What’s New in Jerusalem for Hanukkah?

Hanukkah in Jerusalem is always a busy time, filled with events and family gatherings, nights with candle lighting, and plenty of oily, fried foods.

This year the week started off with glorious weather outside. The stone walls of the Old City were under a blue sky as colorful flags flew over the Cinematheque.

Inside the Isrotel Orient Hotel, on November 29, IMPROVATE launched its first Forum to introduce Israeli future technology to world finance leaders.

Champion Chess Player Garry Kasparov was one of the special guests. The former President of Bulgaria mentioned that after flight delays he arrived in Israel five minutes before the midnight closure to tourists.

Of the 300 invitees, only 3 were unable to attend the live conference which ended with a Black-Eyed Peas performance at the Jerusalem Pais Arena.

Kaf Tet–November 29th in 1947, the UN voted for the Partition Plan of Palestine, recognizing Jewish rights and leading to the establishment of Israel.

In 1977, the UN General Assembly called for the annual observance of 29 November as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

In her opening remarks Irina Nevzlin, Cofounder and Chair of IMPROVATE recognized the importance of November 29 in her life, for she was born in the former Soviet Union and was able to move to Israel – ‘to come home.”

Annually Hanukkah in Jerusalem means sufganiyot, each year new fancy flavors are produced and millions of donuts are consumed.

The large chanukiah (menorah) was back in Mamilla Mall

and at Jaffa Gate near the entrance to the Old City.

The traditional menorah stood at the Kotel, Western Wall.

The new US Ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, lit the candles on the seventh night at the Kotel and tweeted, “As the Hanukkah song goes, we come to banish the darkness,ׁ and together, we shine a bright light. Hanukkah sameach!”

This year, for the first time, a lighting ceremony took place on top of the new Western Wall Heritage Center, built at the back of the Kotel Plaza.

As night fell, politicians and other invited guests who were honored at the ceremony stood on the rooftop overlooking the Kotel.

I was there on the second night when these flames were lit.

MK Miri Regev was impressed enough to share the event with her fans and followers with her phone.

The view of the Kotel Plaza from above was impressive as always.

However, in the new building, the view below was fascinating also. For years the area was a construction site, as archeologists carefully dug down and the site was covered from view. Now those digs are exposed and are seen here in the new educational building.

But there is much more to see underground. New levels of history have been revealed under the Western Wall Tunnels.

Before going on the new Big Bridge Tour there is a video to help explain with multiple drawings.

The blue mark shows where we were standing.

And here is how the area of arches looked in the time of the Romans.

The steps down show the new/old mikvah, but it is not a colorful image.

However, with new technology, the Roman waterfalls flow for visitors.

The arched rooms and columns are impressive, but not easy to photograph.

Workers were finishing up the wooden bridge for the opening the next day.

The main underground area we visited in August 2019 has been prepared for the public to see on the new Big Bridge tour.

This new spacious area of the old Western Wall has been exposed.

Also new is the ‘Chain of Generations’ tour, which begins with stories of Abraham and Sarah, and their descendants,

and continues with the story of the Exodus from Egypt and Moshe

leading the 12 Tribes of Israel into the Land of Israel,

and includes the 70 names of Jerusalem

and the destruction of Jerusalem,

the longing to return, the devastation of the Shoah, Holocaust,

providing names of early pioneers, ending with an inspirational video,

describing the Chain of Generations.

Only sharing a few snippets so you will appreciate the experience when tourists are finally allowed to return!

For those who support the UN’s denying a Jewish connection to Jerusalem, these tours will upset your day and misguided beliefs.

And on the eighth night of Hanukkah, the new US Ambassador to Israeli lit candles at Beit Hanasi, with the Israeli President and his wife.

Hanukkah Sameach!

Oh, Hanukkah 2020

Anyone else have the feeling that Hanukkah was long ago?

Hanukkah ended Friday night and was immediately followed by Shabbat.

Under the corona time blur, Hanukkah 2020 already feels long gone.

During Hanukkah, hundreds of people made aliyah, and arrived to live in Israel, from around the world. They included Bnei Menashe from India and Falasha Mura from Ethiopia. This time the group arrived on an Ethiopian jetliner and not sneaking out of Sudan by boat as they did in Operation Moses in 1984.

With COVID-19 regulations, all those arriving were to go straight to a quarantine location for two weeks.

For those of us in Jerusalem, Israel parks have new outside seating areas for nice weather, but much of the week it rained.

Which of these shuttered restaurants will reopen after being forced to close?

The scene at the New Gate was bleak as well, at a time when it is usually full of holiday pilgrims and tourists.

