In Jerusalem Take a Walk: Hard to Believe What’s New

We feel it on the streets. Traffic. Tourist buses. The arrival of friends and family. International conferences convened again.

The skies in Israel were opened and in 2022, 2.675 million tourist entries were recorded, as opposed to only 397,000 in 2021 and 831,000 in 2020.

There are many changes for you to see on the Jerusalem streets.

On President’s Street in front of Beit Hanasi, the President’s Residence new outdoor photos of the beauty of the landscaped gardens have been posted.

Old hotel in Jerusalem valuable property derelict

Remember the long-abandoned former President Hotel building?

And how sad the sign became?

Finally – work is being done on Ahad Haam Street to restore its dignity.

The construction fence has been up for the new hotel/residence next to it,

but now construction work is visibly underway at last. The Jerusalem skyline continues to change as buildings go up and up.

This is not Azza Street next to the old Paris Fountain. One sign went up.

However, it soon came down when someone realized the mistake.

For 15 years, I have walked on Azza Street almost daily, including when they were redoing the sidewalks.

Finally, the sidewalks were completed and the street was paved.

Who remembers this space empty for weeks–or was it months–in 2018?

And here, when the long-time bookstore and framing store had to move.

Construction started, and last year was finally progressing.

Today on Azza Street the shell is looking near completion with the bottom stones resembling how they looked in the old structure.

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One spot on Azza was paved and space was cleared to replace the cement bollards in front of Netanyahu’s Jerusalem property. There are more of those cement barriers today.

I decided not to walk on my usual side of the street on Wednesday to avoid the newest security measures.

Then the next day, the sun was shining, and I thought it a great time to walk. However, this time the sidewalks were blocked with work vans on both sidewalks, and people had to walk in the road. You will not see that,

because this happened. I was detained by security!

Only once before was I forced to delete a video. As a newbie to Jerusalem, I took a photo of the US flag on Agron Street – not the building, just the Stars & Stripes blowing in the wind against a blue sky. A security person came across the busy street and made me delete the image of the flag.

In over a decade of work, I have been scrupulously careful not to show faces of security, IDF, Arab women, children, and people I know who could possibly be on a date.

Of course, my photos would be more powerful with facial expressions.

Go a few more meters on Azza Street, and there is the entrance to Balfour Street near the Prime Minister’s Official Residence – two years ago it was covered with 5 levels of security.

For the past few months, the public has been able to use Balfour Street again. The Israeli Prime Minister’s Residence has been empty for over a year and serious construction work has not been apparent. Interestingly there are no longer flags on the poles over the residence.

I like being able to use my shortcut again. We will have to wait and see how long it will last.

On Shabbat, I walked on Azza Street to the Great Synagogue. Hard to believe, it was my first time inside in three years! BC – Before Covid – I went every few weeks.

Jerusalem Great Synagogue for Selihot

It seems I am not the only one to slowly return, as the crowd was smaller on Shabbat compared to this photograph in the past.

And then there’s the new National Library! I have been watching the construction of the roof for years. Hopefully, we can tour inside soon.

Sometimes we have to wait to see results, sometimes a very long time.

Also, this past week we attended the Melbourne, Australia Mount Scopus College Foundation Reunion event in Israel. It was a gala and a fun evening. As with most Scopus events, there was a program with speeches and entertainment. This evening included greetings by Israeli President Isaac Herzog, began with two digeridoos and concluded with an Idan Raichel concert after an elegant dinner!

The last time we saw Jonathan was in July 1997. He was lying in an Israeli hospital bed bandaged from his nose to his toes. I found his rendition of Waltzing Matilda moving enough to share it with you. You need to watch the video on a larger screen than a phone to understand why.

For all non-Aussies out there, I added the words and meanings at the end.

On the Jerusalem streets there is always more.

And now “More Than One.” A new arts festival is happening in multiple locations in Jerusalem until February 25, 2023.

When are you coming to see for yourself on a Jerusalem Photo Walk?

From Jerusalem a Look to the Future

Today, January 1, 2023, all eyes are on the best or worst of 2022.

However, I decided to post positive aspects and focus on the future as Israel is to celebrate 75 years at the end of April 2023.

No bets on when they will finally finish redoing Gan Sacher, Sacher Park, which is more torn up than last month, or the Jerusalem Gateway or Light Rail extension projects. Construction seems everywhere and endless.

The news this week is that the popular large event Sultan’s Pool near the Old City walls is getting a major makeover.

