Jerusalem Time is Flying

October the holidays are over. It’s time for Jerusalem and the Jerusalem streets to get back to “normal.”

Sure.

Two weeks after the end of the holiday season and we changed the clocks, falling backward into standard corona time.

I hate changing the clocks any time.

It’s been a time when it’s hard to keep up with the news bulletins.

First the normalization agreements between Israel and UAE and Bahrain. The United Arab Emirates diplomats arrived in Israel to sign trade agreements. Israeli travel companies are busy working out how to proceed with daily flights as an option, even with COVID19.

Sudan has joined the Gulf states making positive connections with Israel. Did you know Golda Meir and Israel were the first to acknowledge Sudan’s independence? The opening of air space alone is a big deal. Other financial deals we will wait and see.

The old holiday signs were replaced new ones from Mayor Lion for a successful new academic year. However, Hebrew University was open for less than a week and closed today, due to a computer problem.

The nursery schools were allowed to open under the new COVID19 restrictions. But most students are still at home, zooming and waiting to get back to classrooms and their friends.

One group was meeting in an outdoor open area under today’s cloudy sky.

Dog school, however, seems to be going strong in spite of corona.

During this time many Jerusalem streets have gotten a new look.

Some streets are unrecognizable with constantly changing barriers and infrastructure improvements.

The Great Synagogue is still closed, but a covering provides shade for limited prayer outside in the plaza.

During the lockdown, I was finally able to get a photo of the horse in Gan HaSoos, the Horse Park. Usually there are people around or on it.

In town was a bloodmobile site and new art pieces, but the clothing stores were closed. The supermarket and WeWork were allowed to be open.

Ben Yehuda Street was basically deserted during the lockdown.

Stores shuttered with people allowed only 1 kilometer from home.

The Light Rail was running, but Jaffa Road appeared midday as quiet as early morning, instead of the busy shopping location it had become.

Too many of the Jerusalem streets and alleyways were too quiet.

The First Station area has announced a development plan but needs the tourists to come back for businesses to reopen.

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Construction has been ongoing.

But too often it seems to be workers redoing areas where work was just done?

With all the challenges and noisy protests, closings and corona, suffering, and death, I am happy to share, young couples have found new ways to meet with theaters and museums, hotel lobbies, and cafes closed.

Walking and talking in nature is new norm, with or without a mask.

So the clocks have changed, the days are shorter, but the clouds make for colorful sunsets.

Today is Aliyah Day. In spite of a pandemic people have arrived home to Israel on a regular basis, and the number of applications is causing inpatient waiting times.

The real Jerusalem streets – good, bad and not so ugly.

Stay well and hope to see everyone here soon. At least flight times from most parts of the world should be shorter now with flights to Israel allowed over so many new Gulf countries.

Next year in Jerusalem! (or Dubai?)

Jerusalem Locked Down

In the middle of a conflict, later called the Second Lebanon War, I made aliyah and moved to Jerusalem, Israel.

I accompanied missions to southern Israel during multiple “operations.” We watched early Iron Dome successes over our heads at a rest stop café. From our van (buses were too big to exit in time) we ran to a ditch during a red alert. Crowded into a family’s bomb shelter in a border community during one warning siren, the mother could tell where the rocket landed by the sound. The bomb shelter was her children’s bedroom, they had never known another existence.

I used to really get around. Israel is really not so big.

There were northern border excursions during “heightened” alerts.

In an Arab town with Yassir Arafat and Abu Mazen photos looking down at me, I sat and listened to a woman’s land ownership story go unchallenged. For sure, I was very careful to stay with the group that time.

Even during the “stabbing intifada” I was out on the Jerusalem streets.

And then came along the microscopic novel coronavirus and I stayed home.

Finally, and for many weeks my morning walk was aimed to avoid people.

As the end of the second lockdown came to an end, I decided it was time to get out again and see what was really happening on the Jerusalem streets.

Some people used the time at home to improve their front porch gardens.

The building construction was so overwhelming, it requires a post of its own in the future. As you can see, there was no ban on building construction.