But it was Hanukkah in Jerusalem, and the electric chanukiah was out.

Photo credit: Mark Neyman GPO

For his last Hanukkah in Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence, Ruvi Rivlin came out to light candles with his neighbors on the fourth night.

President Rivlin giving donuts to soldiers
Photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom (GPO)

Each night President Rivlin went to a different location to celebrate Hanukkah. On a trip north, he stopped to give suffganiot and a special orange cake to soldiers on guard duty.

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion had a special Hanukkah event for volunteers, and like most events this year, it was online with attendees on Zoom.

The chanukiah on top of the Knesset on the fifth night was lit up as usual.

The new street lights were lit after dark along some Jerusalem streets.

This chanukiah was lit near the Prime Minister’s residence where protests are still going after 26 weeks. This was the fifth night.

There was this chanukiah many stories above the street, visible during the 5th day.

But in Jerusalem, you have to get out to see the lights at night.

The Chabad lights at Paris Square (an off-protest night) on the fifth night,

and street lights lined the way over King David Street.

A few lights were on at the King David Hotel. Though closed to the public due to corona restrictions, a few rooms on the top floor had lights on.

The King David Hotel had a very corona-downscaled 90th-year celebration.

In Mamilla Mall friends were taking photos, but there were no huge dancing crowds as in the past ten years with free suffganiot for all.

People came day or night to Mamilla Mall- when it wasn’t raining hard.

This chanukiah was much more interesting lit at night than last week during the day.

Hanukkah is the one time of year in Jerusalem that at night you can see in people’s windows and the lights shine out.

But that was one of the only things that was “normal” this year.

UN Ambassadors at Israeli President's house on tour led by Danny Danon

Last year Ambassador Danny Danon brought a group of UN Ambassadors to Israel to see the country themselves, as he had for a number of years.

This year his conference went online with Nikki Haley as guest speaker.

Beit Hanasi garden in Jerusalem Israel photo with visiting UN Ambassadors

Certainly not the same experience as last year when these UN Ambassadors were in Israel with Danon’s diplomatic mission.

On Monday night the walls near Jaffa Gate, were lit up with comments

from around the world, sent in by participants for “Our Common Destiny.”

Common Destiny meeting with Israeli President

In September 2019, Jewish community leaders from around the world were invited into Beit Hanasi to work on a Common Destiny statement.

For Hanukkah 2020, the result of the pandemic, was a program online.

The major excitement this year at the Kotel, Western Wall candle lightings was the participation of visitors from the United Arab Emirates. It was one night that the heavy rains did not dampen enthusiasm and attendance.

In spite of pandemic, 50,000 Israelis have already flown to the UAE.

Yes, the number sounds high, but since November 26 – 10 flights a day!

Man lighting candles in house while grandchildren watch from outside due to COVID10

This Hanukkah 2020 was not canceled but curtailed and quiet.

I prepared four latkes, instead of 400–no big family get-together this year.

It was not the usual Hanukkah in Jerusalem with thousands from around the world gathering to celebrate. Eilat and the Dead Sea were green islands for some Israeli families who managed a holiday getaway.

Meanwhile, the Tower of David was the location of a live music broadcast sponsored by Jerusalem municipality. Instead of fighting crowds and finding parking, one could sit at home, dry and warm in PJs, and watch your favorite performers on-screen this Hanukkah.

Candles were lit before the Jerusalem Theater Hanukkah performance.

The concert was recorded and available to see at your convenience.

Even if Hanukkah feels so long ago, the music and program were well done.

Enjoy Nes Gadol Haya Po, a Great Miracle Happened Here.

And let’s hope all can join together for Hanukkah next year in Jerusalem.

It’s Hanukkah in Jerusalem

Hanukkah is the time of miracles.

While some things were certainly not the same in Jerusalem, Israel, this year,

Jerusalem Liberty Bell Park autumn colors

there were the familiar winter colors in Liberty Bell Park.

Israeli Scouts build near their club house

The Jerusalem Scouts have finally returned and are building again near their moadon, clubhouse.

Israeli Antiquities in Jerusalem

Workers were even seen entering the National Campus for the Archaeology of Israel. After a grand opening in 2016, it was locked for a very long time.

GPO Jewish Media Summit Zoom panel

The Jewish Media Summit was held on December 8, and was a Zoom event this year.

In the past, UN Ambassador Danny Danon brought UN Ambassadors to see Israel, but this pandemic year he will settle for hosting them on Wednesday – online.

