Jerusalem Shut Down for Biden and Lights Up for Maccabiah

The international press arrived by the hundreds to cover the visit of the President of the United States to Jerusalem.

While the rest of the world watched online broadcasts, so did residents of Jerusalem, many of whom were confined to their homes with security closings of the Jerusalem streets.

I knew the street with Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence would be closed off, and even views would be blocked, so I went early to get you a view of a few of the thousands of US and Israeli flags put up for the visit.

People were so wary, or weary, of closings that at this corner cars backed up and turned around. Only it was a just transport vehicle stopped for a red light.

At the King David Hotel, security measures to block access were readied in advance for the President’s arrival, and these streets were often shut to pedestrians as well as cars.

The night before the Presidential arrival of Joe Biden, the flags displayed over the King David Hotel blew in the wind.

In Bloomfield Park behind the hotel, a lone cat strolled,

the area would be totally closed off the next day.

I had ventured out early to get photos of the presidential visit to share on my way to the Touro Restaurant for a foreign media reception.

US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides attended with a small entourage.

He seemed to enjoy posing for photos on the night before the “big event.”

A media center was set up for foreign journalists. Very few would be allowed anywhere near the actual scene. I decided to stay home and watch on my computer and capture screenshot images.

But I was out enough to see a fraction of the security arriving to guard every corner and rooftop along the Presidential mega motorcade route which would be closed before, during, and after the times Biden was to be on the Jerusalem streets.

By now you should understand why Jerusalem residents are not thrilled to have these Presidential visits?

Trump came for Jerusalem Day and shut things down.

I remember the preparations for Obama and both Bush visits, which were not fun times for locals either–when even walking was not allowed.

But there was more action on the Jerusalem streets!

Long-planned and Covid-postponed, the 21st Maccabiah opening event was held at Teddy Stadium in the Malha neighborhood of Jerusalem, Israel.

Over 30,000 people were scheduled to attend the mega event, arriving from around the world. Eighty countries were said to be represented.

And then, in addition to the usual Israeli President and Prime Minister making a showing, US President Joe Biden came too, and waved his USA Maccabiah hat to the crowd and TV audience.

There were entertainers for the cameras and a drone circling above, as 10,000 Maccabiah participants entered the stadium.

Some of the people in the stands had come hours before.

Minister of Culture and Sport Chili Tropper was the only one not behind the protective shield, as the Herzogs and Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion and wife along with Defense Minister Benny Gantz waved.

Gantz stood alone for a few minutes,

and then came down and walked through the admiring crowd as if it was his campaign rally for Prime Minister. Remember elections are set for the beginning of November, the fifth Israeli elections in three years.

At this Maccabiah 2022 opening, there were jokes about who could tell US Secret Service from the Israeli security inside and outside the stadium.

And police and more police watching the crowd from above.

That is all well known, I want to share what you might not have seen.

In the crowd of 30,000, I met two women from the US. When you arrive three hours before an event, it is time to walk around and make new friends.

The smiles of those marching in the Maccabiah opening teams, and in all the chaos finding a familiar face is priceless.

Officially Maccabiah 2022 had 74 delegations with 10,274 participants.

The Bahamas had six participants, and Azerbaijan seven, the smile on the face of the scout holding the sign could be seen from across the field. And right behind was the Cayman Islands with 2 people.

Smiles and more flags, kept coming, the Czech Republic had four athletes, but Uruguay had 228 and Canada 582.

Finland had 5 athletes, behind its flag, while Argentina sent a large delegation with 787 and there were future athletes “marching” as well.

Smiling faces for the camera seemed endless, but only one winter games mascot was spotted. In Jerusalem, the night cooled off, but I wondered if it was cool enough for that costume?

There was more than one kangaroo in the crowd, Australia had 575 athletes, although it seemed more with so many excited spectators.

So many flags, too many for this post.

From Holland, a documentary team came to film the Under-16 women’s soccer team.

Smoke and confetti filled the air, exciting for the moment, but not great for photography.

The show went on with musical entertainment as the 10,000 Maccabiah participants walked into the stadium and afterward, and found their way up to their seats in the stands before the TV broadcast began.

The “Jewish Olympics,” as the Maccabiah has been called, is the second largest sports event in the world, and has a flame lighting ceremony all its own at the start. Plus a Yizkor, remembering the Olympic athletes murdered in Munich.

No lack of songs and excitement, after hours of waiting to get started.

The scouts in their uniforms had been busy for hours and ended the evening by leading the Hatikvah at the end of the show.

Fireworks and drones and 3-D effects at the conclusion of the night filled the sky over the Jerusalem streets.

Teddy Stadium was lit up in bright colors, as the teams and supporters tried to find their buses and way out.

