Passover – This Year in Jerusalem

Passover or Pesach,

the holidays of Spring have passed.

The Jerusalem holiday crowds returned in the tens of thousands as many of the coronavirus restrictions were lifted. The Birkat Kohanim, Priestly Blessing, was extended to two days in order to accommodate more people at the Kotel, the Western Wall.

Watching the live service online, I was able to get a front-row seat on both days without leaving home. Plus the video is available for all to enjoy now.

Before the holiday began we had elections for the 24th Knesset. Notice the COVID-19 dividers and limited numbers allowed in the room.

Plenty of parties to pick from. But as of today, as the new Knesset is sworn in, the makeup of the new government is still very uncertain. President Rivlin has given the mandate to Benjamin Netanyahu who had the most recommendations, but not a majority of 61, so here we go again. Will have to wait and see what happens next. One difference this fourth time in under two years was the generous amount of hand sanitizer in the voting booth.

On my way home, people were out on the streets. There was a party atmosphere with a day off from work, and finally freed from apartments.

This was the scene in my kitchen when I returned after voting. Those eggs (and more) are long gone and the cucumber salad and pickles were finished off last week, but a few glutin-free cookies remain in the freezer.

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Last year we prepared for a seder with two people, and this year the seder had two tables. One table was preset on Friday to save time after Shabbat.

With the change of clocks and the holidays, time was a blur. It was a bit of a challenge to know what day it was, plus keeping track of who was to be at each meal, downsized from the old days to smaller family units.

For Passover, museums returned and were open with prior registration,

while some previously open food places closed for Passover.

Israeli nature spots and parks were filled with family reunions.

The new visitor center in Tel Lachish was not open, but the trail was ready for the stream of hikers.

New playgrounds in new neighborhoods sprung from the barren earth.

And oh, oh the traffic returning to the Jerusalem streets. Here are the blue lights of the Prime Minister’s motorcade weaving its way out of Jerusalem.

As one who remembers the old Route 1, I marvel each time we wind our way up the new roads to Jerusalem in multiple lanes packed with cars.

At Jaffa Gate, an oversized banner welcomed tens of thousands of visitors with “Happy Passover in Jerusalem” in bright spring colors.

Inside Jaffa Gate, signs showed the way to the Kotel, the Western Wall.

Security was out and visible, but relaxed for the holiday crowds.

A Happy Purim sign was up in the Rova, the Jewish Quarter. Purim was last month, but the crowds indeed seemed happy.

Happy to be out and back in the Old City, and to sit and eat kosher for Passover food they did not have to prepare or eat at home.

The Kotel Plaza was still divided to provide size-regulated services.

The size of holiday crowds was similar to the past years. I went in the afternoon after Birkat Kohanim to see what was happening.

The only quiet location I found on Passover was the usual one at the egalitarian section of the Western Wall. What was unusual was that security allowed a man dressed in his Haredi holiday attire to go down. In the past, I had seen religious-looking men were stopped and denied entrance.

Popup popcorn stands (for Sephardim only) were in multiple locations, wafting the familiar aroma to entice customers.

Young and old, they came, all day, well into the night on Passover walking to the Old City and the Kotel as on holidays past. So many baby strollers!

The clean-up crews were noticeable and are to be commended, as the sanitation workers labored overtime to keep the Jerusalem streets clean.

After an upside down year, it was good to be out, even wearing a mask.

Crowds filled Mamilla Mall, walking, shopping, and sitting to eat.

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The new art in Mamilla Mall was popular with visiting children.

This last sign of the protesters was removed immediately after Passover and the construction of France Square and Paris Fountain has begun.

The original dedication stone with the mayors of Jerusalem and Paris in 2008 could use a good clean-up and restoration.

The image of coming out of hibernation as lumbering bears was no longer appropriate. The lighter feeling on the Jerusalem streets was of millions of butterflies bursting out after a year in cocoons, filling the parks in the pleasant weather.

The fountain was not flowing in Teddy Park, but Israelis sat to enjoy the Jerusalem nature spot.

The Jerusalem cats were looking satisfied after finding full dumpsters.

Jerusalem filled with traffic, a sign of “normal” after a very difficult pandemic year with no international tourism.

This spring Israelis returned to Jerusalem. Here’s hoping as we say at the end of the seder, “Next Year in Jerusalem” will be for all.

But before we can relax and enjoy the flowers, it’s time for the Yoms!

