Jerusalem: Summer 2020 Starting Ready or Not

Jerusalem: Summer 2020 Starting Ready or Not

Skies over Jerusalem, Israel, were not as bright this morning, with a partial eclipse of the sun. Sadly, my attempt to get a photo failed.

June clouds over Jerusalem Israel skyline

However, the clouds over the Jerusalem streets last week were amazing.

June clouds over Jerusalem Israel streets

Here’s another image of clouds with a view of the center of town.

Summer is a time for a vacation in Israel. After inbound tourism to Israel had reached a historic high of 4.55 million tourists at the end of 2019, the industry expected to break another new record of 5 million tourists in 2020. But as a result of the global tourism crisis, the tourism industry in Jerusalem has been hard hit.

Some smaller venues and the Tower of David Museum have started to open.

Israel Museum in Jerusalem closed because of coronavirus regulations

But the Israel Museum gates are shut. It stands empty at the start of summer. In the past, it would be a time filled with people of all ages from around the world.

Israel Museum no people grounds empty midday in June COVID-19

I always wanted a photo of the Israel Museum’s  ‘Turning the World Upside Down’ by Anish Kapoor without people standing around and in my way. Certainly, I never imagined it would be finally possible with the world turned upside down due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. As people around the world Zoom into funerals, conferences, and weddings, standing outside the Israel Museum all I needed was a simple zoom lens.

Construction on Israel National Library progress even during coronavirus restrictions and closings

However, across the street, the National Library construction was proceeding and visible well above ground. Interesting to compare to what the library site was like five years ago. 

The larger hotels, like the King David, Crown Plaza, and Orient are still closed.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Israel’s first international state visitor at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Jerusalem. In the framework of the G2G meeting between the governments of Israel and Greece, he met with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Greek and Israeli flags at Beit Hanasi for official state ceremony

Before COVID-19, Greek officials were received at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence with blue and white flags.

And an honor guard red carpet welcome, with national anthems, and media invited to attend and record.

But, the current smaller-scaled reception resulted in the signing by ministers of three MOUs – on cyber, agriculture, and tourism. Plus, it was announced that it will be possible for Israeli tourists to travel to Greece and possibly return from Greece and Cyprus without a quarantine requirement by August 1, 2020.

Prime Minister of Greece and President of Israel at Beit Hanasi
Photo credit: Mark Neyman (GPO)

Besides the important agreements, there was an official photo with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of Greece and President Reuven Rivlin at Beit Hanasi.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of Greece:and Israeli President at Beit Hanasi bump elbows
Photo credit: Mark Neyman (GPO)

And the new coronavirus greeting of bumping elbows and not shaking hands.

There was also to be an official visit from Cyprus, but it was postponed as the numbers of coronavirus cases has started to rise again in multiple Israeli locations.

Knesset in 2017 opening session Tzipi Hotovley

It was announced that MK Tzipi Hotovely is leaving the Knesset to replace Mark Regev as Ambassador to the United Kingdom. The usual anti-Israel sources are protesting the appointment. Remembering when Brazil would not accept Dani Dayan?   The best thing that happened to Dayan was when he went to New York as Israel’s General Counsel and has done an outstanding job.

View of Gaza from Israel where IDF monitors border

Back in November 2018, we were on a media tour near the Israeli border to see the IDF view of Gaza.

Israel Gaza border Tehilla Friedman on tour

There was Tehila Friedman in her signature red hat having a private guided tour. With the new Knesset arrangements, Tehila is one of the newest Knesset members. As Knesset members, the two female politicians are from different parties with very different political views, but both are concerned with the welfare of Israel.

New Jerusalem Israel summer tourist hamburger food trucks

The red food truck came back, with labeling for burgers, both meat and vegan burgers.

I love the name of Beyond Burgers in Hebrew – ביונד מיט-הדור הבה

In time for today’s International Yoga Day, Abraham Hostel announced rooftop Yoga.

What a contrast to two years ago and the big events for the first day of summer.

Man praying in Valley of Cross park area

Now a man praying alone in nature is more likely scene than group yoga.

Wildflower in Jerusalem Israel park area

The summer flowers around are blooming.

