Jerusalem Back to Normal: But what will happen next?

This past year has shown no one can predict what will happen next.

After well over a year with so little happening due to corona restrictions, last week was one very busy, “back to normal” week.

Finally, too many good things happened hard to decide what to share first.

The view in the distance from the footbridge over Hebron Road appeared the same as for centuries the sun reflected off the Old City walls.

But as the week began, down below in the Sultan’s Pool, the huge stage was lit for a major Chabad event at night for men and boys.

At the same time across the way on the Begin Center main stage, the final performance of Rebecca: Mother of Two Dynasties was being performed by women for women.

The Begin Heritage Center was also the site for special weekly Bible sessions.

Of course, the Jerusalem buildings keep going up and up.

The old entrance of the President’s Hotel was been cemented shut.

Goodness, even those famous steps from the Montefiore Windmill down by Yemin Moshe are gone.

Some of the street work is hard to explain, with pavement recently done – being redone and landscaped.

And those new blue historical signs becoming more common than the regular road closures.

But this week there was more happening in Jerusalem!

Postponed for a year, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics are to be held this summer.

The Israeli Olympic and Paralympic teams were invited to Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence for a traditional sendoff and official photograph.

Large black & white photos of participating athletes were posted outside the main entrance.

The Japanese Ambassador to Israel attended and was interviewed by Walter Bingham, the world’s oldest active journalist at the young age of 97.

The Ambassador also posed with leaders from the Israeli Baseball team, playing for the first time in the Olympic competition.

The team photo was taking at Machane Yehuda Market, and two of the baseball players were at Beit Hanasi for the send off event.

Inside, the veteran Paralympic athletes had seats near the front.

For the first time in a very, very long time, the main hall was filled, over filled to capacity.

Ready to present a gift to President Rivlin was European gold medal winning rhythmic gymnast Linoy Ashram.

The traditional posed photographs were taken afterward outside, more HERE.

But how long has it been – two big events hosted at Beit Hanasi in one day?

And with full buffet tables!?

The same evening a business leaders conference included live entertainers.

Rows of invited guests, seated with the Israeli President, used to happen regularly, but not this last year of President Rivlin’s seven year term.

The round of farewells the past few weeks has been continuous.

The Israeli Business Roundtable had a cute image in their presentation.

President of Israel Reuven Rivlin spoke to full houses on Wednesday.

Then after Shabbat, he departed on a farewell visit to the United States at the invitation of President Joe Biden.

But he is to be back on Thursday morning, to hold a state reception ceremony for President Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany and his wife, on a state visit to Israel.

President Steinmeier of Germany will plant a tree in the Avenue of Presidents in the gardens of Beit Hanasi and will then sign the Beit Hanasi visitors’ book and President Rivlin will host a state banquet in their honor.

Jerusalem Israeli President House reception for Andrea Merkel and delegates

Three years ago, Beit Hanasi held a state dinner for Andrea Merkel.

A full schedule before July 7, 2021, when Israel is to get a new president.

Getting used to new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his emails. Since the airport has been a source of new corona variants, Bennett has appointed Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Ronni Numa: “who has been doing exceptional work in Bnei Brak and with the ultra-orthodox public. He will receive the responsibility to integrate and manage dealing with the coronavirus at the crossings.”

No certainty to when borders will be open and tourists will return.

And finally, I am slow today! How could I forget? This week also we had a reunion of former Virginians in Ramot Mall, as two couples were able to get into Israel from the US to see their children and grandchildren. So it’s happening, slowly.

Who knows what next will happen on the Jerusalem streets?

Hope we can see you here soon. Meanwhile, virtual tours are available.

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