Jerusalem Living with COVID-19

Jerusalem Living with COVID-19

In Jerusalem, Israel, during this time of isolation from COVID-19, as the novel coronavirus spreads around the world, it is not business as usual.

Jerusalem Israel view with chair outside COVID-19

Now that the sun has finally come out and the rain stopped I have moved my office outside.

Cafes are shut. Malls are basically shut. Food shopping is allowed.

The Machane Yehuda Market shuk with its open markets is closed.

However, as the coronavirus continues to spread and despite the difficulties, Israeli farmers produced 90 million pounds of fruits and vegetables, last week.

Avshalom Vilan, Secretary-General of The Israel Farmer’s Federation, spoke to journalists on a conference phone call about the successes and challenges of work amidst the pandemic, plans for the coming months and  cooperation with Palestinian farmers.

Vilan assured food for Passover will not be a problem. The 50 million eggs for Passover already arrived from Portugal!

Yoel Zilberman is the Founder and CEO of HaShomer HaChadashan and Chairman of SunDo, a start-up that connects farmers with volunteers.

For those wanting to do something in this time of increasing shutdown, SunDo is an App to volunteer to work in agriculture.

The museums are closed. However, the Israel Museum has had virtual tours available with a phone app for several years. Now those guided tours are being offered to people on the other side of the world, not just those wandering the vast galleries. The Tower of David Museum was to show off its latest virtual reality offering yesterday. Now it will really be just virtual for some time.

It is a time when apps and online classes and webinars can keep us busy 24/7.  ZOOM, and Facebook Live, and Netflix offerings seem endless.

I have not left the house, but keep up to date through Whatsapp groups, from MDA and United Hatzalah.

MDA has opened four drive-thru coronavirus test centers, with the first test site in Tel Aviv.

Jerusalem Israel Corona test center drive thru in Arena Parking lot
MDA image

All sports events have been canceled. Near Teddy Stadium, on Monday night, March 22, the parking lot of Jerusalem’s Pais Arena a drive-thru COVID-19 test center for the Jerusalem area was opened. Hundreds of families may be in for a pleasant surprise to receive at Magen David Adom’s and Health Ministry’s “Drive and Test” compounds – a gift set, donated by Intel, in order to ease the isolation period.

These are family quality time game sets, to raise morale and relieve boredom. The gifts set produced by “Tsumi – The Israeli Center for Attention,” and donated by Intel; include variety of table – box games.

Jerusalem during coronavirus working at home outside on porch

My neighbor took advantage of the improved weather to work outside.   I decided not to share the image of other neighbors exercising on the roof.

Jerusalem street during Corona

Cars are out. Jerusalem is not yet on shutdown. Jerusalem has a large part of its economy based on tourism. With no tourists, the businesses that work with them and hotels suffer which exasperates the problem of families on poverty levels in serious ways. Deputy Mayor Fleur Nassan-Hahoum said retraining unemployed workers for positions in demand, like work in a mask factory in Talpiot is a priority.

Jerusalem Passover signs for street pickup of large items

Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Municipality posted signs to clean up for picking up large items before Passover. I admit the sounds of the sanitation workers are comforting.

Israel Knesset view with Crown Plaza in background

What’s happening (or not happening) in the Knesset is a whole other story, not for now.

I have a list of topics I had wanted to share, but there was no time. I hope to keep these posts coming of what is really happening on and off the Jerusalem streets during COVID-19 isolation time.

In the ‘you can learn something new everyday’ department, from friends I learned of Beer Bread.

Picture of Corona Bread

So I made Corona Bread.

Mix – 3 cups of flour, 1/4 cup sugar and one bottle of warm Corona Beer.

Bake in a moderate oven, 350 F – 175 C degrees for almost an hour.

Best warm from the oven, but not so bad the next day either.

Something pre-Passover to do, easy, tasty and makes the houses smell good.

Smell is a powerful trigger for memory – may your memories of these crazy days be good ones.

What Everyone Should Know about Bursting Amygdalus Communis in Jerusalem

What Everyone Should Know about Bursting Amygdalus Communis in Jerusalem

The first thing to know is that amygdalus communis is the scientific name for the almond tree.  With Tu B’Shvat, the song of “almond trees bursting out” (or flowering) can be heard throughout Israel in school classrooms sung by small children wearing floral wreaths on their heads.

Every year when I review and remember past celebrations of Tu B’Shevat, I stress over how to spell ט”ו בשבט in English. I have found 8 options and already used two here.

