Jerusalem Continues in Critical Coronavirus Crisis

Jerusalem Continues in Critical Coronavirus Crisis

What a week it was in Jerusalem, Israel!

Only a week ago it was Purim,  however, it feels like ages ago.

In the past week, couples have gotten married on rooftops and had their wedding photos taken in supermarkets.

The courtyard outside Mercaz Harav Yeshiva was scene of a wedding ceremony with two young men on each balcony watching, singing, and dancing, to keep within the limits of “social distancing.”

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion offered his office as a location for weddings as wedding halls were closed. Two couples took advantage last night, and received free canapes as a bonus.

With the canceling of educational programs, thousands of overseas students are being evicted from their dorm rooms and searching for the fastest flight home.

Meanwhile, olim, new Israeli residents are still arriving daily. They are going from the airport into 14 days of self-isolation, as are all overseas arrivals.

Western Wall Heritage Foundation image of Kotel with separation between people during coronavirus

One of the most popular images this week was sent out by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, of morning prayers at the Kotel, where social distancing was enforced. Later that day scaled-down Bar Mitzvah celebrations were held.

Babies are being born. People are dying. Life is proceeding at a much slower pace in Jerusalem and around the world.

Cable TV offered suggestions on what to watch and what NOT to watch during COVID-19.

After days of cold rain and fog, on Monday the sun came out in Jerusalem, Israel.

People walking on Valley of Cross path in Jerusalem Israel

After days indoors, I thought I would take a short walk in the sunshine.

In Israel Sunday is a regular workday, and for a change it felt like a Sunday elsewhere.

My usual empty nature paths were not empty, so I took a different path.

Corona but runners out on Jerusalem Israel street

The Jerusalem Marathon was postponed until November, but my friends I see every year were out running.

Sign in Jerusalem to keep the streets clean

Keep Jerusalem clean signs have taken the place of upcoming events announcements, all canceled or postponed.

Valley of Cross park in Jerusalem in spring

But on Monday, families enjoyed nature walks,

Father and son riding bicycles

and cyclists had clear footpaths to ride on.

School closed for coronavirus in Jerusalem

Schools were closed. “I’m studying” advertises for an alcohol-free drink – at home.

Valley of Cross in Jerusalem walking path

Whoever thought Monday-felt-like-Sunday days would continue was disappointed with the latest announcement from the Prime Minister.

“I ask you not to leave your homes and stay inside as much as possible. At the moment, I say this as a recommendation. It is still not a directive but that can change. What I am asking you today is to reduce your going out to what is essential. I assume that you are familiar with the English saying ‘My home is my castle.’ I ask that you adopt exactly this. Your homes are your castles for protection against the Coronavirus, on condition that you also act responsibly at home. Then stay home.”

Jerusalem woman wearing gloves as she sits and read the paper at Gan Sacher

On Monday,  this woman was wearing gloves while reading the paper outdoors.

Projection of Italian flag on Old City Walls Jerusalem is with Italy, screen shot from Twitter Yuval Rotem

Jerusalem Old City walls were lit with a message for Italians.

Albert Einstein Square in Jerusalem Israel

I think most people overlooked Pi Day this year, celebrated on March 14th, also Albert Einstein’s birth date in 1879. I did not go to Albert Einstein Square this year but posted an old photograph.

Mezuzah on door of plant nursery connected to new restaurant at Jerusalem Botanical Gardens

There is a new restaurant near the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens.

Nursery for plants in Jerusalem

Next to it is a plant nursery, so glad we went before all the restaurants were forced to close this week and only offer takeout or delivery.

Jerusalem Israel Hebrew poster for Arts and Brain Festival at Cinematheque

Big signs have been posted, but theaters are closed, so the annual Art and Brain Week March 21-28 at Cinematheque with Hebrew University Brain Studies will not be presented as usual.

French Film Festival and Art and Brain week at Jerusalem Cinematheque

The French Film Festival was also at the Cinematheque.

Yad Vashem and Jerusalem’s museums are closed.

Structure for Yom Haatzmaut at Har Herzl seen at night

Memorial ceremonies in April, at the Kotel and Har Herzl, will not proceed with the large audiences. We saw the event set-up already under construction. Last week we wondered how families would get to graves as usual on Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terror, as the cemetery was undergoing a major renovation. Now this annual huge gathering was announced not to happen.

Jerusalem Israel Valley of Cross

The hills and valleys of Jerusalem were alive with the sounds of children’s voices.

Jerusalem Israel fog thick no visibility

Now the stormy weather and increased measures will keep children inside.

Plus increased warnings will keep children also away from older relatives.

Israelis who were at the AIPAC conference in the US came home to isolation.