More from Maccabiah? Photos HERE

That’s a wrap, for the Maccabiah opening, hours to get an entry for a once-in-a-lifetime event. I would venture to say that could be the first and last time President Joe Biden and I are together in Jerusalem at Teddy Stadium.

As the Biden trip is a wrap, I remember the last time I was at Beit Hanasi.

Oh, what a difference from his first trip as Vice President.

The Jerusalem streets are open now, except for the Jerusalem/Maccabiah Night Run on July 18, 2022, that is.

Hope to see you here soon! Lots more is happening but it will have to wait until next time.

Jerusalem Celebrates in July

The Jerusalem streets are back to normal!

After more than two years under the corona cloud and closings, the tourists and their tour buses are back clogging the Jerusalem streets. Family and Birthright tours and so many more are in Jerusalem this summer.

One day I had to pick from three things happening at the same time.

Sunday evening the sky was pure gold as the sunset. The weather has been fabulous for the new burst of tourist activity.

Machane Yehuda Market, shuk, is filled with colors of summer produce.

The variety and colors and flavors are always photo-worthy.

We had a photo walk thru the shuk, and it was fantastic to see it again.

Even better from the lens of fresh and young eyes.

Always something new to see in the shuk and on the Jerusalem streets.

Some of the images really pop out at you.

And the building! As the construction goes up and up, the skyline changes.

The huge Midtown Jerusalem project next to the old Shaare Zedek Hospital is going down and down, now that the plot has been cleared.

Even the citadel at the Tower of David is getting a makeover/repair.

Nearby in the valley, the Auto Food Festival is back until the end of August.

The Liberty Bell Garden was the scene of a youth festival. I was not allowed to enter, so no photos from that event.

However, with the music coming from the Shalom Hartman outdoor stage, it was hard not to stop on the way home.

Signs are up for summer in the neighborhood parks for July and August.

This summer Jerusalem celebrates Sport in July!

First, the Israeli Sports Championships were held last week.

The European Under 18 Championships were held at Givat Ram Stadium, morning and evening, and were open to the public. It was a big success according to those who attended, but there was no closing mega event due to concerns about the rising corona numbers.

The 21st Maccabiah is opening on July 14, with thousands of international Jewish athletes to compete. One Jerusalem event is a Night Run on July 18, registration for that race is open.

What’s bigger news than sports?

The signs are up on the Jerusalem streets -no parking near Beit Hanasi. The Israeli President’s Residence is to host President Joe Biden. He was last here as US Vice-President five years ago.

This visit has already produced an official logo and a 30-siren blasting motorcade late-night rehearsal thru the Jerusalem streets.

One topic said to be on the discussion agenda is the status of E 1.

E1 (short for East 1) includes the land area east of Jerusalem French Hill to Ma’ale Adumim.

Ma’ale Adumim is home to 30,000 Israelis.

From a lookout in Ma’ale Adumim, we went to see the contested area.

E1 covers an area of 12 square kilometers (4.6 sq mi).

From Ma’ale Adumim you can see across the wadi to Al-Eizariya or al-Azariya, familiar to Christian tourists as Bethany.

Also, there is the Israeli police station in E1.

And this lake – not what one expects to see.

Al-Eizariya is part of the story with its unregulated growth, the disposal of trash down the side of the mountain is easily visible.

But the bigger current issue is the Khan al-Ahmar Bedouin site.

Repeatedly the Israeli Supreme Court has ruled this illegal encampment to be removed and at the last minute, governments have not followed thru.

The people living here were offered other options and refused.

On land outside of Ma’ale Adumim, the encampment has grown. The people who would want to move and improve their living conditions are forced to stay because of the politics of those who want Israel not to connect Ma’ale Adumim to Jerusalem.

The red warning sign in to Al-Eizariya warns Israelis of danger but does not say forbidden, we drove up to another lookout spot.

We could see one of the checkpoints back to Jerusalem was backed up and used another one to return. It will be interesting to see what the Biden visit stirs up in this already sensitive E1 area.

I felt it more important to go and see what the situation looked like than attend yet another session on antisemitism at Hebrew University with Deborah Lipstadt which was at the same time as the E1 media tour.

Remember she spoke in Jerusalem three years ago?

Deborah Lipstadt speaking on antisemitism at the Begin Center for the B’nai Brith Awards in 2019..

Back on the Jerusalem streets, the Sultan’s Pool is ready for those huge summer musical nighttime concerts again.

When the sun sets in Jerusalem the colors are not just Jerusalem of Gold. Look at this view over the Dead Sea to Jordan.

This is why I love to do the Jerusalem photo walks in the Yemin Moshe area. Hope you will be able to appreciate the view also and soon.