Jerusalem New Signs for Rosh Hashana

Jerusalem New Signs for Rosh Hashana

It was hard not to get whiplash in Jerusalem, Israel, this past week.

The extremes of the good news and bad were so sharp it was hard to keep up.

While the 4.5 million Israelis who usually go overseas for their summer holidays had to stay home because of the pandemic situation, Israel’s nature spots were fully booked. Now a holiday lockdown is predicted as the number of COVID-19 infections rises.

Schools opened. Schools closed. Classes were on Zoom. Students were home.

Oh, and there was a heatwave, making going outside unpleasant!

Light clouds in Jerusalem sky over Israel Museum at sunset

The humidity rose in the evening making the nights unusually uncomfortable. But over the Jerusalem streets, clouds produced lovely and colorful sunsets like this one over the Israel Museum, partially illuminated in the center of the photo.

Fixing street light over Jerusalem streets

The demand for electricity caused random power outages. However, these Jerusalem street lights did not go off in the morning light and needed professional attention.

Mask with Baltimore Orioles Baseball team

An unusual sports excitement, Dean Kremer, the first Israeli ever drafted by a US Major League Baseball team made his major league debut for the Baltimore Orioles. He pitched a great game, and even though they beat the Yankees, Israeli Yankee fans were impressed enough to take to social media.

Trying to get back to some sort of normal with coronavirus has been difficult for theaters, cultural festivals and events. The Film & Conversation group in Baka/Katamon is planning to move outside Beit Yehudit at night on 13 September.

Theater outside in Jerusalem Israel due to COVID-19

Signs were up for performances in theater courtyards.

"There are stars outside" Hebrew sign for theater in corona restrictions

The ‘Stars Outside’ signs were up again, trying to get audience to attend.

Jerusalem signs in Hebrew

The Hansen House announced a designer’s event.

Hebrew sign announcing community elections in Jerusalem Israel

And a new sign for new Jerusalem local elections in November.

Rosh Hashana begins on Friday night.

COVID-19 limited sellhot in Jerusalem Safra Square

After Shabbat, the Ashkenazim joined the Sefardim in Selichot,  who have already been saying them for a month. Due to COVID-19 regulations, this year there was a special prayer service with special seating in Kikar Safra, the Jerusalem Municipal plaza.

Yitzhak Meir leading a musical selhot in Kikar Safra

The late-night musical Selihot were led by Yizhak Meir and broadcast on YouTube and Facebook. An announcement was made at the end that people should not crowd, but leave in ‘capsules’ and small groups.

Screen shot of protesters in Jerusalem

Meanwhile, not far away, at the same time, the anti-Bibi protesters were back for the 12th week.

Sign in Hebrew for a successful year

The new Jerusalem street signs for a successful New Year,

Prosperous and happy new year sign in Jerusalem Israel

and a year of happiness.

Pomegranates growing in Jerusalem, Israel park area

Pomegranates are another sign of Rosh Hashana. 

Jerusalem street sign for Good New Year

Apples and honey and success are yet another New Year sign.

Avera Mengistu, Hadar Goldin, Oron Shaul captive in Gaza by Hamas

Reports that Egyptians are now trying to get Hamas to release the bodies of Hadar Goldin, and Oron Shaul.  Avera Mengistu has been held captive in Gaza for six years.

It’s time to bring the boys home.

Selihot last year, over 1,000 people attended the Jerusalem Great Synagogue.

It has been closed since the spring and will remain closed for the High Holy Days this year.

Kotel for COIVD-19 selihot

The Kotel, Western Wall, usually crowded with tens of thousands for Selihot, had a limited crowd, divided into ‘capsules,’ and only filled up well after midnight.

What a year 5780 has been!

So there you have some of the ups and downs, good and bad, certainly different, of the past week

Coming in so strongly, the Hebrew year 5780 Jerusalem hit record numbers in tourism. It was then hit with a pandemic and closed borders to overseas tourists.

Now with prospects of normalization with Gulf neighbors, there should be euphoria. But new closures dampen holiday planning. No one really knows what will be for the next day, next week, next month, certainly not next year.

Hebrew sign for a year of good health

But as we begin 5781, wishing all a year of good health!

Hope to see you all again soon on the Jerusalem streets.

In Jerusalem From Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur

In Jerusalem From Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur

In Jerusalem, Israel, before the Rosh Hashana holiday season, the variety of items for sale seems infinite. It is a time to purchase new clothes and pots and flowering plants, and for many also a time to clean.