Every year I want to bring to you something new and interesting.

Dried fruit and nuts fill the stores and markets as every year.

Carob tree near Paris Square in Jerusalem Israel

Carob trees tower over many Jerusalem, Israel streets. This tree is near the Prime Minister’s Residence. I wonder how many of the thousands protesting there noticed it?

For those of us who grew up in the US, Tu B’Shvat meant getting a piece of dark brown, dried out bokser.

Hard to chew and unattractive, why would anyone want to eat it to celebrate the holiday?

Buksor dried on sidewalk on Jerusalem Street

Along Jerusalem streets in time for Tu B’Shvat, there are piles of dried pods fallen from the trees, with new growth peaking its way through.

Knesset opened on Tu Beshvat

The Knesset opening and birthday are held on Tu B’Shvat. In honor of 50 years in its present location, in 2016 a major celebration was held.

Knesset synagogue in 2016 for Tu Bishvat

There was a special afternoon service in the old Knesset Synagogue followed by wine and fruit.

JNF 1928 photo of Girl Guides celebrating Tu Bishvat in jerusalem Beit Hakerem

These Girl Guides were celebrating Tu B’Shvat in Jerusalem in 1928, on an outing in Beit Hakerem.

Since Biblical times almonds, amygdalus communis, have been a sign of spring, a sign of new life and God’s promise.

“When Moses went into the tent of the covenant on the next day, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted. It put forth buds, produced blossoms, and bore ripe almonds. -Numbers 17:7

Tu Beshevat almond blossoms Jerusalem Israel

Almond, the first tree to flower before winter’s end, symbolized fast-moving events. “…the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails; because all must go to their eternal home…” -Ecclesiastes 12:5

Anyone interested in the nature and the environment of Israel, with the special emphasis given to the linkage between the plants and Jewish traditions and literature, will appreciate the Hebrew website Wildflowers of Israel.

In addition, their English pages have a wealth of information. Hours of dedicated work have gone into research and photography devoted to the study of wild plants of the Land of Israel, a point of interest for people all over the world since Biblical times. In spite of Israel’s small size it has 2,500 plant species. There are about 100 plants mentioned in the Bible, and about 400 mentioned in the Mishnah and the Talmud.

Thanks to Sara Gold, my contact whenever I need information on a flower or plant. (I know next to nothing about Israeli flora and fauna.) Who knew aloe plants flowered?

In honor of Tu B’Shvat – I searched for the almond – Amygdalus Communis.

rakefet, flowers of spring in Jerusalem Valley of Cross

I searched in the Valley of Cross on the path to the Israel Museum, and there were no almonds bursting forth, but I did find these first flowers in bloom.

Safra Square, Jerusalem municipal government plaza

I went to see what new trees were planted in Kikar Safra, Safra Square.

Old City Jerusalem Israel walls tall palm trees

Thankfully some tall palm trees survived last year’s infestation and are standing tall.

Beit Hanasi flowers in Presidential gardens jerusalem Israel

I searched the gardens at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s residence, and there were no almonds bursting forth, but these new potted flowers were enjoying the morning sun.

Kumquats ripe at President gardens Jerusalem Israel

In the Beit Hanasi gardens there are 60 olive trees, a line of kumquat trees ripe with fruit, but not one almond tree.

Lemon tree growing in Jerusalem Israel

Our lemon tree is full of ripe fruit too.  In my search this year, I found no almond blossoms in Jerusalem. It is still too early. They really do seem to burst out when they appear.

So it seems as of now, the best place to search and find those bursting Amygdalus Communis is Wildflowers of Israel – HERE.

Tu B’Shvat is to be celebrated beginning the night of January 20, and on January 21.

Jerusalem Martin L King Street sign with trees in background

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, falling the same day this year, here is a new photo of the Jerusalem street sign with trees in distance.

Fog in Jerusalem Israel so thick to obstruct view of Monastery, bird perched outside window.

Snow is in the forecast for Jerusalem. Rain has started to fall. After sunny morning weather, this photo is again appropriate.

Jerusalem weather and politics are hard to predict. Both can change quickly.

UPDATE:

Snow in Jerusalem Israel at night during storm

When snow started coming down, I grabbed phone and ran outside. This was best photo of predicted snow storm, to see real snow, back to 2015 HERE.

Shabbat shalom Tu B'Shvat

But greetings of a happy Tu B’Shvat and Shabbat Shalom, are good to be repeated every year.

What a Week in Jerusalem: Presidents, Parliamentarians, Ambassadors and More

The third week in February is always a busy time in Jerusalem, Israel.