Plus, the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Israel National Parks Authority, and the City of David Foundation announced the initiation of the excavation of the historic Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem.

This photo of the uncovered steps is from a report on the earlier stage of the project. The path is now open to the public.

Last week was Hanukkah, and we needed a 9th night to get our family together. There were no candles or hanukiah on Monday night, but a big gathering of the family with food and fun and gifts.

One significant hanukiah was not mentioned last week.

The Knesset plenary is shaped like a Hanukiah, the Chanukah menorah with 4 branches over a stem, and a base. Instead of a shamash candle, the elected government sits in the center.

Israel’s 37th Government was sworn in at the Knesset and held its first cabinet meeting. That evening, the ministers arrived at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence, for the traditional official photograph.

I remembered attending the opening of the 20th Knesset as I arrived at Beit Hanasi at night for the official photo.

Though hours early, other photographers arrived much earlier to get a prime location, perched above the raised platform on chairs.

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From my spot, seated on the bottom step and the floor, I was close enough and much safer getting a photograph.

While waiting for over two hours, I took many photos, for those interested in what happened behind the scene – a short video.

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This is a favorite image I got before the President and Prime Minister arrived. One has to be careful these days saying ” I shot” about a photo.

Here is the published diagram of the new government ministers’ names.

On to other news. With travel opening up after the pandemic closures, the Fourth Jerusalem Leaders Summit met again in Jerusalem, Israel.

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Joel Anand Samy was thrilled to be in Jerusalem and open the session at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center on Wednesday night.

The audience included journalists and international guests. His wife and co-founder of the International Leaders Summit, Natasha Srdoc is seen here on the far right.

Two of the international keynote speakers were Sir Ivan Lawrence and Cheryl Chumley, online opinion editor of the Washington Times.

It was good to hear Dr. Paul Ruebig, a member of the EU’s Economic and Social Committee, report on positive developments.

For those who have only seen gloom and doom predictions for Israel and its new government, I made this short video after one Summit panel. Oded Revivi and Moshe Koppel sound much more encouraging than the rhetoric of the new opposition who were voted out of office.

Also good news, Israel ranks 4th among the best-performing world economies though many prices are rising quickly.

In the two years since the Israel-Morocco normalization agreement of December 22, 2020, the Moroccan government has stepped up its national project for Moroccan Jewish life: by launching a plan.

Only 15 UN General Assembly resolutions against Israel in 2022 and at least fewer votes this time around for the recent resolution on Friday afternoon.

My friend David shared what a great year 2022 was for Israeli athletes.

Though it’s winter in Jerusalem, we had a fun Photowalk with a family from New York and would love to see you here soon to show you more good things happening.

Warm winter greetings from Jerusalem for a good year in 2023!

Holiday Lights and Nights in Jerusalem

חנוכה –

Hanukkah or Chanukah is also known as the “Holiday of Lights.”

And for the winter holiday season, Jerusalem, Israel fills with lights!

The Jerusalem Botanical Gardens “Winter Lights” Festival is back again.

The colored lights at night are reflected in the pond.

I came back, again and again, to stop and watch as they changed colors.

Brilliant in purple, it was hard to stop taking photos and set out on the trail.

The display is the work of light artist Gil Teichman and his staff, who hung over 2 million small bulbs along a one-kilometer area of the garden using about 25 kilometers of cable.

The LED bulbs used are ecologically-friendly and save electricity.

Background music by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra is heard at multiple locations as you stroll along the garden path.

Actors dressed in illuminated costumes are also there to entertain.

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I admit a favorite this year is the large chanukiah, the Hanukkah menorah, reflecting in the water.

But there are many more lights along the Jerusalem streets.

These new light installations have been posted on poles.

This one with three dreidels, on the top right.

This one has a snowflake and colorful shapes.

Chanukah Lights on poles for Hanuka

These were the older ones at night.

These are from two years ago, I have not found them up now.

The lights at the YMCA are back on again each night, as are many new ones inside New Gate. So much to do this week, will I have time to get there?

One man praying at Western Wall on Hanuka

The large hanukiah is back and ready at the Kotel, Western Wall, to be lit by various officials each night of Hanuka, from Sunday night, December 18 – December 25, 2022. Watch live HERE

Happy Hanukkah from the Jerusalem streets, may the lights spread far and wide for a good week and good year for all.

A video of light projections with Hanuka music to add to the holiday mood.

חנונה שמח