Window cleaner stories above ground

Entering an apartment building, we looked up to see a window cleaner at work stories above us.

Plans are made either to travel or arrange seats in synagogues to pray and hear the shofar blown.

Annual Rosh Hashana ‘raising the glass’ celebrations were held at business and government offices.

One of my favorites is the reception held at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence, before the Jewish New Year.

Diplomats arriving for Rosh Hashana

The red carpet is laid out. The State Chief of Protocol from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Meron Reuben, greeted the arriving heads of mission for foreign diplomats.

Beit Hanasi diplomats before Rosh Hashana

With so many new ambassadors it is a good time for the international representatives to meet. There are 18 female ambassadors serving their countries in Israel.

Most of the male ambassadors wore business suits, as at the previous reception. 

Cat at President's house in garde

The Presidential cat was on watch, a sign of a special gathering.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister

While waiting in the main room before the president arrived, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Hotovely had a chance to talk with ambassadors.

Ambassadors to Israel from Jordan and Egypt at Presidents house reception

Of note this year in the front row, the only person in military uniform was B.G. Alaa Abu-Rukun, the new Military Secretary to the President of Israel, seated between the Ambassadors from Egypt and Jordan.

Jordan Ambassador shaking hands with President Rivlin in Jerusalem Israel

President Reuven Rivlin entered shaking hands with Ambassador from Jordan and others who stood as he passed to his seat.

Diplomats at Beit Hanasi for New Year reception

The room appeared full. I missed seeing the Ambassadors from Australia and the United States.

Ambassadors to Israel from Thailand and Slovak Republic

But had the pleasure to meet the Ambassadors from Thailand and the Slovak Republic,

New Year reception at Beit Hanasi for diplomatic corps

The head of the Diplomatic corps offered greetings during the formal program.

President Rivlin spoke as well.

Beit Hanasi piano played by 12 year old boy with autism

Musical protege Roi Mor, diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum, has perfect pitch and played two of his compositions on the piano during the event. You could barely see the top of his head as he was seated at the piano.

Wine for New Year's toast at Israeli Presidents house for diplomats

Then it was time to go outside and ‘raise a glass’ to toast the New Year.

Reception in garden at Beit Hanasi for Rosh Hashana

Fruit platters, and of course, apples and honey round out the menu.

Photo of table with Rosh Hashana pomegranates and apples and honey

The presentation was much more elaborate two years ago when this event was last held.

President Rivlin with wine and apples and honey for Rosh Hasahana

President Rivlin put on a kippa to make a blessing on his wine and apples dipped in honey.

Last year because of time or budget, or perhaps Nechama Rivlin’s declining health, this reception did not take place.

Nechama Rivlin in 2016 without oxygen at Beit Hanasi reception

When I went to check previous Rosh Hashana receptions, I realized that only 3 years ago, she walked in without oxygen support.

Ambassador from Jordan shaking hands with Israel President Rivlin in Jerusalem at Beit Hanasi gardens

Ambassadors lingered in the Beit Hanasi garden to wish the Israeli President Shana Tova.

Diplomats at Beit Hanasi in Jerusalem Israel

This is an important time for the diplomats to meet and mingle in a relaxed setting. More modest was fine. Most of those attending were new and did not remember the previous more elaborate affairs.

Gol Kolev with apple and honey at Beit Hanasi

Important are the apples and honey for a sweet year!

Israel President's Residence traffic outside.

As always, when the Presidential Rosh Hashana reception was over.  Traffic on Jerusalem streets near Beit Hanasi slowed to a crawl,  as diplomats were picked up and driven to their next appointments.

Photographers at Israel President Residence

The media ignored this event, but my friend Aleksandr and I enjoyed it.

Four years ago, Aleksandr pushed me into the crowded men’s section at the President’s synagogue so I could to get my shots, we have often worked together.

So to prepare for Yom Kippur 5780 which is Wednesday next week, here are videos from past years of selihot at Beit Hanasi.

With Yitzhak Meir and my close-ups.

Traditional prayers with Chaim Israel two years ago at Beit Hanasi.

Powerful – David D’Or’s Avenu Malkeinu.

The Jerusalem Municipality is sponsoring multiple traditional Selihot, musical selihot nights and tours, and events.

Tens of thousands will fill the plaza for late-night selihot at the Kotel, Western Wall before Yom Kippur.

Wishing all a גמר חתימה טובה,

may you be signed and sealed in the book of life.