Unlike the US, where only one February weekend celebrates President George Washington,

Street sign George Washington in Jeruaslem

here in Jerusalem, Washington is honored all year long, and  Abraham Lincoln is right around the corner. 

The annual Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organization, COP, had over a hundred leaders participating in this year’s mission.

Football numbered shirt presented to President Rivlin in Jerusalem

COP Presidents were greeted by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who received this numbered jersey from a visiting US football player, who were in Israel on a tour.

Malcolm Hoenlein looks up at Jewish football player Geoff Schwartz at CoP dinner in Jerusalem Israel

Jewish football player Geoff Schwartz presented COP CEO Malcolm Hoenlein with a shirt.  Hoelein is looking up, seconds before he stood on a chair to get a better view.

Ambassador Friedman and Tammy Friedman

Also at the opening gala were US Ambassador David Friedman and his wife Tammy.

Dr Leah Goldin with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem

President Rivlin consoles Dr. Leah Goldin, mother of Hadar Goldin z”l, whose remains are being held captive in Gaza.  There was another birthday of Hadar’s this week, 3 1/2 years after Hamas killed him, after agreeing to a cease fire.

Parents of Avera Mengistu at dinner CoP to raise awareness of their son held captive 3 years by Hamas

Also sharing their plight with the Presidents were the family of Avera Mengistu, and their spokesperson.  Over 3 years ago, the mentally challenged Avera wandered over the Gaza border and was kidnapped by Hamas.

Five former Israeli Ambassadors speak to Conference of Presidents at Waldorf Astoria

This was a not just a week for presidents, but for ambassadors too. On the dais in the Waldorf-Astoria Jerusalem ballroom, these five former Israeli ambassadors to the US, Moshe Arens, Sallai Meridor, Ron Prosor, Zalman Shoval and Itamar Rabinovich, shared their experiences.

Israeli Knesset hosts International Parliamentary heads at conference

At the Knesset, over 30 International Parliamentary Heads came to Jerusalem to share their knowledge at a Knesset Conference.

With all these important international leaders in Jerusalem, the most impressive session I attended went unreported.

Insights into Israel Bedouin girl at Israeli University excelling in STEM education

Entrepreneurs Dr. Yossi Vardi and SanDisk CEO Shahar Bar-Or, introduced Sereen to the COP Presidents after lunch at the Inbal Hotel.

Sereen is a 15 year-old Bedouin girl who grew up near Beer Sheva, and is an outstanding STEM student in an Israeli university. Her father’s cousin is a professor in both Stony Brook and Ben Gurion Universities, and promotes good education as key to success. Sereen, seated on the left wearing a dark hijab, is at the table with other promising Israeli young women. Her very proud mother is seen on the right in a tan colored head covering.

African American basketball players in Israel

Presidents, parliamentarians, and ambassadors, and even professional football players, are not the real streets. A new book “Alley-Oop to Aliyah” tells us about over 800 African-American basketball players who came to Israel over the years to play basketball. They loved it. Some stayed and made aliyah, and their children are playing ball and serve in the IDF.

Jerusalem Marathon 2018 huge announcement near Jaffa Gate

Out on the streets, this week’s Jerusalem’s Shaon Horef, Winter Noise, location was Jaffa Gate.

Shaon Horef שאון חורף ן Old City Jaffa Gate

Light projections and music played on inside Jaffa Gate at multiple locations.

Tower of David for Shaon Horef Jerusalem Monday night event in Februrary

Hundreds of people were climbing the steps throughout the Tower of David after dark.

Music and dancing at Jaffa Gate for Winter Noise event

The presidents were so close, they could have wandered over to see the crowds and danced along next to the walls of Tower of David at this free event.

Jerusalem Israel wild flowers growing in Valley of Cross

This was not a week to be cooped up all day in meetings! Look down and you see flowers blooming.

Clouds and colored sky photo Jerusalem sunset over Israel Museum

Look up and you could see magnificent sunsets.

Jerusalem Marathon finish line ready for races in March

A finish line is up next to Gan Sacher, Sacher Park, for the Jerusalem Marathon on March 9.

Happy Purim Jerusalem street posters

But first Purim.  Jerusalem street signs wish everyone a “Happy Purim.”

Preparations for costumes and food and meals are well under way. Young school children can be seen wearing their crowns on the streets. The not so young are also planning their holiday costumes.  There may be presidents this week, but next week there will be queens and kings and many more important personalities.