Passover – This Year in Jerusalem

Passover or Pesach,

the holidays of Spring have passed.

The Jerusalem holiday crowds returned in the tens of thousands as many of the coronavirus restrictions were lifted. The Birkat Kohanim, Priestly Blessing, was extended to two days in order to accommodate more people at the Kotel, the Western Wall.

Watching the live service online, I was able to get a front-row seat on both days without leaving home. Plus the video is available for all to enjoy now.

Before the holiday began we had elections for the 24th Knesset. Notice the COVID-19 dividers and limited numbers allowed in the room.

Plenty of parties to pick from. But as of today, as the new Knesset is sworn in, the makeup of the new government is still very uncertain. President Rivlin has given the mandate to Benjamin Netanyahu who had the most recommendations, but not a majority of 61, so here we go again. Will have to wait and see what happens next. One difference this fourth time in under two years was the generous amount of hand sanitizer in the voting booth.

On my way home, people were out on the streets. There was a party atmosphere with a day off from work, and finally freed from apartments.

This was the scene in my kitchen when I returned after voting. Those eggs (and more) are long gone and the cucumber salad and pickles were finished off last week, but a few glutin-free cookies remain in the freezer.

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Last year we prepared for a seder with two people, and this year the seder had two tables. One table was preset on Friday to save time after Shabbat.

With the change of clocks and the holidays, time was a blur. It was a bit of a challenge to know what day it was, plus keeping track of who was to be at each meal, downsized from the old days to smaller family units.

For Passover, museums returned and were open with prior registration,

while some previously open food places closed for Passover.

Israeli nature spots and parks were filled with family reunions.

The new visitor center in Tel Lachish was not open, but the trail was ready for the stream of hikers.

New playgrounds in new neighborhoods sprung from the barren earth.

And oh, oh the traffic returning to the Jerusalem streets. Here are the blue lights of the Prime Minister’s motorcade weaving its way out of Jerusalem.

As one who remembers the old Route 1, I marvel each time we wind our way up the new roads to Jerusalem in multiple lanes packed with cars.

At Jaffa Gate, an oversized banner welcomed tens of thousands of visitors with “Happy Passover in Jerusalem” in bright spring colors.

Inside Jaffa Gate, signs showed the way to the Kotel, the Western Wall.

Security was out and visible, but relaxed for the holiday crowds.

A Happy Purim sign was up in the Rova, the Jewish Quarter. Purim was last month, but the crowds indeed seemed happy.

Happy to be out and back in the Old City, and to sit and eat kosher for Passover food they did not have to prepare or eat at home.

The Kotel Plaza was still divided to provide size-regulated services.

The size of holiday crowds was similar to the past years. I went in the afternoon after Birkat Kohanim to see what was happening.

The only quiet location I found on Passover was the usual one at the egalitarian section of the Western Wall. What was unusual was that security allowed a man dressed in his Haredi holiday attire to go down. In the past, I had seen religious-looking men were stopped and denied entrance.

Popup popcorn stands (for Sephardim only) were in multiple locations, wafting the familiar aroma to entice customers.

Young and old, they came, all day, well into the night on Passover walking to the Old City and the Kotel as on holidays past. So many baby strollers!

The clean-up crews were noticeable and are to be commended, as the sanitation workers labored overtime to keep the Jerusalem streets clean.

After an upside down year, it was good to be out, even wearing a mask.

Crowds filled Mamilla Mall, walking, shopping, and sitting to eat.

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The new art in Mamilla Mall was popular with visiting children.

This last sign of the protesters was removed immediately after Passover and the construction of France Square and Paris Fountain has begun.

The original dedication stone with the mayors of Jerusalem and Paris in 2008 could use a good clean-up and restoration.

The image of coming out of hibernation as lumbering bears was no longer appropriate. The lighter feeling on the Jerusalem streets was of millions of butterflies bursting out after a year in cocoons, filling the parks in the pleasant weather.

The fountain was not flowing in Teddy Park, but Israelis sat to enjoy the Jerusalem nature spot.

The Jerusalem cats were looking satisfied after finding full dumpsters.

Jerusalem filled with traffic, a sign of “normal” after a very difficult pandemic year with no international tourism.

