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.

Oh Jerusalem, What Days in May

Oh Jerusalem, What Days in May

In Jerusalem, Israel, waking up on Tuesday morning the official email began:

* From yesterday (4 May 2020), additional businesses and activities will be allowed to open including: Libraries, all kinds of non-medical treatment on the human body, complementary medicine, hotels and guest houses, nature reserves, heritage sites, national parks, zoos and safaris. Activity at swimming pools will be permitted for competitive athletes and therapy.

* Malls, open-air markets and gyms will be allowed to open on 7 May 2020.

Restrictions imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19 were working. Special intensive care units were closing.

People were looking forward to getting out of isolation and their homes.

Clouds over Jerusalem Israel

Clouds were began gathering over the Israel Museum.

Jerusalem Israel cloudy sky in May

Clouds were filling the sky over the Jerusalem streets.

Jerusalem cloudy day white clouds over Knesset

The large flag on the Knesset was blowing in the wind.

Jerusalem Israel clouds in sky

The weather forecast had called for rain. Rain in Jerusalem in May?

Jerusalem sky pink clouds

It was raining in the north. Then Tel Aviv, even Beer Sheva had rain. Clouds started to change over Jerusalem.

Dark grey sky over Jerusalem streets

The clouds in the sky turned dark.

Black sky over the Israel Museum in Jerusalem

The sky over the Israel Musem appeared almost black.

Then winter-like weather in May pelted Jerusalem with rain, heavy rain.

Jerusalem Israel during a stormy day in May

Dark enough in the middle of the day for some of the street lights to go on.

Sunset after rainy day May in Jerusalem

But by the time the sun was to set, the sky began to clear.

May sunset with colorful clouds after rainy day

It was a sunset that colored the sky. Facebook was filled with photos taken as the colors changed.

Jerusalem Israel sunset with many colors

After a day of crazy weather, as the sky cleared, the birds came out again.

* The restriction on praying more than 500 meters from the home or workplace is canceled; the restriction of no more than 19 people for prayers in an open space remains in force.

For the next few days, up to 300 worshipers will be allowed to come to the Western Wall plaza simultaneously, contingent on them wearing masks.  Should all of the prayer areas become full, worshipers will be requested to wait outside the entrances to the Western Wall, with the required distances between them, until space becomes available.

Western Wall at night

Late at night the Kotel, The Western Wall had people coming and going again.

Jerusalem Western Wall divided into sections for social distancing opening up

Bar/bat mitzvah families can return to celebrate at the Western Wall in accordance with regulations.

The Health Ministry calls on the public to continue listening to the directives on physical distancing, wearing masks and maintaining hygiene, in order to ensure public health and continue the common struggle against the spread of the coronavirus.

Old City Lions wearing masks
Photo credit: Joshua Wander

The lions in the Old City are ready with masks, though not social distancing.

Always something new to see on the Jerusalem streets.

Meanwhile another crazy weather day, and new storytime by Pres Ruvi:

Stay well, everyone, and safe inside or outside your house.

 

 

 

Jerusalem Moving Outside – but Aquarium?

Jerusalem Moving Outside – but Aquarium?

Jerusalem, Israel has completed most of the spring exhausting holiday season.

A very different holiday season it was!

Sunday, May 3, 2020, slowly some businesses and classrooms reopened.

Jerusalem Knesset at night

Finally, lights were on inside the Knesset Building, not just holiday lights strung on the street.

View of prayer plaza of Kotel divided for COVID-19 prayers

The Kotel, Western Wall was divided into smaller prayer areas.

Gan Sacher park empty on rainy day

Gan Sacher, Sacher Park, was empty for Yom Haatzmaut, Independence Day,

instead of being crowded with families and friends gathered for the usual mangals, BBQs.

Tourism is a huge factor in life in Jerusalem and its economy.

The municipality is looking for ways to slowly get back to “normal.”

Jerusalem Botanical Gardens

Jerusalem Botanical Gardens is one large open area where people could social distance.

Jerusalem Gazelle Valley opening day

Gazelle Park is another large open green space.

Entrance to Jerusalem Biblical Zoo

The Biblical Zoo, as the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens in Jerusalem is called, is another popular open area that could be reopened.

Entrance to Jerusalem Israel Aquarium

However, the new Jerusalem Aquarium which is further down the road from the zoo might be one of the last sites to be fully open again to the public.

At the end of January 2020, I finally got to the Aquarium.

I have had it on my list to share and now seems like the right time.

Remember that cute video of penguins walking around an aquarium after it was closed?

Sorry. It was not the Jerusalem Aquarium but could have been.

Near entrance to Jerusalem Aquarium

The Jerusalem Aquarium is an accessible and temperature-controlled space.

The inside venue would have been perfect for a hot summer day visit for all ages.

Fish tank in Jerusalem Aquarium

Beautiful tanks of fish and underwater flora line the walls.

Sections are divided according to Israel’s local bodies of water.

Dead Sea section of Jerusalem Aquarium

The Dead Sea exhibit will have to be updated.

Recently they have found life in the freshwater sinkholes.

Sea Horses in Jerusalem Aquarium

I could have spent hours watching the seahorses.

Large fish tank in Jerusalem Aquarium

There was an area to take a break and rest and listen to trained guides.

Jerusalem Aquarium long horn cowfish

Have you heard of the LongHorn Cowfish before?

Elmo exhibit at Jerusalem Aquarium

Can you find Nemo? Especially for children of any age or size, there is a special tank. You can get inside to search for and be photographed with the real fish that famous animated feature  Nemo was based on.

Jerusalem Aquarium

Coral reefs provide background in one of the seas.

Large fish in tank at Jerusalem Aquarium

Large tanks of large fish,

Colorful fish in Jerusalem Aquarium

and small tanks of colorful fish are inside the Aquarium.

There’s much more to see and to do to keep all ages engaged.

Jerusalem Aquarium

It was a wet wintry-like day when I finally got to the two-year-old tourist site for the first time.

Sure hope it is not another two years until the giant seahorse outside greets visitors.

Who could imagine that an enclosed and interactive space would be a problem?

Large and small roses in a vase

At least the cold wet weather and this most unusual spring was good for the roses.

Stay well and healthy.

Hope to see you all on the Jerusalem streets one day soon.