Oh, Jerusalem of 2020.
It used to be that “20-20” was an expression for hindsight.
This year of 2020 has taken on a different context with the COVID-19 pandemic. The novel coronavirus has changed the world and certainly life as we knew it in Jerusalem.
Jerusalem, Israel, endured a holiday season so unlike recent years, the excited holiday crowds and tens of thousands of international visitors were missing from the Jerusalem streets.
The huge Birkat Kohanim at the Kotel, Western Wall, was extremely limited.
The Israeli Chief Rabbis, Mayor Moshe Lion, US Ambassador David Friedman attended, however, the main plaza was empty. People watched from home on a screen, on Facebook for a live stream of the service.
On other days a lone Kohen could be found blessing the small prayer groups. Regulations for the holiday week this year limited outdoor groups to 20 people, and within one kilometer from home.
This was the year for the private home sukkah, tucked away in the garden,
or up on the roof,
in all shapes and styles.
Some sukkot blended into the architecture,
while others were easier to see.
A wooden one on this small porch is an annual sight,
but there seemed to be many more new white walls in driveways this year,
as more people had to stay home and not travel near or far.
They were placed in parking spots next to apartment buildings.
On the last night of Sukkot, I took a walk around the neighborhood and found a friend eating dinner. This “communal” sukkah is shared by many people in the building, but this year families were eating at separate times and not sharing meals.
When I started going each year, President Shimon Peres was at Beit Hanasi, hosting the Israeli President’s sukkah which was open to the public.
But this year, President Rivlin missed out hosting the public, and the “open sukkah” was a two-hour program online, which included
the Israel Space Agency, a program involving young Israelis.
The little Professor G got my vote as the cutest presenter.
Even the sukkah at the Kotel Plaza, though brightly lit, was much smaller this year and was used only by those who lived near by.
Instead of running around all night long in Jerusalem to attend classes, now one can sit anywhere in the world and zoom in and out to learn Torah.
This year went online for dozens of lectures for Hashana Raba.
And music – last year Akiva Tourgeman was singing at Beit Hanasi, this year he was on Israeli TV.
This year Tourgeman was on stage for Hashana Raba televised concert.
Yemima Mizrachi spoke and introduced Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion and other performers on the outdoor stage for an online Hashana Raba event.
This was the year of the small sukkah and even smaller holiday businesses.
Hoshanot at the Kotel, were seen live on Facebook and now on YouTube.
The Jerusalem March with tens of thousands from around the world coming to show love for Jerusalem did not happen.
The Bible Marathon was run online, not over the Judean landscapes.
Tourism which had been in the millions of visitors, went down to zero.
Small business owners have really been suffering with forced closings.
This was a year to find simple pleasure in nature close to home.
Repurposed unused school lunch bags made into a sukkah decoration.
Of immediate family time together,
seeking quiet time and some sun up on the roof,
or on a rock in the park for solitude.
The Sukkot and Simhat Torah under corona limitations for many were at home, home alone without the usual dancing and large parties.
None of the crowds of past years.
Oh, Jerusalem of 2020!
The sun set on another holiday season so different than last year.
Sukkot 2020 one to remember or one to try and forget?
Next year in Jerusalem.