This spring Israelis returned to Jerusalem. Here’s hoping as we say at the end of the seder, “Next Year in Jerusalem” will be for all.

But before we can relax and enjoy the flowers, it’s time for the Yoms!

Always something happening on the Jerusalem streets: at Yad Vashem Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes Remembrance Day, will be observed this year starting Wednesday evening, April 7, through Thursday, April 8, 2021, with live broadcast in English – HERE

Chag Pesach Sameach

This year, as Shabbat ends, the Passover holiday begins and the seder and holiday meal is to begin. My preparations started early, but I realized in the past in 1994, 2001, and 2005, before we made aliyah, we had also a second seder – and 3-day holiday with more meals and more guests.

So this year in Jerusalem, one seder should be a-piece-of-Passover-cake easy.

Things are slowly starting to get back to normal – better than last year.

Now back to the kitchen to cook for a real seder— not virtual one.

!חג שמח

Next year in Jerusalem!

Jerusalem Returning to Life with New Colors

Imagine seeing more people you know in one day on the Jerusalem streets than in the entire past year!

The Jerusalem streets are coming alive again.

Shabbat morning the weather was lovely for a long walk. I passed people returning from prayers at the Kotel, Western Wall, and friends who had taken one of many morning nature walking tours. A family was celebrating the birth of a baby daughter – one year ago – in a park near their home.

There were new colorful art pieces in Mamilla Mall for the holiday season. I will have to go back with my camera to share some of the fun artwork.

The large blue flag of Kosovo was flying on their new Embassy opened in Jerusalem on Keren Hayesod Street.

Paris Fountain in France Square was gone, removed to start the renovation.

It will be some time until King David Street is open to traffic.

But the King David Hotel is one of the dozens opening to the public now, of course, with restrictions.

After construction work is completed, too often ripped up again and redone.

These metal moveable bollards will now make it possible to get into the Netanyahu family’s private driveway.

Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem posted very clever signs. Here an ancient icon sits on a suitcase near Bloomfield Gardens on King David Street.

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In another of their series ‘Returning to Life’ signs, a statue is holding a bottle of sparkling wine to celebrate the reopening. L’chaim to life.

The BLMJ YEMEN exhibit is to close on April 30th. It was a favorite exhibit. During Passover, March 29- April 2nd there are free admission and tours.

The opening venues require registration and numbers are limited.

On the streets, however, more and more people are seen sitting at cafes.

Tourists and student tour groups are back in the Jerusalem parks.

The Pais Arena announced 6 nights of – “All the World is a Stage” concerts.

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One concert was Hanan Ben Ari performing to a live and excited audience.

Pools are reopening, a guard was sitting outside of the YMCA entrance.

This past week was Passover holiday preparation time – which in Jerusalem means fresh garlic in the Machane Yehudah Market, the shuk, piled high.

This man was walking home with a large bag full of fresh garlic. Not only did he stop so I could take his photo, but he also insisted I wait until he took it out of the bag so I could get a better image of his proud purchase.

A musician in the shuk was being recorded, another sign of “normal.”

Restaurant and cafe owners were smiling to see customers to serve again.

Politicians were in the shuk campaigning, but not on the day I was there noticing the new roof and lights and colorful upgrades.

The protesters near the Prime Minister’s residence are always on the street. I wonder if they will pack up after the election on Tuesday?

Sadly, 6025 was the rising number of corona deaths this past year.

The Central Election Committee has set up tents at the Knesset ready to start counting the votes on election night.

Election Tuesday is a day off from work and a good time to come to Jerusalem to see the colors in nature.

One never knows what you will see on the Jerusalem streets, I often repeat.

For instance, as I was hurrying, late one morning to meet a friend in the shuk for coffee – another first time in a year event,

I saw a man along a nature path beginning his prayers, and using his blue face mask to cover his head instead of a kippah.

It was a difficult year, especially for those involved in tourism, and of course, for those families who were affected by illness and coronavirus.

But this past week with loosened restrictions and spring weather, more Israelis were able to enjoy the colors and sights both on and off the Jerusalem streets.

As we will say next week at the seder “Next year in Jerusalem!” for all.