But Israelis show remarkable resilience – one example:  HERE

And, I want to leave you with a positive image.

Flowers from rock in Jerusalem

As every year, the flowers have burst forth through the ancient Jerusalem stones.

Construction work has not halted.

Work is set to continue under new regulations.

Much more will be happening on the Jerusalem streets.

Purim in Jerusalem תש”פ

Purim in Jerusalem תש”פ

Purim. Part of the Purim celebration is a theme of upside down.

Haman vs Mordechai and Esther. Evil vs. Good.

Good triumphant and people living and celebrating the demise of the evil decree.

The story retold year after year, read from a megillah, the Scroll of Esther.

Scroll of Esther in Israel Museum illustrated and small on regular Purim exhibit

This miniature illustrated megillah in the Israel Museum’s permanent Purim exhibit is a favorite.

However, this Purim in Jerusalem was not like any other.

The municipality had an improved its Purim website with a long list of official activities.

But the huge public sponsored Jerusalem celebrations and gatherings which went on during times of war and terror in the past were canceled.

two bottles of Corona beer

Last week I was joking about my supersaturated photo of Corona bottles.

This week coronavirus – COVID-19 – is nothing to joke about – except it was Purim.

Car decorated as coronavirus on Purim in Chicago
photo credit: Rivka W

Not in Jerusalem. See those front lawns and suburban homes? This “flu bug” caught by my photographer friend with a great eye was so clever I asked her to let me share it. Please note the license plate “NF LUNZA.”

Though Jerusalem municipal mega-events were canceled due to the Ministry of Health restrictions, people still arrived in Jerusalem to celebrate Purim and Shushan Purim. Purim was celebrated in the Machane Yehudah Market,  the shuk, and Nahlaot, with singing and dancing, costumes, and yes, drinking.

Jerusalem Tower of David Purim performance
Photo Credit: Ilana Silverman Richter

The show went on at the Tower of David Museum, both days, and was sold out at the night event.

Purim in Jerusalem is not a one day, but a week-long event.

Purim costume man and dog in Jerusalem

Starting on Sunday morning, though sometimes it is hard to tell what is really a dress-up costume, “animals” were spotted.

Purim costumes on King George Street in Jerusalem Israel

The morning crowds near the shuk and on King George Street seemed bigger than regular Sunday and included, seniors in wheelchairs and babies in strollers.

Purim costume dress-up is taken seriously in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Purim costumes

These high school girls posed on their way home from school.

Two boys in Jerusalem dressed in Purim costumes as ice cream sellers

Two high school boys let me take their photo, but did not offer me any ice cream.

Jerusalem Shushan Purim megilah reading every hour for Azza Zaza

The 10th annual Azza Zaza Purim was held Tuesday night and all day Wednesday. The megillah was read at dozens of Jerusalem business locations on the hour, every hour in another location, at times even at not kosher restaurants, thanks to Chabad of Rechavia.

Construction and costumes on Jerusalem streets for Purim

At least on Purim, streets were cleared of construction vehicles.

Jerusalem family walking in costume for Purim

On the streets, creatures with wings were spotted walking,

Jerusalem on Shusham Purim

and angels and princesses of various ages.

Purim costumes in Jerusalem

Masks for costume or safety precaution?

Man in costume visiting family in isolation on Purim in Jerusalem

With over 30,000 Israelis in isolation this Purim, visitors kept their distance.

Purim costume in Jerusalem traffic

But even with fewer people on the streets, during peak hours for delivering Mishloach Manot, Purim gifts of food, traffic was enough to be annoying and dangerous.

Purim sign

Part of Purim celebration is the seudah, a big meal with good food and drink.

Singing on Purim at festival meal

Costumes are optional, but singing and music and fun are required.

Finish line for Jerusalem Winner Marathon placed before race was postponed

The Jerusalem Marathon was postponed until November 6, 2020.

The COVID-19 coronavirus threatened Purim in Jerusalem.

Family dressed in Purim costumes on Jerusalem street

Families were not out in great numbers as in the past.

I attended smaller megillah readings in private homes and didn’t roam the streets.

Purim masks at Jerusalem Megilah reading in private home

But thanks to clever friends, we will share one more Purim image that sums up this truly upside down Purim in Jerusalem.

We worried. We prayed. Then it was time to eat.

פורים שמח 

Purim Sameach

 Happy Purim from the Jerusalem streets.

International Women’s Day in Jerusalem

International Women’s Day in Jerusalem

Oh, how some things have changed over the years.

When did you first hear of International Women’s Day?

Back in 2011, International Women’s Day coincided with Israel Apartheid Week.

Israeli Apartheid? was the blog posted in honor of women in Jerusalem.

