Holiday Highlights in Jerusalem

The sounds of regular rush-hour traffic fill the Jerusalem streets.

Schools are in session and students are back in their classrooms.

The holidays are over. It’s officially “After the Chagim.”

While international tourists were still few and far between, this year was a huge improvement over last year.

It is a good time to review and share some of the holiday highlights.

Jaffa Gate was open and part of a Sukkah still remained outside after Sukkot as visitors came and went in the pleasant weather.

The ‘Shana Tova! In Jerusalem’ banner was still draped over the entrance to Machane Yehuda market.

These visitors from outside Israel were still in holiday dress and mode on Wednesday, as they walked and watched the heavy traffic slowly move by.

Going to Birkat Cohanim at the Kotel, Western Wall, I saw a tall redheaded man entering by way of Jaffa Gate past the Tower of David.

What are the odds that I would see him leaving later?

Every year more women are seen carrying the lulav for Sukkot.

Our sukkah is packed away now. Those nice greens have wilted away, but all was ready in time for the holiday celebrations.

The holidays are over, but some of the annual receptions resumed.

There was a full house for the annual Diplomat Rosh Hashanah reception at Beit Hanasi to start off the holiday season.

President Isaac Herzog and his wife Michal personally greeted the Ambassadors to Israel at the President’s Residence.

Last year, President Reuven Rivlin was only able to host an online event and for most of the past year, visitors to the President’s Residence were limited.

Foreign Affairs Minister Yair Lapid arrived in time for the l’chaim.

Diplomats lined up for an introduction and photo op with the President.

September began with six new Ambassadors presenting their credentials. A highlight was the arrival of the first Ambassador from Bahrain.

The orange juice was specially prepared for his toast, as he would not be having the usual white wine.

The Israeli President hosted a musical selihot event before Yom Kippur outside in the garden, not in the synagogue, and it was broadcast live.

Sanitation workers in the Jerusalem municipality emptied 12,000 tons of garbage throughout the city from the eve of September 20 until Wednesday morning, September 29.

They were out cleaning the streets as soon as the holidays were over, but the peak in garbage removal in Jerusalem was recorded after Rosh Hashanah when more than 3,000 tons of garbage were emptied in one day. 

The Jerusalem Municipality estimates that hundreds of thousands of people visited and spent time at the religious, cultural, and tourist sites of Jerusalem, and toured the city’s landscapes during the Sukkot holidays.

The large Birkat Cohanim, Priestly Blessing, was held twice to accommodate more people in a less crowded manner. The big sukkah in the back of the plaza was busy, but the crowd on the first day was indeed a fraction of regular years. I was pleased to get this view from a restricted area.

I spotted a man standing near the Kotel with the tallest lulav of the year.

While thousands visited the Kotel and the main religious sites, many more visited the tourist sites in the Old City, including the Tower of David Museum, the Promenade Walls, the sites of the Jewish Quarter, and the City of David.

The main attraction after the Old City was the Mayor’s Sukkah in Safra Square which was visited by tens of thousands of people during the days of Sukkot.

Beit Hanasi did not have an open sukkah this year, but high above the Jerusalem streets, sukkot were built:

a simple sukkah on a small porch,

and a more elaborate sukkah here to accommodate many more people.

I almost missed this sukkah,

but this white fabric walled sukkah placed in a large Jerusalem public park area stood alone and was a standout this year.

Even with limited tourists, some of the Waldorf Residences had sukkot.

And music filled the Jerusalem streets, with Klezmer performances,

musicians at the Islamic Museum Coffee Festival,

the band for a ‘Heroines of the Palmach’ festival,

a lone musician at Zion Square,

and colorful entertainment and crowds on Ben Yehudah Street.

Plus, there were more Simhot Beit HaShoeva than I could count.

Wandering the Jerusalem streets, I never found these friends home. However, we did see some old friends, but sorry, no Shabbat camera.

