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.

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!