Always something happening on the Jerusalem streets: at Yad Vashem Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes Remembrance Day, will be observed this year starting Wednesday evening, April 7, through Thursday, April 8, 2021, with live broadcast in English – HERE

Chag Pesach Sameach

This year, as Shabbat ends, the Passover holiday begins and the seder and holiday meal is to begin. My preparations started early, but I realized in the past in 1994, 2001, and 2005, before we made aliyah, we had also a second seder – and 3-day holiday with more meals and more guests.

So this year in Jerusalem, one seder should be a-piece-of-Passover-cake easy.

Things are slowly starting to get back to normal – better than last year.

Now back to the kitchen to cook for a real seder— not virtual one.

!חג שמח

Next year in Jerusalem!

Passover — This Year in Jerusalem

Passover — This Year in Jerusalem

Cold. Wet. Rainy. Hail. Thunder.

These are not words one normally associates with Jerusalem, Israel, on Passover.

The holiday of spring feels more like winter this year.

Kotel for Birkat Chohanim

However, tens of thousands of people crowded around the Kotel, the Western Wall,

Kotel for Birkat Kohanim on Pesach

and the Western Wall Plaza for the annual Passover Birkat HaKohanim, the Priestly Blessing.

In Talpiot, the bowling alley had a long, long line of people waiting to roll.

Due to the weather, museums with free entrance for children were more popular this year than traditional tiyulim, hikes in the countryside. The Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem was “packed.”

Pesach section in Israel Museum

The Israel Museum has a special section devoted to Passover.

There is even a video where one can watch how matzah is made by hand.

Pesach seder plate in Israel Museum

Special, distinctive seder plates are on display as well.

1925 silver seder plate in Israel Museum

This is a 1925, three-tiered silver seder plate from Vienna with three sections for matzah.

Men cleaning notes from Western Wall Kosel before Pesach

The annual Passover clean up of notes left in the Kotel stones was done a week before the holiday.

Jaffa Gate Jerusalem Israel

On that morning I entered the Old City by way of the Jaffa Gate,

Jerusalem Israel inside Jaffa Gate

and unlike this morning, the plaza area inside was quiet.

Jerusalem Israel Jewish Quarter street

It was possible to get this photo without any people.

Jerusalem Israel Hurva Synagogue Old City

Next to the Hurva Synagogue in the Rova, Jewish Quarter, this man sat and talked on his phone near the golden menorah.

Kotel in women's section with a little girl and boy dancing.

In the women’s section a young boy and girl had plenty of room to dance.

View from steps of Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem Israel Old City

This is the area that was entirely filled with people today in spite of the cold weather.

Jerusalem Israel view of Kotel

In the area where a stone fell last year, blue scaffolding was next to the wall.

Old City Jerusalem new steps and elevator

And new stairs have been added near the elevator which is still under construction.

View of Har HaZeitim from Old City

The ancient Mount of Olives Jewish Cemetery still looks the same.

Near Zion Gate view of Yemin Moshe Jerusalem Israel

The wet winter was great for greenery, as seen in this view of Yemin Moshe.

Jerusalem Israel view of Artists Colony from Old City

Mitchell Park nearby next to the Artists’ Colony is also full of green.

King David Hotel in Jerusalem Israel

Wild flowers behind the King David Hotel stand out after the spring rains.

For Passover in shuk covered with foil for holiday food

In the Machane Yehudah Market, the shuk, this store covered its counters with foil, and was ready to put out its kosher for Passover food before the holiday.

Piles of fresh garlic on street before Pesach

One of the annual sights and smells of Passover on Jerusalem streets are the piles of fresh garlic for holiday cooking and to be dried out to use for the rest of the year.

Jerusalem Israel Passover preparation on street

And of course, around Jerusalem huge vats of boiling water were ready to kasher metal utensils.

Gardeners going to clean up Jerusalem Israel public spaces before Passover

One new and welcomed sight this year was these young men wearing gardener vests and carrying brand new shiny rakes and rolls of garbage bags. Mayor Moshe Lion had announced that the municipality was going to clean up public areas. Too bad I was on my way home and did not take the time to follow them to see their work area.

Happy Spring Holiday sign in Jerusalem Israel

Chag Aviv Sameach in Yerushalayim.

Happy Spring Holiday in Jerusalem.

Tomorrow is to be warmer and it should  start feeling like spring again on the Jerusalem streets.