On Sukkot, you could hear the voices of outdoor prayers from the Jerusalem street minyanim and the synagogues.

Mamilla Mall was busy for the holidays, and these friends appreciated the artwork displayed here.

As soon as the holiday was over, in Mamilla Mall the sukkot were taken down, and being stored for next year.

The giant sukkah in Kikar Safra was gone as soon as the holidays were over. New signs were posted, announcing plans for the much-postponed 10th Jerusalem Marathon.

It is to run on Friday, October 29th is just before the clocks change and it gets dark early.

Still not enough Sukkot photos? You can find more – HERE

The New Year signs were still up near Sacher Park.

It’s still appropriate to wish a good year in good health to all.

Hope to see you all again on the Jerusalem streets.

Even in Jerusalem, we sang “Next Year in Jerusalem.”

Sights and Sounds of Sukkot in Jerusalem

This time of year in Jerusalem, Israel, as the temperatures cool down and the Sukkot holiday season begins people come out of their homes, and the streets are filled with new strange sights and sounds.

In the Old City, in the Rova, the Jewish Quarter, there were many sukkot.

This large sukkah was at the Kotel, at the back of the Western Wall Plaza, and many more sukkot were visible above.

The festive Birkat Cohanim the holiday Priestly Blessing was scheduled for two days, not just one, to spread out the crowds and limit size and numbers attending this year for Sukkot.

Police and security were in place for the masses, but as you see on Wednesday, there were more security barriers than people at Jaffa Gate.

Inside Jaffa Gate, people went to pass through the Arab Shuk, as it was relatively quiet also.

Dignitaries were positioned to the left and up above the crowd at the Wall.

The whole service was broadcast live and available on YouTube both days.

I have come to Birkat Cohanim before, but certainly, on Wednesday, the scene was not like the usual as in 2012.

There was room for people to move freely, with the special security personnel wearing purple vests checking that everyone had a mask.

For the two minutes of the Birkat Cohanim, most people stood quietly. From this angle, the scene appeared similar to the past. It was so hot in the sun that my camera overheated, so I didn’t get a video.

But I did get a few minutes of the Musaf service to share with you. The choir added a more musical touch and length to the prayer service.

But Sukkot is about the sukkot, those “huts” or “illegal structures” that pop up and around the Jerusalem streets for this holiday week.

This one I had not noticed before and I’m not sure who built it.

I wondered how many others noticed it way up there over the Kotel Plaza?

Look up and you can see sukkot on porches, wooden ones and simple ones,

a sukkah on a Jerusalem porch with a wall of colorful fabric,

or made of wood with flower boxes.

The King David Hotel didn’t have the usual huge sukkah in their parking lot, but it looked like something was on the roof.

The Jerusalem Theater had a sukkah in front near the main entrance.

Some were placed on Jerusalem street corners.

This one was not new, but in a new location, off the new main sidewalk.

The giant sukkah in Kikar Safra was back. Who remembers that it was featured in one of the early RJS posts 11 years ago?

It is big, public, and with special times for the Jerusalem Mayor and his wife to greet the public.

Similar to old times, Mayor Moshe Lion and his wife, stood and posed for photo after photo. New, security checked for a green pass and mask to enter.

Across Jaffa Road from the Jerusalem Municipality is Shushan Street, dressed in new colors for the Sukkot holiday crowds to appreciate.

On Jaffa Road was a Chabad sukkah available for one to stop and make their holiday blessings.

But on the other side of the light rail tracks, Jaffa Road was lined with sukkot from the various food places for their customers to sit and eat.

Thursday evening families crowded around the various entertainers,

performers were every few meters, and other musicians were nearby.

Not sure what this was on Ben Yehudah Street, but it did get my attention.

One of several couples performing – more photos on Facebook – HERE

There were the traditional holiday sights in the Old City.

But this year for the first time there was a neighborhood street festival called The Heroines of the Palmach – for those interested, see more Here

Our sukkah was up and ready, and decorated in time for a photo, and happily withstood the wind and a little light rain.