In spite of coronavirus – COVID-19, this year I have been to multiple events featuring Israeli women doing amazing things.

Hebrew sign for International Women's Day in Jerusalem Israel

Signs for International Women’s Day (IWD) appeared. In Jerusalem, not only March 8, 2020, is to be celebrated, but events are planned for the entire month of March.

Finish line for Jerusalem Winner Marathon placed before race was postponed

The Jerusalem Marathon 2020 finish line was up near Gan Sacher, Sacher Park.

Gan Sacher Park in Jerusalem Israel

The construction in the park was nearing completion.

However, the March 20 marathon races have been postponed until October.

IWD events did not involve a large number of international participants and were held, though perhaps with fewer attendees than would have been expected.

United Hatzalah of Israel inaugurated Israel’s first pink ambulance with a specific mission to treat women.

Inside of United Hatzalah pink ambulance
Photo credit: United Hatzalah

The ambulance will be operated by a crew of female volunteer EMTs and paramedics. It will respond to any type of medical emergency but will prioritize responding to incidents in which there are female patients.

Women volunteers of United Hatzalah pose for group photograpn
Photo credit: United Hatzalah

Female volunteers of United Hatzalah posed recently for a photograph.

United Hatzalah volunteers at Herzl Conference

At the Herzl Conference held at Har Herzl, I had a chance to speak with the United Hatzalah volunteers on duty watching for any sign of trouble.

Aliza Lavie at Herzl Conference opening evening.

Educator and Author Dr. Aliza Lavie, who served in the Knesset from 2013-2019, now heads the Herzl Center.

President Reuven Rivlin, Herzl impersonator, and Aliza Lavie

At the Herzl Conference on Zionism, President Reuven Rivlin participated, as did former US Senator Joe Liberman. A Theodor Herzl impersonator was on hand for photographs.

Sun set over Har Herzl Cemetery in Jerusalem Israel

At Har Herzl on Wednesday night at sunset, we heard stories of women who fell in the establishment in the modern state of Israel as we toured the cemetery.

Presenters on International Women's Day at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem Israel

However, the main event was inside the education center to hear from seven women about their strong Zionistic visions and accomplishments, each with a unique story, Women. Leadership. Zionism.

Standing (r to l) Dr. Lavie, Shoshana Keats-Jaskoll, Olga Israel, Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoun; Seated Bat-El Papura, Emily Winkler, and Naava Shafner.

Each of the speakers could be more than one story, but there were other IWD events.

International Women's Day posters at Jerusalem Cinematheque

At the Jerusalem Cinematheque posters of women lined the walls.

March 3-5, in honor of IWD, lawyer, producer Paula Kweskin Weiss hosted a film festival at the Cinematheque featuring women.  Founding The 49% media production company with the intent to feature women, this festival’s theme – women’s storytelling as an act of courage.

Peta Pellach moderates panel at The 49% Festival at Jerusalem Cinematheque

The last night of The 49% Film Festival  Kiverstein Institute sponsored a documentary film on Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom. After the film, the director, as well as Fleur Hassan-Nahoun, participated in a panel discussion of women in politics led by Peta Pellach.

Female agriculture students working in fields before establishment of Israel
screenshot

Women were trained to work in agriculture, as seen in a screenshot from a 1934 archival film. 

Jerusalem Israel new buildings planned for Beit Alliance building site

Today in Jerusalem women are involved in startups and hitech. At the old Beit Alliance Building, with a new sign announcing future housing towers, there was another IWD event on Sunday morning.

CEO Miriam Schwab and MassChallenge Yonit Serkin

International Women’s Day: Fundraising as a female founder was the topic of the MassChallenge Israel sponsored program. Miriam Schwab (on the left) shared her experiences of the founding of her WordPress startup Strattic to a mostly female audience. Yonit Golub Serkin, Managing Director of MassChallenge Israel, moderated.

In the startup world, organizations like MassChallenge provide mentors at its incubator, as well as necessary advice and support to both men and women.

Research shows women in the early days of the establishment of Israel had more equality in numbers. Eleven women served in the First and Second Knesset, and in the 1950s, that was considered advanced.

On the local level, women are involved in politics, and ten percent of municipalities are led by women.  On a national level, the numbers of women in Knesset are down. One thing women are lacking is political mentors.  It is much more difficult for Arab and Haredi women to get involved in politics, and the new Women’s Party started too late for Knesset 23.

Not wanting to leave you with a political story, I took a walk around to see what was happening on the Jerusalem streets with COVID-19 filling the news feed.

People were out, young and old, shopping and eating, and preparing for Purim.

Valley of the Cross in Jerusalem on a spring day

And after all the winter rain, below the Israel Museum, the vegetation in the Valley of the Cross was picture perfect.