With less cars on the roads, road work closed and changed many streets.

Shops in Jerusalem’s Mamilla Mall were closed during the lockdown.

The end of February was the last time I had gone to the Old City.

Usually, this area outside of the Old City near Jaffa Gate is filled with traffic, day or night. Not during this lockdown.

Usually, this area outside of Jaffa Gate, is filled with people.

Jaffa Gate was closed, as it was during the first lockdown.

Security was posted at the entrance, checking vehicles and pedestrians.

I had to show my press pass to enter. There was security at all gates. With the one-kilometer distance restriction, only residents were allowed to enter.

The only crowd I saw was waiting outside the Old City post office.

The stores inside Jaffa Gate were closed, as they have been for weeks. The tourism business has been extremely hurt for months.

The Armenian way had more flags than usual, but what was a very busy road in the past, with people and cars, day and night, was mostly empty.

There is a new archeological stop in the Rova HaYehudi, Jewish Quarter, but no visitors to learn the stories of these ancient finds.

A couple of the food places in the Jewish Quarter had take out prepared food, but no sit-down dinners or the usual walking noshers in sight.

There were more construction workers than worshipers near the Kotel, Western Wall. Construction of the new elevator is finally moving along.

The 1-kilometer distance regulation was enforced with more security by the Kotel. Showing my press pass was not enough, the guard wanted me to get close and hand it over for inspection.

I decided not enter the empty plaza to get to the partitioned area.

Two workers were on the scaffolding doing repair work along the Western Wall near the Southern Wall. More on that later also.

Jerusalem’s usually vibrant Old City was locked down and quiet.

What a contrast to the the traffic on other Jerusalem streets last week.

The sounds of traffic could be heard as the sun rose this morning, October 18, as some restrictions were lifted. The idea is to open slowly to avoid the increase in coronavirus cases as happened after the last COVID-19 lockdown.

This morning the family Whatsapp had the smiling faces of the under 6-year-olds off to gan, nursery school for the first time – again – this year.

The “Time” exhibit opened at the Islamic Museum in August.

What a time it has been! This most unusual holiday season is over.

Despite these crazy times of political and health uncertainty, the sunsets last week were colorful spectacles.

Nature, the sun and moon, the seasons changed as usual, despite the pandemic.

Another day, I also walked into town for the first time in months – but will save those lockdown photographs for next time.

חודש טוב

This image from Yoel Salomon Street of the hanging umbrellas overhead waiting for the summer tourists who never arrived, was popular on social media as a Shabbat Shalom greeting.

So I thought to use it again for a new greeting of Chodesh Tov.

The new Hebrew month of Marcheshvan is here.

May it be a good month and good year for all.

Stay safe and well!

18 Good Things in Jerusalem: From Yom Kippur to Sukkot

Oh what a different year this is in Jerusalem!

Jerusalem, Israel was the destination for millions of visitors for the autumn holiday season. The streets were filled with rental cars and excited tourists.

This year due to the coronavirus restrictions, the Kotel, Western Wall Plaza is mostly deserted, day and night time.

The area inside the Wilson’s Arch is closed again.

For Yom Kippur most synagogues were closed.

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Some synagogues made use of their outdoor spaces with tents.

Pop-up street services were held by small groups of neighbors coming together. Doing the best they could manage with cars, cyclists, children on noisy scooters, and dog walkers coming through the random plastic chairs spread around.

  1. The sounds of prayers filled the Jerusalem streets.

In spite of COVID-19 restrictions, hundreds of cars noisily made their way to Jerusalem and to the Knesset after Yom Kippur.

After months of loud late night disturbances in Jerusalem, the black shirts were again on their way in the morning to the Knesset.

Loud, some profane, some with young children, they paraded and screamed in the midday sun. The over the top display could still be heard when after midnight the Knesset voted to limit the protesters numbers and locations to one kilometer from home. Rules the rest of the country we’re supposed to follow.

The protesters are getting more than their share of headlines and filling news feeds. COVID-19 pandemic is a global problem, the deaths tragic.

