From Jerusalem – Shana Tova

Oh, what a year this was in Jerusalem, in Israel, and in the world!

Hard to believe I used to worry about things being the same year after year in Jerusalem and finding new things to share with you.

But now it’s time to say goodbye to the challenges of 5781 and welcome the new year 5782, beginning on Monday night.

The clouds in the night sky covered the Knesset.

Nature has been a constant this past year, but which will come first – the first rain or the budget – or – oy – another election?

The new sign at the bus stop reminds us of a sweet summer in Jerusalem.

Sports fans are celebrating Israel’s win over Austria 5-2 and advancing in the World Cup competition.

The Paralympics in Japan received less attention than the Olympics, but as usual, Israelis received medals in those races. Nine Israeli athletes received medals of which 6 were gold medals.

The Jerusalem Night Run included a group of visually impaired runners.

The winner in the Jerusalem Night Run received almost no attention. The event was much more modest than the last Jerusalem Marathon.

A book launch for the book ‘Hidden Heroes’ brought together Russian refusniks and individuals who worked for their release. More on that another time.

Tours are back at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence. The table buffet was set with sweets for the annual Israeli President’s New Year Diplomats Reception, not for the tourists from Kiryat Gat.

However, there was time for a photo with Herzl next to the pomegranates.

Last year, the 5781 annual diplomat event was all online.

For 5782, President Isaac Herzog and his wife Michal hosted a live event. All the diplomats lined up to shake hands, pose, and have their photos taken.

The new Ambassador from Morocco was the only one to make a presentation to the new Israeli President.

The Egyptian Ambassador has been to Beit Hanasi many times.

But the Ambassador from Bahrain, Khaled Al-Jalahma, made his first appearance at Beit Hanasi.

Still serving as Military Secretary to the President of Israel is B.G. Alaa Abu-Rukun, and he and the ambassador agreed to stop, pose, and smile for me.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid arrived late and spoke briefly at the formal part of the program inside, where everyone was required to wear a mask.

The diplomats were then asked to go outside, and take a glass of wine or juice to raise for a toast, l’chaim,

and taste an apple in honey for a sweet new year.

Apples and honey can be found on the new Jerusalem street signs.

Signs for a sweet year for 5782

and a healthy one, line Jerusalem streets,

along with the new signs for the new school year. Classes have started even as the number of corona cases rises. One girl in our family was in school for only one day before returning to zoom school.

When corona closings started last year, outside minyanim popped up and out on many Jerusalem streets. For Rosh Hashana 5782 outside prayers are again recommended, but not mandated. Thousands were at the Kotel, Western Wall, divided into sections, for selihot after Shabbat.

The rules keep changing to keep us on guard. Tour groups are to be allowed into Israel soon with no mandatory quarantine.

Now to prepare holiday meals, starting back slowly from no guests for so long. Oh, the days when eight at the table was a normal day.

After taking photos of hundreds of dignitaries and not being in any of them,

I finally gave in and had my photo was taken with the oldest working journalist in the world, 97 1/2 years young Walter Bingham.

As 5781 comes to an end – Shana tova!

Jerusalem New and Old

While so much in Jerusalem is old, much is also new. It is hard to tell which stones on the ground are really the old ones. Even some buildings are made to look old.

Amazing Old and New in Jerusalem looked so very different 3 years ago.

Walking along Hanasi Street, you can see new signs outside of Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s official residence, marking fifty years in the present location.

Images from the past complement the sign with more detailed information.

It’s been Middle Eastern hot this past week. I have refrained from midday excursions, as it was not pleasant to walk under the blazing sun.

But how nice to see the shade provided in children’s play areas in new Jerusalem parks, even if very few children were out playing.

Covered play areas have been a given in Australia for decades, finally, they are in more and more Jerusalem parks.

And now there is a shade for this school, finally, work has been done over the summer after years of neglect.

Families are busy getting ready for school to start on September 1st and hoping for a better new year after the difficult conditions with COVID-19.

Others families were busy with weddings. Mazel tov to Ilanit and Meir!

With new online participation, one can now dance at more than one wedding at a time.

Engagement setups are always fun to see in this popular area. I did not stop to watch if she said yes to the “Marry Me” at the end of the floral runway.

Who would have imagined the first night of selihot online from Bahrain!

Some old scenes never really get old. The Kotel Plaza, Western Wall, visible in the distance with dramatic lighting is one of my favorites.

Notice many men were distanced from one another, that was new this year.

This is my favorite location for photographs, but new this time, I had to show a green pass to gain access.

The selihot tours of the Old City annually draw large crowds. On Thursday night the crowds were so large that cars were gridlocked and parking was scarce in the surrounding area.

New this year, uniformed police on a walking tour with young boys.

Mamilla Mall was busy, busy, busy, you name the hour, Israelis came.

Amazing as soon as one store goes out, a new one comes in the rental spot.

The old Arab souk, however, depends on foreign tourism and was not busy.

For selihot this year, the old prayers have a new look. The Great Synagogue was open again to those with the green pass. The main musical event was held at Binyunei Hauma, the Jerusalem International Conference Center, with the Mayor and a long list of performers.

