Snow and Light in Jerusalem

Snow!

Snow in Jerusalem, Israel.

What is it about snow in Jerusalem that gets the world’s attention?

Wednesday night a blanket of white covered the Jerusalem streets.

After flurries during the day, the snow came down rapidly after dark.

Palm trees sagged under the weight of inches of snow.

I gave up trying to get clear images of people who were out walking.

The streets were full of sounds of excited children, many seeing snow for the first time, who ran out to play in the streets.

Thursday morning a significant amount remained, though not like my memories of snow storms in the northeastern US, and not as much as in Jerusalem in 2013.

But more than enough snow for the Middle East, and the cactus plant.

Friday piles of snow remained, this one in the park much to the delight of two little boys, was much prettier than the grey stuff left behind along the major streets.

What an upside-down week of weather in Jerusalem!

The beginning of the week it was warm enough to walk barefoot.

Young families still with no school could hike in the sunshine.

Spring flowers were popping up in nature areas.

The almond blossoms were out and already beginning to fall off the trees.

Work was proceeding on the roof of the new National Library.

It was a great time for letting the dogs out for a walk.

On the Knesset snow photo taken as the fog cleared, I noticed strange black things on top on the roof?

And along Hazaz Street, more lighting equipment was set up last week.

It’s for “Follow the Lights!” – February 21- March 3rd.

Special illuminated Jerusalem sites are planned to be viewed from moving vehicles. The huge projectors were placed along the road last week in preparation and I was told not damaged by the snow.

Get ready to follow the lights!

Will have to go and see if this is how it really will look tonight.

Most of the lighted sites are located where I usually walk.

The setup at the Israel Museum today was extensive.

Large structures are in place to be viewed from private cars.

Will see if everyone driving the route thru the Israel Museum parking lot really stays in their cars as instructed?

Near the Israel Museum, these bicycles line the bike path off the road across from the Knesset. Now they should be interesting lit up at night.

The snow was pretty while it lasted. But now it has melted.

Schools and malls and businesses are reopening. President Rivlin is to attend the Kahn Theater tonight to mark its reopening. The Prime Minister is headed to Eliat where hotels are to open.

The poppies were out again in Jerusalem in the sunlight.

Hopefully signs of spring and hope for a better year ahead.

Purim starts on Thursday, February 25th this year.

For one way to get into the Purim mode and mood, Tower of David has a program on Wednesday night.

Jerusalem Municipality neighborhood events are from February 22-28, not only Triple Purim – but a week, even though some coronavirus restrictions are still in place.

Dozens of Megilat Esther readings sponsored by various groups will be held. Already last year I avoided the large synagogue megillah reading for a small one, and downsized the holiday.

Hopefully next Purim we will all be back joyfully celebrating on the Jerusalem streets. But for now, you can come and enjoy the light shows.

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.

Tu BiShvat is Coming

What a year it has been!

It’s report card time.

Yet there are children who have been in their schools for only one day so far this COVID-19 school year.

In Jerusalem, the Kotel, Western Wall, is nearly deserted of people praying and visiting, there are no tourists at least until the end of January with new coronavirus restrictions.

The Kotel Plaza, divided into sections, is filled with construction equipment stored at night and ripping up old stones by day.

What a world it has become!

As the US Capitol was the scene of the swearing-in ceremonies of a new president and vice president, socially distanced and surrounded by security,

I was also attending a corona wedding held in an Israeli backyard,

and relaxing with the sounds of the Jerusalem Symphony providing another free concert. The first time I saw Gil Shohat, he was not conducting an online performance, but playing piano in a cave – Zedekiah’s Cave.

dressing room in cave

And here he is sitting in his dressing room that night before the show!

The Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra has an event called “Days of Light” planned to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27th. This year due to COVID-19 restrictions it is available online.

Last year the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz brought world leaders to Jerusalem, Israel for mega-events at Beit Hanasi and Yad Vashem.

The international media was invited to watch the VIP dinner held at Beit Hanasi from a screen in Zedekiah’s Cave. One year ago, I had forgotten!

Also on January 27, 2021, at sundown the holiday of Tu BiShvat begins.

I am still not sure the best spelling of ט”ו בשבט in English, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat, often called the ‘Jewish New Year for Trees’.

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The almond tree on our street still has black old almonds from last year.

But I went looking in a warmer Jerusalem neighborhood and not only found one blooming, but the sky clear enough to see the half-moon above.

Every year I try to find something new for Tu Bishvat.

Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem hosts Melida Tu Bishvat seder

Last year was the impressive and colorful evening at the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem – for Malida, a holiday celebration originating in India.

Tu Bishvat seder at Beit Hanasi Nechama Rivlin

In past years, President Rivlin hosted a Tu Bishvat Seder at Beit Hanasi, in the main hall of the Israeli President’s Residence.

Tu B'Shvat JNF awardees at Beit Hanasi with President Rivlin

Last year KKL-JNF held an event at Beit Hanasi for Tu Bishvat. Since then the Israeli President’s Residence has held very limited events due to COVID-19. President Rivlin’s last year of his seven-year term has not been like the others due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The carob trees are easy to identify with their fallen pods on the sidewalk. The old hard buksor was all we had in the US to celebrate Tu Bishvat.

Does anyone eat it now with all the fresh and dried Israeli fruit available?

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Trees are important, not just for Tu Bishvat. On King David Street, one of many trees near the street work is wrapped with a sign posted to protect the trees from damage during construction.

Last week was one wild weather week, not feeling like spring!

Three times in one day hail came down, plus so much rain.

However, neither hail, nor sleet or cold rain kept the protesters away.

Day after day, they occupy the street near the Prime Minister’s Residence.

When the sun came out, so did people to spend time in the sun and to browse in the free street library for some reading material before Shabbat.

Socially-distanced chairs were ready for Shabbat on Friday afternoon and the sounds of young children singing prayers on Shabbat morning. As I walked by the sounds of Shema Yisrael of very young voices could be heard across the street.

It is sad to see the closed sign on the gates of Hansen House and elsewhere due to the lockdown restrictions from the spreading novel coronavirus.

But, it was good to see the first signs of spring and new growth on the Jerusalem streets, as a year has passed and we move toward a new year.

For the full story of almond trees and Israeli flowers please visit Sara’s wonderful and helpful website ‘Wildflowers of Israel‘ – HERE.

Tu Bishvat is coming, time to get ready.

Tu Beshevat fruit platter

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