The sights and smells of summer abound.

Wild flower in Jerusalem Israel

Even this bead tree or Indian lilac flowers were pretty, though it’s toxic and intrusive.

The pleasant senses of nature will have to suffice.

This summer of 2020 the large annual festivals are not happening.

Protests from the cultural community, one of the daily protests near the Prime Minister’s Office and Knesset, could be heard from kilometres away.

I will leave you with one of the favorite sights and sounds from the Jerusalem Light Festival of 2018.

Here’s to hoping next year – or better – this year to see you on the Jerusalem streets.

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.

 

 

 

Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day 5780

Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day 5780

From Jerusalem, Israel, on Monday,  April 20, 2020, at 8:00 pm (Israel time), the official Opening Ceremony for Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day 5780 will be broadcast from Warsaw Ghetto Square at Yad Vashem on the Mount of Remembrance, on Yad Vashem’s website and Facebook page.

Following the advice of psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, in his autobiography “Man’s Search for Meaning” – “What matters is to make the best of any given situation.”

This year the ceremony was pre-recorded without an audience due to restrictions of the pandemic coronavirus COVID19.

Stage at Yad Vashem for Yom HaShoah with memorial flame lit

The ceremony will comprise traditional elements, including prerecorded video remarks by Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  Naomi Cassuto will speak on behalf of the survivors. 

Yad Vashem Council Chairman and Holocaust survivor Rabbi Israel Meir Lau will kindle the Memorial Torch as he has done many times in the past.

Rabbi Y M Lau pointing to himself as a child in large photo in Yad Vashem

 In this photo, the Rabbi is pointing to himself as a child soon after liberation, sitting with a group of US army soldiers and other Jewish survivors. 

Survivors and young relative lighting flame at Yad Vashem on Yom HaShoah

During the ceremony, six traditional memorial torches will be lit.

The stories of six Holocaust survivors featured this year are the following: the first torch– Zohar Arnon– second– Aviva Blum-Wachs; third–Haim Arbiv; fourth- Leah Reuveni; fifth–Avraham Carmi; and sixth– Yehuda Beilis

Lighting memorial flame at Yad Vashem on Yom HaShoah

In the past, a child or grandchild assisted each torch lighter,

Light a torch at Yad Vashem for Yom HaShoah

often wearing an IDF uniform. Frankl’s words: ‘to turn from tragedy and suffering to human achievement and accomplishment’ are exemplified in the faces of those lighting the memorial torches.

Israeli singers Shiri Maimon and Shai Tzabari will participate in the ceremony, which will also include narrative pieces written by Holocaust survivor Jack Weber, and recited by Israeli actor Zohar Straus. The MC for the ceremony will be Danny Cushmaro. 

The ceremony will feature the traditional memorial service, including the recitation of a chapter from Psalms by Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi David Lau. The Rishon LeZion, Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef will recite the mourner’s Kaddish, and Cantor Daniel Dahan will recite El Maleh Rahamim, the Jewish prayer for the souls of the martyrs.

To mark Holocaust Remembrance Day this year, when public gatherings have been banned in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak worldwide, Yad Vashem has asked the public to participate in an international campaign to record themselves reciting the names of Holocaust victims, and share the video on social media using the hashtags #RememberingFromHome #ShoahNames.

Yom Hashoa victims photos at Yad Vashem

“Join us and mark Holocaust Remembrance Day this year from your homes,” said Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev. “Help us to restore the memory of those murdered during the Holocaust, as you do each and every year. Although the circumstances this year are unique, the message is still the same: We will never forget their names.”

Photographs are from RJS previous visits to Yad Vashem.

For the ceremony when Shimon Peres was President click here.

Background noise interfered with our recording in the private room where the torch lighters and their invited family members gathered before the ceremony. It was a very different feeling than the ominous silence during the short videos presented during the ceremony relating each of the survivor stories. In this room, this gathering felt more like a party. A celebration. A triumph of good over evil. We survived. Proudly, see what we have accomplished.

Behind the scenes with RJS in 2016 click here.

To conclude, HaTikvah from last year

The Hope for better times ahead for all.

Never Again.

#RememberingFromHome #ShoahNames.