It was a fabulous and busy Sukkot holiday week in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem streets were filled with people, special prayer services and so many fun things to do it was impossible to keep up and of course, sukkot of all sizes and in the most amazing spaces.
And then, from Friday night with tens of thousands out celebrating Simhat Torah to the morning, the world turned upside down and dark. The singing and dancing stopped. Hamas invaded the south and sent missiles to Jerusalem and thousands more in the south and up to Tel Aviv.
Synagogues were told to close by the Homefront Command. People were warned to go to protected shelters. Israel was at war. Swords of Iron the Simhat Torah War, 50 years after the Yom Kippur War.
How it will end we do know, but the first day numbers are staggering and numbing. Rising to 1,000 murdered, thousands injured and kidnapped, and most everyone shocked by disbelief.
“Hamas has turned into Gaza’s ‘ISIS’ [branch]. In this war, we are faced with a murderous terrorist organization that attacks the elderly, women, and infants. We will fight these brutal terrorists and we will win,” stated Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant.
However, in this weekly photo essay, I wish to share a bit of what happened before the Jerusalem streets became quiet, the planes started flying over, and the Simhat Torah celebrations were reduced to a few men with Torahs at the Kotel, Western Wall after Shabbat.
It feels like weeks ago, that the the Kotel Plaza was filled with people day and night, but it was last week.
Not only for the morning Birkat Cohanim but the afternoons as well thousands crowded into the Old City.
Not only Jewish visitors but thousands of Christians also arrived in Jerusalem.
Shaar Ashpot, the Dung Gate renovation has been completed and was open for the holidays.
Greetings for a Happy Sukkot Holiday were projected on the Old City wall at Jaffa Gate at night.
First time seeing a camel go by there this Sukkot.
Looking down into the ancient Roman Cardo was a large sukkah.
Looking up in many neighborhoods were many, many sukkot.
The annual Beit Hanasi Open Sukkah hosted by the Israeli President was decorated with a sports theme.
There is a more traditional sukkah in the back garden for actually sitting and eating.
The Herzogs went around before the public arrived to try out the activities.
They greeted the athletes
and the other characters on the President’s Residence grounds.
There were spots for families to take winning photos.
Ben Gurion was spotted with the Declaration of Independence on the ground as he posed upside down.
The large sukkah at Mamilla Mall was one of several prepared for holiday crowds.
The Orient Isrotel Hotel had a large sukkah on its roof lit up at night.
One much smaller sukkah was on the street across from the Mamilla Hotel for a special sushi and fine art evening at Y.A. Fine Art Gallery.
However, the most detail-decorated sukkah was the Moroccan-themed night at the new Theatron Hotel.
Much simpler was the sleeping sukkah for a guest of a ground floor room.
With all the various activities and events too many to attend or list now, the Jerusalem March was impressive. People were lining the streets before it began with dignitaries after the 3:00 pm start time.
Colorful floats with fairy tale characters,
and a police band led off the start of the 68th annual Jerusalem holiday event.
Yaakov ‘Kobi’ Shabtai Commissioner of Israel Police was spotted in the crowd later near the Citadel Hotel walking with a group of uniformed officers.
Large colorful balloons entertained the s tens of thousands of spectators.
International visitors with flags came from 90 countries to participate.
Israel, you’re not alone! Hope Denmark will be saying that loud and clear this week too.
My favorite social media moment came when shortly after posting this photo on Facebook the gentleman from Holland who wore these shoes commented, “It was an honor to walk the Jerusalem March on real Dutch clocks (wooden shoes ) again. Hag Sameach!” No, I did not know him before I spotted those shoes.
Besides hundreds of photos of positive interactions along the route, this event needed a video. The singing, energy, and excitement between the tens of thousands of people lining the Jerusalem streets went on and on for the entire distance from Sacher Park to First Station.
So here is a brief look at the wonderful holiday of Sukkot. On the night of Hashana Raba and Simhat Torah, the streets were filled with people, study programs, prayer, socializing, and singing and dancing.
Then we woke up the next morning to a whole new world with missile warning sirens blaring.
We slowly found bits and pieces of the horror developing. The girl crying because word had come her brother was in the hospital. Seeing the religious man across the road, throwing a backpack into the car on Shabbat afternoon wearing his reservist army uniform.
Hamas has shown its brutal face and Israelis are in shock as we hear more horror stories, and learn times and locations for funerals of friends.
The sky is dark, the day gloomy over too quiet Jerusalem streets. Children did not go back to school. Businesses are affected by so many called up for reserve duty. Many of those who came to celebrate the holidays are now trying to get home as flights are canceled.
Hopefully positive news next week from the Jerusalem streets, but do not count on this being over soon.
“Ein Li Eretz Acheret” — I have no other land.”