I have decided to share good things happening you might have missed.

2. The weather has cooled, colorful clouds cover the Knesset at sunset.

That bit of red is a postal truck, nice to know the mail has not stopped moving during the latest set of lockdown restrictions.

The big crane on the left is for the new National Library under construction.

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3. Building has continued all these months of pandemic.

I am fascinated by the work on the library roof structure. One day in the future I will share the progress with you.

4. The Harvest Moon was shining bright.

Mars was too far away to get a good photo of both together. However, a Blue Moon is due to appear the end of the month. Another chance.

Photo credit: GIRO PR

5. Israeli Start-Up Nation was on the front line of the Giro d’Italia.

In the international bike race, Maglia Azzurra, King of the Mountains, was Rick Zabel representing Israel in the blue uniform.

6. There are quiet spots to meet and keep your distance in Jerusalem.

Hotels are closed again with the new COVID-19 restrictions. A few had opened partially over the summer for Israeli guests.

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Photo credit: United Hatzalah spokesperson

7. Lights were visible at night at the Crowne Plaza.

The hotel had been dark every night, closed since March. Presently, United Hatzalah workers are based in the conveniently located hotel.

8. Mayor Moshe Lion said keeping Jerusalem clean is a priority.

The Jerusalem Municipality clean up trucks have become a regular sight on the Jerusalem streets. The days of furnishing your apartment with cast-offs off the street are over unless you are very quick before a truck arrives.

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Photo Credit: Jerusalem Mayor Spokesperson

9. Three Machane Yehudah Market, shuk, streets got names and signs,Ha-Tut” or “Strawberry” Street was one.

Photo credit: Jerusalem Mayor Spokesperson

Another was “Arbaat Haminim” or “Four Species” Street. The sign over a nearly deserted street which would have been packed with shoppers any other year before the Sukkot holiday.

Men looking at etrogim

Thousands of careful shoppers would have come to select their etrog and luluv and greens for their four-holiday species as in this old photo. This year the small kiosks on Jerusalem streets in various neighborhoods filled the void.

lulav sukkot

The Kotel, Western Wall would be packed with tens of thousands of people for the Sukkot holiday in the past.

Not this year. Numbers are extremely limited and distanced.

The huge Birkat Kohanim – Priestly Blessing did not happen this year.

A lone kohen did the blessing on the second day of Sukkot.

On Monday, October 5, the corona style Birkat Kohanim was recorded and put on YouTube for all to have a front-row view. HERE

10. With the impending corona restrictions, many sukkot were put up early, before Yom Kippur instead of after or last minute.

On roof tops,

and on porches,

and even our open-air sukkah for two instead of twenty was ready early.

11. Imagine, a sukkah in Dubai ready for kosher meals!

12. A sign of normal in crazy times! Cut palm branches tied to top of a car to take home for the sukkah.

This will be the year a small porch sukkah is “in” in Jerusalem.

With fabric walls up on a porch,

or tucked away in the garden.

Reuven Rivlin greets public at open house on Succos

Last year President Rivlin was surrounded by crowds of visitors for the annual Open Sukkah at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence.

Two years ago he invited the public to the presidential sukkah that had a health theme at a press conference before Sukkot.

13. President Rivlin’s last open house as President will be virtual.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020, between 10:00 and 12:30 Israeli time – join in www.sukkot-president-science.co.il 

The broadcast will be available on Beit HaNasi’s Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube channels.

No need to put on shoes, stand in a long line in the hot sun to enter, or even leave your house to attend this year.

Sukka photo, Image unusual sukkah

No big public Sukkot public events in parks are to be held this year.

15. However, this mobile sukkah is to be out on our Jerusalem street.

The sound and light shows will not have hundreds of people each night.

I couldn’t decide which to share, so here are two segments from shows:

16. City of David Sound and Light Show Finale

17. Tower of David Museum Night Show on King David

18. Such clever work by talented friends Jessica and Yael!

Moadim l’simcha.