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.

Rosh Hashana 5781

This year in Jerusalem, Rosh Hashana was not like in previous years. As with most of the world, the Jewish New Year was spent alone at home or in small gatherings rather than in crowded synagogues and overflow services. 

At the Kotel, the Western Wall, the usual huge crowds were missing.

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Sections were divided into small prayer groups before Rosh Hashana for late-night Selihot.

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Those smaller groups filled some of the plaza areas this year.

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And then at night after Rosh Hashana, even those small groups were gone.

Such a sorry sight, at a time usually filled with tourists and visitors. 

The Jerusalem Great Synagogue was empty for the first time in its history.

The green spaces of Jerusalem, all of its parks, were called into use.

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These signs were posted wishing park visitors’ good health and a good year.

Jerusalem Gazelle Valley opening day

A special announcement was made that the Gazelle Park would be open during the lockdown, with everyone required to wear a mask.

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Hope they turned off the water sprinklers on the holiday for Gan Sacher, Sacher Park. Extra bins for holiday trash were available. 

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The ads for juice near Gan Sacher had a happy holiday greeting.

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Almonds were ripe on the tree and falling to the ground. Only they were so hard I could not crack the ones I brought home with a hammer.

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Machane Yehuda Market, the shuk, was busy the week before the impending holiday shutdown. Shoppers were rushing to stock up with food and supplies. Supermarkets were filled to overflowing capacity. 

Display of unusual fruits for Rosh Hashana in shuk, Mahane Yehuda market

Fresh new fruits for the second night of Rosh Hashana are especially popular this time of year.

pomegrante seeds

A long time favorite, yummy pomegranate pie for the holiday. 

Family of beekeeper at Beit Hanasi before the New Year.

No little bees photo ops this year, and a very much smaller reception for beekeepers was held at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence. 

Tzipi Hotovely taking a photo of the food at Beit Hanasi

No big New Year event for foreign diplomats at Beit Hanasi as in the past.

Photo credit: Mark Neyman GPO

This year President Rivlin hosted a socially distanced private reception for diplomats who were seated apart and all wearing masks.

The Selihot in the Beit Hanasi Synagogue was an annual event during Rivlin’s tenure. This was the last chance as his 7-year term is up in July.

However, this year due to religious service size restrictions these will not be held during this three-week lockdown period.

For a lockdown, this new Jerusalem project in the Schneller Compound is the place to live, to enjoy parks and open spaces. It is a magazine perfect neighborhood.

From Jerusalem this past week, all eyes were watching the signing of treaties with UAE and Bahrain. Only later I noticed on the left side for Israelis, a man in the front rows got up to take a photo on his phone, as the US side sat politely.

The Old City Walls that night were illuminated with flags of Israel, the US, UAE, and Bahrain in honor of the historic occasion.

Already numerous interactions have taken place. The webinar on health and technology I listened to is worthy of sharing with you soon, it was so impressive what they have done in Abu Dhabi in the last few years.

Photo credit: Shifra

However, also on the Jerusalem streets near the Prime Minister’s Residence, the protests continue. Though there was a supposed lockdown, a large table was set for 120 people, with no distancing, no masks, and lots of noise for Rosh Hashana on the first night. Protests in democratic Israel are legal.

Sorry, but I find their behavior UNEXCEPTIBLE.

New security cameras are being installed in the area, and new security is reinforcing the regular police and border police who have had to deal with these loud mob scenes week after week.

Sweet New Year poster for Rosh Hashanah

But for now, hoping all have a sweet and healthy year.

President Reuven Rivlin gave New Year greetings in English this year.

Next year in Jerusalem!

Meanwhile, preparing for Sukkot holiday to start October 2, 2020,

We spotted the first sukka of the season!

September Begins with Week of Firsts in Jerusalem

September Begins with Week of Firsts in Jerusalem

What a week it was in Jerusalem!

September came in with a blast. Jerusalem, Israel, was hit with a heatwave.

The first time in over a century temperatures soared to such record-breaking September highs.

Balloons the first day of school in Jerusalem welcome to first grade

Despite the heat, on the first day of school with corona restrictions, “Shalom Kita Aleph” balloons welcomed the first-grade students, but celebrations were scaled down. Parents with multiple children need a computer to program to help keep the times straight. Some schools closed after one day, or three days, due to a person diagnosed with the virus, others are struggling along to keep up with changing rules and regulations.