I am remembering that a year ago at the Jerusalem Biennale ziara was the theme of the large exhibit in the YMCA.  Ziara: Moroccan Common Wisdom, was curated by Amit Hai Cohen. Along with seventeen other artists of Moroccan descent, the display included a wide range of contemporary pieces. The Moroccan heritage of ziara, the feeling of home, contrasts greatly with other Arab countries where Jews were persecuted and expelled, and this week Israel and Morocco announced that they will reopen their liaison offices and in time, establish diplomatic relations. Expect travel to increase to Morocco, as well as to the United Arab Emirates.

Danny Danon said today that he expects more countries to announce they will establish relations with Israel before January 20. There’s clearly a new paradigm in the Middle East.

Hanukiah in Jerusalem near Museum of Tolerance and Friends of Zion Museum

With Jerusalem under coronavirus restrictions and rising numbers of COVID-19 cases, I was afraid that I wouldn’t get new photos for Hanukkah, like these favorites, a huge menorah from an inner Jerusalem city plaza,

Hanukia on top of Hadar Mall for sixth night of Hanukkah

or this one on top of Hadar shopping mall.

But I was wrong!

No tiny viral bug was going to stop lights on Hanukkah in Jerusalem.

Western Wall menorah lighting first night of Hanukkah 2020 corona restricted

Attendance at the lighting of the large golden menorah near the Kotel, Western Wall, is restricted, but accessible to all online. On the first night, people were divided into socially distanced sections, with live music, and the Chief Sephardic Rabbi lit the oil lamps.

Jaffa Gate large menorah on Hanukkah with Tower of David in background

The traditional large Hanukah menorah is back near Jaffa Gate.

Without international tourists due to corona, popular sites are not crowded as usual.

However, again Jerusalem is encouraging Israelis to come and visit.

Jerusalem streets signs to Celebrate Hanukkah in Jerusalem

Signs are up for celebrating Hanukkah in Jerusalem – check the website – HERE

Large Menorah near Jerusalem Nayot Park for Hanukkah

Public Hanukkah lightings are held nightly, (well the sign says 4:30 pm) here at Nayot Park, and multiple other community outdoor locations.

But in Jerusalem, even private homes have their menorahs or chanukiot, on display, here on an outer gate to a Jerusalem street, for all to see the lights.

So what’s new?

Two young men walk by Tzahal Square new Hanukkah menorah in background

There’s a large modern chanukiah near the walls of the Old City.

Hanukah menorah in flower bed near Jerusalem Bloomfield Garden

A floral menorah with a dreydel on each side near Bloomfield Park and the Montefiore Windmill. Plus, I hear there is also another on the Tayelet.

Jerusalem traffic circle Hanukkah menorah for holiday

And on Jerusalem traffic circles,

Hanukkah menorah in restaurant table, outside as restaurant closed for COVID10

even with restaurants closed now, there was one on the street where people could take out food and eat outside.

Jerusalem street signs to keep city clean

There are new signs to keep Jerusalem streets clean! That yellow thing is a banana peel and a plastic bottle was on another.

Man sitting in new Jerusalem outdoor area

There are multiple new areas to encourage sitting and enjoying nature.

Three young actresses performing on street theaters closed

With theaters closed during this pandemic year, three young actresses from Nurit Katzir Theater were performing on Jaffa Road on Friday.

So far the weather in Jerusalem has been pleasant to get out and about.

This year, Nes Gadol Haya Po, a special concert for Hanukkah by the Jerusalem Symphony will be broadcast online at 9:00 pm IT, December 15, details can be found HERE.

Restrictions due to coronavirus have limited inside gatherings, but have not stopped Hanukkah celebrations on the Jerusalem streets.

Even in a pandemic, there are plans for the annual candle lighting each night in Mamilla Mall, and tonight there is an event at First Station.

Now is a good time to remember, the famous menorah at Yad Vashem:

Hanukkah menorah display in Yad Vashem of photo and real menorah from Germany with Nazi flag in background

In 1932, Rachel Posner wrote in German, on the back of her photograph, “Their flag wishes to see the death of Judah, but Judah will always survive, and our light will outlast their flag.” In 1934, the Posners left Kiel, Germany for Israel.
Man and daughter looking at Hanukkah menorah outside

From generation to generation, the Hanukkah candles lit up dark nights.

Jerusalem is hosting events all week, hope to get out at night to the see.

https://youtu.be/4gFfRaR2XyM

The light projections and music near Jaffa Gate from 2016 were special.

Happy Hanukah poster color projection on wall of Jerusalem Old City near Jaffa Gate in 2016.

We still have 5 more nights of Hanukkah. Check back next week to see the best of Hanukkah on the Jerusalem streets.

Meanwhile, stay well.

חג חנוכה שמח