Jerusalem Levels of Security

It was a very warm summer night and the line of large SUVs idling on the side of the street spewed off clouds of hot exhaust as their drivers sat waiting inside with the motors and air conditioning running.

Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, was hosting US presidential candidate Barak Obama for dinner. I don’t remember where I was coming home from late at night, but I took the shortcut down Smolenskin Street past #9, walking past the Israeli Prime Minister’s official residence on the street corner of Balfour Street.

For over four years, I have wanted to write about how the levels of security have increased. With the events of the past week now is finally the time.

View of Old City walls in Jerusalem Israel at sunset

The walls around the Old City of Jerusalem were for security. The Tower of David was used for defense until 1918 when the British first used the Citadel for cultural, not military purposes.

These ‘dragon teeth,’ the bollards of yesteryear, were collected from various locations and placed across from Gan Haaztzmaut, Independence Park.

One remains on Agron Street, but this photo is from a post four years ago, shared when writing about security for a Presidential Trump visit.

Also four years ago, I was able to get one photo of the then new black curtain put up near the Israeli Prime Minister’s Residence.

Year by year in Jerusalem new levels of security have been put in place.

New security at Beit Hanasi Jerusalem

Not only near the Prime Minister’s Residence but four years ago at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence, a new security screen was added to block the view from the street.

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Today there are bollards and a new security entrance, and guards.

White security tent for Leningrad dedication in Jerusalem Sacher Park

It may seem like ages ago, but the security for the January 2020 visit of the 49 world leaders for the Holocaust Remembrance took weeks to assemble.

Security in Old city near Western Wall

The increased security near the Kotel, Western Wall is well known.

Western Wall Plaza clear for VP Pence visit

Two years ago, the security for the official visit of Vice-President Mike Pence was extraordinary!

Entrance to Jaffa Gate

More than once this past year, security was increased at the gates of Old City due to the coronavirus lockdowns and distance limitations.

Protest Rally in Jerusalem Israel near Prime Minister's residence

There have been antigovernmental protests for months. The Saturday night events are loud and large and go long past noise time restriction limits.

However, last Shabbat protesters crossed a new line.

The main protest area near the Prime Minister’s Residence is across the street from Paris Square. It has been occupied for months by day as well the Saturday night noisy mega-events.

They are near this entrance to the street of the Prime Minister’s Residence.

This was a view of Smolenskin Street on Friday January 8, 2021.

The next morning on Shabbat, a van like this one blocked the street. Multiple border police officers were positioned there to make sure the demonstrators did not break through and get close to the building again.

By Friday, a new layer of security was added on Balfour Street.

Anyone needing a minyan of ten men to say kaddish could have tried here, as there was at least ten security personnel on hand.

Sorry, no photos of Shabbat, still no Shabbat camera.

However, Sunday morning the gate was open enough to get a peak inside.

It’s been a while since these simple barriers were used for the Prime Minister’s official security.

Now that type is used to warn of a bad spot in the sidewalk.

These are the new security barriers found around the neighborhood.

Solid and heavy, more each week, I will not bore you with dozens of photos.

But to leave you today on a more positive note, these barriers were used at a new art installation being prepared off Safra Square.

These are on top of the new National Library. I am obsessed with work on the roof throughout the past COVID-19 shutdowns and slowdown of this year. In the future, I plan to share more on the amazing project.

In Jerusalem this week, the scene at the US capitol was a quiet one.

The windows were open for fresh air at the Dan Panorama Hotel where travelers have been quarantined after arriving from overseas.

Roses are still in bloom in the winter sunshine and warm weather.

A great time to get out and explore, within a kilometer of home of course, the real Jerusalem streets.

Jerusalem 2021 New Year, New Beginnings

As 2021 begins, Israel has a population of 9.3 million. Already over one million Israelis have received vaccinations, while the number of those ill with COVID-19 keeps rising over 6,000 daily.

Sun set in Jerusalem Tower of David viewed from Jaffa Gate

For the third corona lockdown, traffic was heavy as the sun was setting.

