Jerusalem Up and Down Weeks

One day it was so hot I put away my boots and took out the summer clothes. The next day out came the boots again, as the clouds covered the sun and cold winds blew.

Today walking home from the shuk I lost count of how many times the weather changed. Perfect up and down weather for an up and down week.

Passover and Elections seem so long ago, but it was only last week.

It’s that time of year when flags line Jerusalem streets. The season filled with special holidays, the Yoms -Yom HaShoah, Yom Hazikaron, followed by Yom Haatzmaut- Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terror, and Israel’s Independence Day.

It is time for the annual roller coaster of emotional events.

But this year, first, was the process of forming a government. Again.

Extra security was in place by Monday morning at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s residence, where there was a full-day schedule of political parties coming to tell the Israeli President their preference for Prime Minister – for the fourth time in two years.

The media room looked similar to how it looked in past elections.

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The main room was set for the delegations to wait prior to meeting with President Rivlin in the smaller room to the right of the red carpet.

The Shas representatives had a consult on their phones outside.

Overhead helicopters practiced for their Yom Haatzmaut morning flyover.

A reporter found a quiet spot to speak in the Beit Hanasi garden,

while out on the street a noisy protest was going in in front of TV cameras.

All-day the politicians came and went. It was interesting to see Shas members leaving and MK Chili Tropper greeting them as fellow Blue and White party members watched the warm exchange.

Then on Tuesday, the streets around the Knesset were closed off.

Horses were draped with Israeli flags on their fancy blankets, lined up by the new National Library, ready to follow motorcycles and lead the Israeli President for the swearing-in of the 24th Knesset.

With street closings, getting out can be as complicated as getting in.

Corona limitations affected the numbers of people allowed to attend the swearing-in, but not as drastically as last year.

Since I did not get access this time, I found a good spot in the Rose Garden.

In the end I was pleased, seeing that the photographers stood all the way on the left. I had a much better view from across the road then they did inside.

But I had to stand next to the noisy protesters, shouting the entire time.

Busha! Busha! screamed a women holding large yellow stars, right into my ear. There were differences of opinion as to what and who should be embarrassed.

It was nice to stroll through Gan Sacher, Sacher Park, on the way home. The weather was cool, the location quiet, with groups having end-of-day BBQs.

On more than one day the Yom Haatzmaut flyover rehearsals filled the skies preparing for the annual aerial stunts missing last year.

Blue and white flags popped up on buildings and flew on cars.

Spring flowers were bursting with color along the Jerusalem streets.

Guides were sharing the stories of Jerusalem’s past to groups of tourists. Here near the new Orient Hotel, each one of the old Templer buildings has a story and history to relate.

One of the locations announced for events this week was the Train Theater.

I finally understand how the popular children’s story time location got its name. The original Train Theater was relocated and landscaped.

It is next to the new Train Theater which was built next to Liberty Bell Park.

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With spring weather and falling corona numbers, Friday felt and looked like a holiday time in Jerusalem parks.

A week of contrasts, not only the weather.

Blowing the bugle at Yad Vashem at the start of Yom HaShoah.

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Stopping and standing for the memorial siren on Yom Shoah morning.

Removing the security checkpoints at Machane Yehuda Market with tour groups back again. The feeling of coming out from a year of isolation.

New signs were hung over the Jerusalem streets in preparation for celebrating Independence in Jerusalem.

What a “happening” week it was and will be in Jerusalem.

3 Special Visitors and One Above the Jerusalem Streets

Have you also been getting reminders it’s been an entire year since the last- event, gathering, conference, meal out, or whatever?

Slowly signs of life are returning to the Jerusalem streets. Today a new list of restrictions went into effect, with new openings and relaxed regulations.

A tour group was outside the walls of the Old City ready to enter Jaffa Gate.

Though inside Jaffa Gate, there were still more birds than people.

Four special international visitors made headlines this past week. On Monday morning, the airport was open for the arrival of the first United Arab Emirates Ambassador to Israel, Mohammed Al Khaja.

In the afternoon, he arrived at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence.

The flag of the United Arab Emirates was flying on the Israeli official limousine as Mohammed Al Khaja came to present his credentials.

The motorcycles did not use sirens, but led the limo into the open gates.

Orange monster over Beit Hanasi in Jerusalem for Purim

You will note the Purim monster from last week was no longer over the gates!

A full red carpet was rolled out, though the IDF band and honor guard were limited in size due to corona restrictions. The fancy red UAE folder to be presented to the Israeli President can be seen here, on the far right.

Surprise! I ended up on Dubai TV news. Yes, that’s me across the street lurking by the white van. Very glad I did not wear my red hoodie.

Inside the Beit Hanasi main hall, both President Rivlin and Mohammed Al Khaja spoke. The new Ambassador presented his credentials and signed the official guest book. No months-long wait as for some other ambassadors.

When it was over President Rivlin walked his guest outside as music played.

The UAE and IDF military honor guard stood as the newest Ambassador to Israel entered the limousine to go to the King David Hotel.

King David Street in front of the hotel is closed, but officials usually use a side entrance. There was almost no one around, but I decided to go home instead of trying to get inside.

Also this week the King David Hotel hosted Prime Minister Netanyahu, Austrian Chancellor Kurz, and Danish PM Frederiksen.

Around the corner the Dan Panorama Hotel was busy, but with a very different group of international arrivals. Returning Israelis were required to quarantine in assigned hotels.

On Friday afternoon, people were dropping off packages before Shabbat. One man was let free after his isolation. If you want to see long emotional hugs, this is the place. No photo though, after travel ordeals and delays, I decided to let you use your imagination when she was finally able to greet him.

The requirement to quarantine in designated hotels is canceled as of today and will be replaced by increased enforcement by the Israel Police regarding those returning from abroad who are quarantining at home.

The night I went by the Panorama Hotel, and I saw that the YMCA was lit for the “Follow the Lights” which because of the Purim restrictions were short-changed.

Even the signs were not posted until late. Millions of shekels and hundreds of hours went into the “social distanced” event and half of the nights, sad to say, most of the lights were out during the curfew.

Back were the Flea Market and Bezalel Arts and Crafts Fair. Shots for shots, vaccinations in Machane Yehudah Market on Thursday night were given at a bar.

The fourth election in two years is set for March 23rd, and signs that go up are then taken down if they are posted in illegal locations. Jerusalem street cleaners are at work, day, and much of the night.

Anti-Bibi people are not happy even though there is another election. They come out daily, rain or shine, with umbrellas to scarves matching their signs of protest. And of course, they are loud at night too. I will spare you those photos and videos here.

Instead, I want to share the newest tourism campaign to ‘return to nature’ this spring in Jerusalem.

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From March 3-20, 2021, Jerusalem invites a return to exploring nature locations.

Winter rains may have been cold and bone-chilling, but the fields are green.

My quiet walking paths will be much busier soon.

There were new signs posted along the way in the Valley of the Cross.

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Will be nice though to see visitors returning to the Jerusalem streets, and off the streets in these nature locations as restrictions are now lifted.

Oh, and the One visitor above the Jerusalem streets?

Pope Francis flew over Israel on his way to Iraq and sent greetings to President Reuven Rivlin from the airplane. President Rivlin was so pleased he tweeted a reply as soon as Shabbat was over.

Interested in seeing more of Jerusalem for yourself? Take a Jerusalem Photo Walk. Check details out HERE

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.