This year musical Selihot services moved outside in Yemin Moshe, with the walls of the Old City in the background.

The new sounds could be heard around the old neighborhood streets,

from multiple locations late into the night,

Selihot services were held inside synagogues and outside on porches.

This week the 38th international Jerusalem Film Festival was back.

The live audience gathered in the Sultan’s Pool amphitheater with the huge screen, not far from the Tower of David at sunset.

Former president Ruvi Rivlin came with his daughter Rivi and sat in specially reserved seats a few rows back.

The front row was not easy to photograph from the angle that President Herzog’s new security team demanded.

Herzog spoke, then when he announced that he was leaving, the audience responded with audible displeasure.

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion and others stayed to see the new animated feature film about Anne Frank.

Here is an old sight, the beigelah guy seated by the Cinematheque sign looking for hungry customers.

A week filled with new and old. New technology lets us participate in a Selihot program in Bahrain and witness weddings from afar.

And in the dentist’s office, this cube became a new tooth, in less than half an hour, to replace my broken molar.

As always there was more, but time now to wish you well and hope to see you soon on the (cooler) Jerusalem streets.

Next week is Rosh Hashana, a New Year.

Oh, where did the time go, the new gap year students are arriving?

The End of August in Jerusalem

Another week flew by in Jerusalem, Israel.

Shabbat morning I was not the only one taking a walk on the Jerusalem streets before the heat of the day.

Without his usual entourage, I almost didn’t recognize Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion with two security guards dressed in short sleeve shirts. It looked like the CEO of the Jerusalem Development Authority was the fourth person walking along looking at Azza Street.

Clouds of smoke covered the sun in the Jerusalem sky last week as the Jerusalem Forest burned out of control for two days. Homes and businesses were destroyed. People raced to put possessions into their cars and escape the flames. Hospital patients had to be evacuated until fire units could control the burning forest under windy conditions. Everyone was relieved when the winds and flames ended.

As usual, along with the bad, many new, good things were happening too.

Docu.text, the annual documentary film festival, was held by the National Library this past week.

The new Israel National Library complex under construction is an impressive sight at night. Looking forward to when it will finally open.

The new Train Theater is to host the annual International Puppet Festival.

The name now makes sense, as this is the original Train Theater being restored on the new campus, located at the end of the Liberty Bell Park.

It is located next to the expanded parking lot across from First Station. But be warned; I have seen cars circling around and around looking for a spot.

The Jerusalem Theater is preparing to celebrate its 50th year.

The opening night of the 38th Jerusalem Film Festival, JFF is set for August 24th, again at the Sultan’s Pool near the Cinematheque. However, this year there is a new addition, Film Truck, which will have showings in various Jerusalem neighborhoods – for free.

Quentin Tarantino received a special award from Mayor Nir Barkat five years ago and is to be back again this year in Jerusalem for the JFF opening.

Dr Ruth and President Reuven Rivlin

At the last big JFF opening night, BC, Before Corona, Dr. Ruth was a special guest, along with then-President Reuven Rivlin.

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Speaking of the former president, he was back at Beit Hanasi with new President Herzog and Prime Minister Bennett to welcome back the Israeli Tokyo 202 Olympic athletes.

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Cameras were readied in the main diplomatic hall of the Israeli President’s Residence.

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There were selfies galore with the two gold medal winners.

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Smiles, hugs, and kisses, as the athletes, coaches, and supporters celebrated Israel’s success at Tokyo 2020 games.

And of course, there were speeches also.

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Coming outside for official photos, President Herzog stayed for more and more poses with the medalists.

For even more of those smiles, check on Facebook HERE

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PM Bennett left followed by his security detail.

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Back at Balfour Street, the ugly added layers of security have been removed. Protesters are now in Ra’anana, where the Prime Minister lives, rather than near the official residence in Jerusalem.

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Families are getting in their last days on the Jerusalem streets near the end of August, and hopefully before the start of a new and better school year,

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Ben Yehudah is one of many locations with people listening to music and finding places to eat on the cooler summer evenings.

Big concerts at Kikar Safra, Jerusalem City Hall Plaza, are now accompanied

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by long lines of people waiting to get their jabs. Vaccinations are now going to be available in a long list of Jerusalem neighborhoods also.

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Those random Jerusalem street closings still continue to challenge drivers.

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And those building sites go up (after going deep down first) all over the Jerusalem streets!

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Get ready for The Jerusalem Night Run to launch the Maccabiah Games to be held in Jerusalem, set for August 29th.

The Israeli athletes on the Paralympic teams are on their way to the Tokyo Games. They receive less attention than the main Olympic events but have a tradition of more medalists.

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And as August comes to an end and we approach the New Year, a shemittah year. Planting on new traffic circles has been sped up.

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The new outside locations need to be planted before the restriction of planting begins with another shemittah cycle.

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Gardeners are busy now, but they won’t be as busy next year.

A favorite sight this time of year on the Jerusalem streets–pomegranates are ripening on the trees. And those in the know cover the ripe fruit to protect it from the birds.

So there you have it, some of the good things happening in Jerusalem to balance the bad ones that make headlines.

Take care and stay well, the new year will be here soon.