Mamilla Mall was closing down with people doing last-minute errands.

The full moon was bright over the plaza inside Jaffa Gate.

Main streets usually filled with vehicles were quieting down.

Lights and holiday decorations were shown brightly at Kikar Safra, Jerusalem’s Municipal City Hall.

However, only blue decorative lights were on over Yoel Salomon Street.

The popular tourist areas again, or still, were closed to the public.

Jaffa Gate was shut again as in the previous coronavirus lockdowns.

Jerusalem’s Old City was one area where the lockdown was visibly enforced. IDs were checked, movement of more than half a mile from home was not allowed. Over 9,000 fines have been issued by Israeli police.

Inside Jaffa Gate, businesses were shuttered. The Post Office was open, but for a change, there was no line of people outside waiting to enter.

Construction work has proceeded apace during the entire time of the coronavirus restrictions. This man would not let me take his photo, but I was more interested in showing how those safety surfaces are crafted.

The Kotel, Western Wall Plaza, had more birds than people.

The divisions for limited prayer groups were intact, but there were no worshipers to be found in most of the sections.

Ah, but even on the most limited days, there was at least one selfie taken.

From the Old City, I decided to walk home by way of Jaffa Road.

The few shops that had been open the night before were now closed.

Street decorations were colorful, but with no one to appreciate them.

Finally, I got a photo of the large duck on Ben Yehudah Street without people in my way. Sadly the businesses in this popular tourist area was hit again hard by the lockdown.

I was not the only photographer out looking for lockdown scenes.

A woman was dropping off items for someone in one of the Jerusalem quarantine hotels where returning Israelis were required to stay.

It was reported 8,000 Israelis traveled to Dubai for the holiday weekend, escaping Israeli lockdown limitations.

Last week UAE guests were at the King David Hotel, and this week United States flags flew over as the Moroccan normalization negotiations proceeded.

At times it seemed as if there was no lockdown, traffic was moving along.

But at Takhana HaRishona, First Station, those clever plastic igloos were mostly empty, as take out food service is not allowed and restaurants closed.

One man found a warm and quiet location for his standing computer work desk at First Station in the midday sun.

With home food delivery allowed, motorcycles have been zooming around the Jerusalem streets, much more than in the past.

Small business owners had time to take end of year inventory, with no customers allowed, uninterrupted once again.

There was a big open sign, but even Aroma Express in Mamilla Mall was closed. No people. No reason to open.

The Teddy Park across from Mamilla has also been empty for days.

But, Thursday afternoon, Machane Yehudah Market, the shuk, looked alive.

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Returning to the Old City on Friday, one could see and feel the lockdown.

Imagine having the opportunity to power wash the steps normally filled with people on Fridays.

Here is the food court in the Jewish Quarter without customers,

the entrance to the Kotel, without a line waiting to go thru security,

and no traffic at Sha’ar Ashpot, Dung Gate, near the Kotel entrance.

Photo credit: ADI

Vaccinations have been going at a rapid pace. ADI, formerly ALEH, inoculated 1,500 people in two days, and in a party atmosphere. Their residential students with severe challenges were some of the most vulnerable in the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Taking your dog for a walk has been allowed in all the lockdowns.

More and more people are out enjoying the pleasant weather and walking in the sunshine, with and without masks.

The signs above the Jerusalem streets advise for safety at home.

The Jerusalem streets give safety and health advice.

However, in many families there is still a revolving door situation with one family member or another in bidud, isolation.

Not just Bubby and Zayde (grandparents) in bidud.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, MDA teams have sampled more than 3,500,000 people.

Photo credit: A Y Altshul

With efficient testing and vaccinations, most Israelis are anxiously waiting for the revolving door situation to end.

The hope is in 2021, the beginning of the end of the coronavirus is in sight, this the last lockdown, and new light at the end of a year-long dark tunnel.

Take care and stay well, hope to see you soon on the Jerusalem streets.