish female United Hatzalah volunteer team
Photo credit: United Hatzalah

This photo from United Hatazalah, with a caption on Tweeter: “a secular Israel, a religious Arab Israeli, and an Ultra-Orthodox Israeli saving lives together on an ambulance shift today in Jerusalem,” mentioned @RealJStreets.

As of now, it has been retweeted 200 times from the original and has well over 600 likes.

Not to worry, the women all wore masks working and only removed them to smile for the camera.

A week filled with contrasts, and highs and lows.

But as always things were happening on the Jerusalem streets.

Which images and contrasts did you see shared?

Jerusalem, Israel – Shavuot 5780

Jerusalem, Israel – Shavuot 5780

I used to complain that Shavuot in Israel lasted only one day and was over too quickly.

Tens of thousands of people would stay up all night, learning and studying at various venues and then converge at the Kotel, the Western Wall, for dawn prayer services. Eat and sleep and the day was over, with not enough time for guests.

Well, not this year. With Shabbat immediately following, we ended up with a two-day holiday in Israel as well as those living outside of Israel.

I got what I asked for, and I’m happy to go back to one day next year when Shavuot falls on Monday.

Valley of Cross in Jerusalem Israel summer dried grasses

In Jerusalem, the summer sun has dried the tall green growth in the Valley of the Cross.

Nature and seasons appear unaware of a pandemic and are unchanged.

Jerusalem Israel Valley of Cross with Israel Museum on top of hill dried weeds of summer

While the Israel Museum on top of the hill suffers from the novel coronavirus affecting its closure, the weeds below in the valley have flourished.

Cinema City in Jerusalem Israel photo from opening days

Not far away is Jerusalem Cinema City, also trying to come back after COVID-19 closures.

Jerusalem Cinema City mural of Moses and 10 Commandments

On my first visit to Cinema City, I took this photo of a wall mural.

Where else but Jerusalem would you find Moses with the Ten Commandments on the wall next to the movie theater escalators?

Blind man and IDF soldier who helped him across busy intersection in Jerusalem

While I was searching for that old photo I found this one taken the same day.

In this upside-down coronavirus time, would an IDF soldier walk so close to a stranger?

IDF Soldier helps man with a blind walking stick across busy Jerusalem intersections

Has the time come when helping a blind man cross a busy street is not a good thing?

The official announcement:

Following the closure of educational institutions against the backdrop of the coronavirus crisis, and the gradual return to routine, it was agreed that students should receive educational continuity until the beginning of August. This will significantly reduce the financial burden of their parents and reduce gaps in Israeli society.

With an outbreak of COVID-19 among students and teachers at one large Jerusalem secular high school, it is closed again today. And before I could publish this today, another high school has announced closing for the week due to an infected teacher.

However, tomorrow senior citizen sessions are scheduled to reopen, in limited numbers with only physical and art activities in person.  The rest will remain in Zoom.

The Jerusalem Film Festival announced plans to hold the festival in a regular format this summer following the decision by Israeli authorities to allow the reopening of cinemas in the country from June 14.

The event is now to run August 20-30, just over a month later than its originally scheduled July 16-26 time slot.

Meanwhile, in the theme of the Shavuot holiday, I thought to share a few short film clips from the King David Night Show at the Tower of David.

King David the warrior in battle,

and David the Poet.

In past years, the seemingly endless list of Festivals began after Shavuot.

The Light Festival in the Old City in particular was popular, filling the streets at night.

Remember when Damascus Gate was lit like a giant pinball machine for Jerusalem Light Festival?

My all-time favorite light projection was also at the Damascus Gate.

This morning the Temple Mount was reopened after  a two-month closure.

Muslim worshipers crowded through the Green Gate to enter.

Non-Muslims lined up to go up the ramp to Mughrabi Gate.

This video is from years ago. Will the Old City return to the old “normal”?

For Shavuot services at the Kotel this year, tickets were required to enter. A limited number were distributed by lottery.  Each ticket had the name and ID number on them.  Late at night after Shabbat was over, there were people on the plaza and near the Kotel, but not in the large numbers we were accustomed to in the past.

Shavuot cheese cake for Israeli security with President Reuven Rivlin
Photo credit: Mark Neyman (GPO)

One of my favorite images from Shavuot 5780 was of President Reuven Rivlin serving cheesecake and lemonade to security forces on the eve of the holiday. It was a year since his wife Nechama passed away, and he said it was something she would do, so he did it in her memory. The cemetery at Har Herzl where she is buried is under construction now and even the presidential family could not go on her yahrzeit.

The sun is shining and temperatures are pleasant out on the Jerusalem streets.

Jerusalem is planning to temporarily close thirteen city center streets to traffic, hoping people will come back to dine at the outside tables. Ads have been placed to get Israelis to come to Jerusalem. With international tourism halted, Jerusalem’s tourist-based economy needs desperate measures with so many businesses suffering and forced to close.

What will happen next? We will have to wait and see.

Jerusalem construction cranes visible over the Knesset

The numbers of construction cranes seem to multiply overnight.

Hope to see you all in Jerusalem soon.