The big news this week was not on the Jerusalem streets, but in the air from Jerusalem to Abu Dhabi. The Israeli and US diplomatic delegations, along with journalists, traveled on an El Al flight. El Al flew over Saudia Arabian airspace, another significant first. OU kosher meals were available for the Israeli delegation in UAE for official meetings, provided by the UAE.

El Al photo of UAE waving good bye to US and Israeli delegation
El Al Photo

From dozens of impressive images of the historic visit, this photograph of the El Al plane leaving to return to Israel was one of the most popular. As the first Israeli-US delegation departed, their hosts waved goodbye at the end of a red-carpet visit.

Thani Al Shirawi, Deputy Managing Director of Oasis Investments, a founding member of the UAE Israel Business Council, is eager for the first open business deals.  As he put it: “It’s easier to do business with our cousins.” The Israeli-UAE business community has had connections for years, but not in the open. Israelis used passports from other countries to enter the UAE.

Technology and tourism hubs to Asia and the world will be available for the first time. Collaboration in agriculture and water technologies between UAE and Israel is another big first for potential in the future.

But, back to the Jerusalem, Israel streets.

The Prime Minister of Kosovo announced he is planning to open an embassy in Jerusalem, establish diplomatic relations and deepen bilateral relations.

Finish line for Jerusalem Winner Marathon placed before race was postponed

For the first time, The Jerusalem Marathon 2020 was canceled this week.  Originally set for March, the finish line was up when the event was postponed until November. Organizers are now hoping for the March 2021 Jerusalem Marathon. Wars, bombs, and stormy weather did not stop the marathon from successfully running for the past decade. However, a tiny virus has stopped travel and curtailed this event and much more from happening.

Jerusalem not to let trucks polluting air to enter

This week Jerusalem announced new regulations for clean air, and polluting trucks will not be allowed in the city.

According to Mayor Moshe Lion: “Since taking office, I have set myself the goal of making the capital of Israel the cleanest city. We will continue to concentrate efforts and work for the improvement of the quality of life of the residents in any way. I call on all residents of Jerusalem to keep our Jerusalem clean – For our benefit! “

Cleaning streets has been an ongoing project during corona.

For the first time I saw how they filled those trucks from active fire hydrants – and oops.

Also this week Moshe Lion announced: “The disabled public bravely faces its challenges every day and we must ask at all times how the city can help and assist in terms of accessibility and belonging. I will continue to work for every person with equal disabilities.”

Jerusalem street near Israel Museum new public seating

And that day I saw these new benches were installed near the Israel Museum.

Public bench in Jerusalem Israel

Seating, social distanced and accessible from the street, is now available across from the Knesset.

Knesset floral clock outside campus

From that bench, you can sit and see the Knesset clock, and really watch the time go by in Jerusalem.

Not sure where the time went, but Rosh Hashanah, the Hebrew New Year, is less than two weeks.

Usually, for Selihot, tens of thousands crowd into the Kotel, Western Wall Plaza. This year for the first time due to COVID-19 restrictions there is a lottery for spots for Selihot at the Kotel. Only 2,500 people will be allowed to attend each night. Hurry, the deadline to submit a request in the lottery is up at midnight tonight.

However, there’s a new option in Jerusalem for Selihot this year.  Yitzhak Meir is to be at Kikar Safra to lead Selihot for a limited live outdoor audience with coronavirus regulations.  But those who cannot attend in person can view the musical service to be shown live on Facebook.

Five years ago, Yitzhak Meir sang for a much smaller crowd in the Beit Hanasi Synagogue invited by President Reuven Rivlin.

Selihot at beit hanasi 5780

I am assuming a big crowd invited to attend Selihot in the Israeli President’s gardens will not happen this year.

However, Selihot tours in the Old City are being advertised.

One of my favorite memories.

Coming back from the Kotel, I heard singing and followed the sounds to this chazan.

As we approach Rosh Hashanah, what a year this has been!

We started off not sure how to write the year 5780 in Hebrew, was it תש”פ  or  תש”ף.

At least this 5781, we know how to spell the New Year – תשפ”א.

May it be a good and healthy new year for all.