Jerusalem Comes Out from Lockdown

Jerusalem, Israel streets began to come alive. Slowly people came out from the latest coronavirus lockdown, as from the safety of a cave or like a butterfly from its cocoon.

Each day last week I walked a different route to see what was happening on the Jerusalem streets with the lessening of corona restrictions.

People returned to the Old City as soon as the gates were again reopened.

Yes, school? No school? No Red or Orange school. Yes, Green preschool?

Confused? Here was the start of the new answer to the constant question:

Question #1 from a 6-page official document:

Does the return outline apply to all schools and nurseries throughout the country?

Answer: The outline distinguishes between localities and authorities that are in green and yellow areas and those in orange traffic light areas where physical learning has been allowed, and between authorities that are orange and red according to the traffic light model.

So? Most schools were not open, especially in Jerusalem this past week.

Gan Sacher, Sacher Park, had a holiday appearance, and the sounds of laughter and smells of grilled food filled the air.

With spring-like winter weather, families flocked to green open spaces.

While many people drive south to see the flowers, I am happy to walk closer to home for those annual red anemones, the sign of spring.

Zion Square provided a place to sit, as Ben Yehudah and Jaffa Road eating places provided takeaway food. As I walked around I kept thinking of bears coming out of hibernation and hungrily looking for a first meal.

Stores were still closed on Mamilla Mall, and this was the last cyclist allowed to pass through, as people were slowly returning and walking on Mamilla Ave.

Not sure where these two women carrying bags made their purchases.

Rimon, the only cafe open, was back in business, with outside eating only.

I was disappointed to find not one hamentashen displayed in the window.

Purim is less than two weeks away, but the usual holiday excitement was not apparent this year as I walked around Jerusalem.

People were in line for eyeglasses, interesting as they were one of a few businesses allowed to be open throughout the strict corona lockdowns.

The hair salons were allowed to reopen and here a customer was having their hair done with the door open. However, next door the small clothing store was gone, out of business.

Too many small business owners forced to close for repeated corona lockdowns have given up and their vacated stores now display for rent signs.

This appeared at first to be a sorry sight on Ben Yehudah Street.

But when I looked up, new buildings towered above. Thousands of new hotel rooms should be ready when tourists come back to Jerusalem.

As for the new hotel going up on King George Street, I was wrong, it’s over 15 stories tall, not ten as I mentioned last week.

The renovation of the Knesset Museum on King George Street though is still in a very sorry state of disrepair.

The road work on Jerusalem streets continues, with closings to traffic and detours becoming the new normal.

As these new signs were going up, the street was closed briefly. There are so many new signs I may have to do a piece on some of the ones I collected.

I was relieved that these oversized signs were for phones. As the March election date approaches, we anticipate some politicians’ oversized faces will again appear here near the main entrance to Jerusalem.

King David Street is closed for repaving. However, a new sign for George Washington Street was up in time to share for the US Presidents’ Day on February 15th this year.

This Abraham Lincoln Street sign is next to the YMCA on King George Street.

But where the two US presidents’ streets meet there are no signs to share.

The YMCA will be difficult to access when it is allowed to reopen, my shortcut using this side entrance on Lincoln Street will become popular.

Lovely days and golden sunsets, and talk of possible snow by Wednesday?

Credit Photo: Haim Zach / GPO

President Rivlin took a trip to Mount Hermon this week to the snow.

When will we get back to “normal” is the big question, not if it will snow.

On Friday, my son was sitting on our porch. He looked out and said, “What’s that building? It wasn’t there last time I was here.” Not the Knesset, it has been there over 50 years, but the construction near Cinema City has mushroomed up during the past year.

Parents with young children were relieved to get out for some fun days this past week with travel in Israel less limited. But families really want to go back to school in real classrooms or even outdoors, and not at home forever zooming. There are Israeli students who have been in classrooms for only one day, though I saw a sign this week wishing students good luck on their final high school exams.

In Bnei Brak on Thursday night, free chulent was offered to people getting vaccinated. Hikers were vaccinated in an MDA Corona vaccine trailer in the Shokeda Forest.

The sun was shining and it was warm last week, what will happen next?

You never know what will happen in the Jerusalem streets!

Check back next week to find out and stay well out there.

Jerusalem 2021 New Year, New Beginnings

As 2021 begins, Israel has a population of 9.3 million. Already over one million Israelis have received vaccinations, while the number of those ill with COVID-19 keeps rising over 6,000 daily.

Sun set in Jerusalem Tower of David viewed from Jaffa Gate

For the third corona lockdown, traffic was heavy as the sun was setting.

Mamilla Mall was closing down with people doing last-minute errands.

The full moon was bright over the plaza inside Jaffa Gate.

Main streets usually filled with vehicles were quieting down.

Lights and holiday decorations were shown brightly at Kikar Safra, Jerusalem’s Municipal City Hall.

However, only blue decorative lights were on over Yoel Salomon Street.

The popular tourist areas again, or still, were closed to the public.

Jaffa Gate was shut again as in the previous coronavirus lockdowns.

Jerusalem’s Old City was one area where the lockdown was visibly enforced. IDs were checked, movement of more than half a mile from home was not allowed. Over 9,000 fines have been issued by Israeli police.

Inside Jaffa Gate, businesses were shuttered. The Post Office was open, but for a change, there was no line of people outside waiting to enter.

Construction work has proceeded apace during the entire time of the coronavirus restrictions. This man would not let me take his photo, but I was more interested in showing how those safety surfaces are crafted.

The Kotel, Western Wall Plaza, had more birds than people.