Though we kept the meals much smaller than usual, it was good to have guests again after last year’s limitations.

We are only partway thru the holiday week, with Hashana Raba and Simhat Torah coming to make this another “short” week ahead. As we ask and try to remember each morning “what day is this”? More holiday events are planned, limited in scope, but at least happening much more than last year.

Shana Tova! In Jerusalem, signs are posted near major Jerusalem parks.

Here’s hoping this will be a healthy and good year for all!

Top 10 Old and New Happenings This Week in Jerusalem

Jerusalem, Israel, this holiday season is missing the usual annual mega-events.

However, even with the corona pandemic limiting activities, and Yom Kippur mostly in small groups outside, things are still happening on the Jerusalem streets.

Here are 10 favorites from this past week:

  1. Old – but still special, the Walls of the Old City at Jaffa Gate, lit up at night, always an impressive sight.

2. New – Lior Haiat ยท Spokesperson of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs conducted a record-breaking marathon of 99 interviews over 15 hours. Here he was “talking peace” with an interviewer in Turkey.

3. At the same time, at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence, a smaller, socially distanced honor guard stood by the red carpet reception for six new Ambassadors to Israel.

The IDF band was in the distance in the garden and played the anthems.

With a new President, a new lineup procedure with the executive staff.

Signing the Beit Hanasi guest book is routine, but note the new guest book.

Greeting the new Ambassadors, with masks, but also without them.

The first Ambassador from Bahrain, Khaled Yusuf Al Jalahma, carefully copied his message from a piece of paper. While he was copying, President Herzog had an opportunity to explain the ceiling and the artwork in the main hall to the Ambassador’s wife.

I tried, but I could not get a clear image of his message, though I noticed that the last word before the signature was “peace.”

President Herzog also received the credentials of the new ambassadors of Mexico, Estonia, Spain, Greece, and Vatican City.

Contrast this with the page from the new Greek Ambassador.

Guest book of Israel President signed by HRH Prince William in Jerusalem Israel

But Prince William still remains the most concise message I have seen.

It was almost like old times when I returned to Beit Hanasi in the afternoon.

4. The new medalists and Tokyo 2020 Paralympic athletes were hosted by the Herzogs at a special session.

Speeches were inside in an interesting setup of the room and a video recap,

and outside for multiple photos with these 33 Paralympic athletes.

While it seemed everyone wanted their hands on the gold, I think all these athletes are special and winners.

5. There were new venues for the old Yom Kippur prayers, like this one on Charlap Street outside the synagogue.

A local park where I stood on Rosh Hashana looked so nice without the flies.

6. This is the new playground under construction in Gan Sacher, Sacker Park. It was to be ready in May but still needs work. The new children’s playground will be very different than the old one.

7. The cooler weather is lovely for walking in the evening under the new lights off Ben Yehuda Street.

8. When tourists return they will be amazed by the number of new hotels waiting for them, like this one on Ben Yehuda Street,

New Building on Bezalel Street

and new impressive buildings along many old Jerusalem streets.

9. Safra Square was set up each night for large crowds before Yom Kippur.

Special musical Selihot programs combined new and old melodies.

10. The first new sukkah I spotted before Yom Kippur was in Mamilla Mall. Now there are thousands. Shortly after the Yom Kippur fast was broken, the sounds of hammers could be heard all around town. One after another, the sukkot popped up around the Jerusalem streets. Just look up or behind apartment buildings, the best of them for next week.

Happy Holiday sign at Israeli President's house on Sukkot 5778 - 70 years.

Not quite back to normal, Beit Hanasi will not be open to the public again this year on the intermediate days of Sukkot. The Herzogs have invited only Shalva and its founder Kalman Samuels, with no media access either.

Huge events like the Jerusalem March also are not happening. But I plan to be back next week with the new event planned for here in the neighborhood.

Chag sameach!