The divisions for limited prayer groups were intact, but there were no worshipers to be found in most of the sections.

Ah, but even on the most limited days, there was at least one selfie taken.

From the Old City, I decided to walk home by way of Jaffa Road.

The few shops that had been open the night before were now closed.

Street decorations were colorful, but with no one to appreciate them.

Finally, I got a photo of the large duck on Ben Yehudah Street without people in my way. Sadly the businesses in this popular tourist area was hit again hard by the lockdown.

I was not the only photographer out looking for lockdown scenes.

A woman was dropping off items for someone in one of the Jerusalem quarantine hotels where returning Israelis were required to stay.

It was reported 8,000 Israelis traveled to Dubai for the holiday weekend, escaping Israeli lockdown limitations.

Last week UAE guests were at the King David Hotel, and this week United States flags flew over as the Moroccan normalization negotiations proceeded.

At times it seemed as if there was no lockdown, traffic was moving along.

But at Takhana HaRishona, First Station, those clever plastic igloos were mostly empty, as take out food service is not allowed and restaurants closed.

One man found a warm and quiet location for his standing computer work desk at First Station in the midday sun.

With home food delivery allowed, motorcycles have been zooming around the Jerusalem streets, much more than in the past.

Small business owners had time to take end of year inventory, with no customers allowed, uninterrupted once again.

There was a big open sign, but even Aroma Express in Mamilla Mall was closed. No people. No reason to open.

The Teddy Park across from Mamilla has also been empty for days.

But, Thursday afternoon, Machane Yehudah Market, the shuk, looked alive.

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Returning to the Old City on Friday, one could see and feel the lockdown.

Imagine having the opportunity to power wash the steps normally filled with people on Fridays.

Here is the food court in the Jewish Quarter without customers,

the entrance to the Kotel, without a line waiting to go thru security,

and no traffic at Sha’ar Ashpot, Dung Gate, near the Kotel entrance.

Photo credit: ADI

Vaccinations have been going at a rapid pace. ADI, formerly ALEH, inoculated 1,500 people in two days, and in a party atmosphere. Their residential students with severe challenges were some of the most vulnerable in the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Taking your dog for a walk has been allowed in all the lockdowns.

More and more people are out enjoying the pleasant weather and walking in the sunshine, with and without masks.

The signs above the Jerusalem streets advise for safety at home.

The Jerusalem streets give safety and health advice.

However, in many families there is still a revolving door situation with one family member or another in bidud, isolation.

Not just Bubby and Zayde (grandparents) in bidud.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, MDA teams have sampled more than 3,500,000 people.

Photo credit: A Y Altshul

With efficient testing and vaccinations, most Israelis are anxiously waiting for the revolving door situation to end.

The hope is in 2021, the beginning of the end of the coronavirus is in sight, this the last lockdown, and new light at the end of a year-long dark tunnel.

Take care and stay well, hope to see you soon on the Jerusalem streets.

Winter Colors Jerusalem

It happens every, single year in Jerusalem, Israel.

One day it feels like summer, we’re wearing sandals, and the next next day, the temperature drops, it rains hard and we put on the winter boots and take out the sweaters and coats from their storage places.

The clouds fill the sky covering the sun and our stone homes retain the cold.

Out for a quick walk when it stopped raining, I was able to watch a helicopter land, not on, but near the Knesset Building.

The cloud formations were impressive as winter arrived in Jerusalem.

Venturing a bit from home, the last public phone booths had been removed in front of the National Labor Court, and only two white marks remained.

The Jerusalem street near the Prime Minister’s Residence is occupied.

New security barriers line the streets ready for the next protest.

But the coronavirus restrictions are loosening, small on-the-street businesses are allowed to open, joining the recently reopened beauty salons and essential businesses.

Jerusalem children’s playgrounds are getting serious makeovers.

The art at Mamilla Mall was changed, but few were around to view it,

or to take advantage of end of season sales for the last few months.

A pile of masks was on display for sale for the few who passed by.

A cafe had take out food and a few places to sit and enjoy the sun and the view.

Some stores closed, but others were being renovated to open or reopen.

Mamilla Mall wasn’t filled with happy visitors due to the COVID19 closures.

There were grey days – really for the birds.

Heavy rains created new temporary ponds and dampened moods.

But with winter in Jerusalem, new flowers emerged from the ground. It seemed I was not the first one to come by. Someone placed small stones around several of the first blooms.

Today the field had many more flowers and groups of students.

In Jerusalem we do not have the fall colors of the US Northeast, but we have a bit of orange,

and yellow,

and green,

and green with touches of red and light blue,

and fresh new winter greens.

A white US Capitol? was built along Azza Street during the time of closings.

There is blue sky when it peeks out from the clouds.

But in spite of all the closings, some things are happening.

President Rivlin received diplomatic credentials from the new ambassadors of Belgium, Sweden, Norway, Uzbekistan, and Latvia to the State of Israel in an official ceremony at Beit HaNasi, the President’s Residence.

The flags were raised and flying for each country. That “thing” hanging under the flag are dates on the palm tree. I decided to leave it for you to see.

The ceremonies were downsized due to coronavirus and weather.

But on a cloudy day, the colors were flying this week with more next week as more new Ambassadors present their credentials to President Rivlin.

So that’s it–another week of trying to make the best in these difficult times, sharing a few of the many colors of Jerusalem.

Wearing more than one hat is not always easy.

The Tower of David Museum is taking advantage of the lull in tourism to do a major renovation, but more on that next time.

Take care and stay well, and hope to see you soon on the Jerusalem streets.