Week Filled with Ups and Downs in Jerusalem

Oh what a week this was!

I had to do this post over and over again.

A week of extreme ups and downs, more than the usual rollercoaster.

The flags were flying high as the last week in April began.

Israeli flags draped down on the Israel Museum.

The wind was blowing so hard, the canvas police post had to be held down.

Every day I walked a different route so I could share the news. One scene was this building rising and changing the Jerusalem skyline over Jaffa Road.

The winter igloo capsules at First Station were being removed and simple shades were taking their place as the summer weather arrived.

The new National Library building exterior is nearing completion.

The new Knesset Museum interior is finally beginning renovations.

The new municipal bike stations are being prepared in popular locations.

The week also began in Gan Haatzmaut, Independence Park with a ‘Justice for Sarah Halimi’ rally. When I tried to give directions to a couple in French, only a fractured Hebrew phrase came out of my mouth. Around the world, protests were held after the French court let her murderer go free.

Call it French Square or Paris Square, it’s been dug up and work has begun.

Then the Mayor’s Office announced a long list of planned new road work.

I lost count of how many times these have been knocked down replaced on the newly redone street by Paris Fountain.

Finally, there are signs up directing the way to the Kotel, Western Wall.

The week started with bagpipers out in their tartans for Palm Sunday.

Women in the Old City walked carrying a palm. Yesterday was the ‘Holy Fire’ and today is Orthodox Easter Sunday and holiday crowds are returning.

On Mondays, the bar mitzvahs go all day long, with songs and prayers.

I think it went a bit too long for one young fellow. I assume the corona dividers going back up was not his issue, more the long day and afternoon sun that got him down.

New welcome signs have been put up with corona regulations.

Progress finally is visible on the elevator up to the Old City from the Kotel.

Flags and flowers were up in the Armenian Quarter and looking good.

Floral wreaths were placed down along the wall for the April 25th Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day commemoration.

Then a few days later, the dedication of a new 180 car parking lot was held.

This was the site as archeologists went down below street level last month. It seems a major hotel will not arise any time soon in the Armenian Quarter.

But I predict traffic will increase greatly here as soon as the news of newly available convenient parking spreads.

New signs for the May 5th Jerusalem challenge race,

and May 14th special cycling event in Jerusalem went up near Jaffa Gate.

Ramadan continues another two weeks with signs posted each week for street closings around the Old City as tens of thousands of Muslims arrive to pray.

Shopping during the days of Ramadan is allowed, eating begins at sundown.

It was also Pesach Sheni, a month after Passover, and I found one man dressed for the occasion walking from the Old City to the light rail train.

Oh how nice, “return to routine” signs were up.

Also ‘Jerusalem is proud of you’ signs were posted over the streets.

New blue information signs are now on historical buildings of interest and popped up in many neighborhoods and popular Jerusalem streets.

And colorful flowers line many Jerusalem streets, I put more HERE.

By Thursday afternoon Lag B’Omer preparations were well underway,

Last year during the pandemic, Lag B’Omer was broadcast live from Meron.

Traditionally Mt. Meron, not Jerusalem, is the place to be on Lag B’Omer.

But large bonfires were prepared ready for the night long celebrations.

Fires were to be limited this year to only designated areas in Jerusalem. There were fewer than in past years, the smoke was not as strong, but we closed our windows anyway as night fell.

As I have written before Lag B’Omer is not my favorite holiday. Two years ago, for Lag B’Omer, I shared my photos of Meron on a quiet day.

This year, I was watching again on YouTube Live stream as the huge crowd was singing, responding loudly to the declarations recited at the end of the Yom Kippur service, and dancing…and singing in unison – Ani Ma’amin, I believe…

Then, in what seemed like a blink of an eye, the joy turned to tragedy.

What a night!

What a week of extreme highs and lows.

Sunday was declared a national day of mourning. The flags have been lowered to half-mast. However, there’s no wind to blow the flag over the Knesset. Today only rising temperatures.

Photo credit: Mark Neyman GPO

On Friday, President Rivlin lit 45 memorial candles, one for each life lost.

The greatest civilian disaster in Israel’s history reaches and touches everyone. This was a week of so many ups and downs

Photo credit: Mark Neyman GPO

Today President Rivlin visited the L. Greenberg National Institute of Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir to thank the staff for their tireless work in identifying the victims of the Har Meron tragedy.

And as President Rivlin said to the families of the victims: “It is hard to grasp the pain of the families who saw in Shabbat not knowing the fate of their loved ones and came from Shabbat to the cemeteries. I am with you in your pain; all Israelis are with you in your pain.”

When it is hard to find the right words, I will end with the traditional text appropriate to comfort mourners:

המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים

Jerusalem Celebrating Back to Normal

Oh, what a difference this year in Jerusalem from last year at this time!

Just a few days after Passover and Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, and it is a time of Yom Hazikaron, Remembrance for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terror, and Yom Haatzmaut, Israel Independence Day.

This year the annual celebrations were back, though with some limitations.

Israel 73 was a time for celebration after a year of lockdowns and isolation.

Extra flags were both flying above and draped along the Knesset Building.

More flags were placed on Israeli government buildings.

Private apartment buildings also were decorated blue and white.

Flags and flowers were seen in Katamon,

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and more flags and flowers lined the streets in Nachalot.

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This year seemed to have more blue and white than I remembered in past.

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And of course, the shops by Machane Yehuda Market were ready.

The Yizkor remembrance symbol, the flower found in Israel, called the Dam HaMacabbim,  appears on memorial stickers and pins. The name is derived form the legend that every spot where the flower grows, a drop of blood was spilled. Last year, my pin stayed in a drawer, this year I was able to wear it outside.

Har Herzl was closed last year to mourning families on Yom HaZikaron. This year it was open but limited, so I went on Tuesday to see them setting up for the official memorial ceremony the next morning.

Security was busy working inside, but two of the memorial guides posed outside of the structure which has the names of fallen engraved on its walls.

Har Herzl Military Cemetery was prepared with flags, black ribbons, memorial candles, flowers and a small white plastic stool at each grave.

This colorful wreath was from the Prime Minister’s Office, placed on the grave of Yoni Netanyahu. Closer and less adorned in the photo is the grave is of David Elazar, the ninth Chief of Staff of the IDF, who served from 1972 to 1974.

In the distance is the grey-haired twin brother of Moshe Sabbah, born in Morocco, who fell at age 19. Each stone resting place marks a son, a brother, so many, too many, 18 to 20-year-olds.

Former lone solider Michael Levin’s grave is piled high from visitors’ remembrances.

Another lone soldier, Alex Sasaki, was buried two years ago and is marked by yellow flags placed by visitors. Zechariah Baumel’s brother came to say Tehillim on Tuesday, where the missing-in-action soldier’s remains were finally returned to Israel and providing closure for the family’s ordeal.

So many graves, each with a story, one could wander and wonder for days.

But walking home from Har Herzl through Nayot Park where hundreds of young people were gathering before Yom HaZikaron was a perfect antidote to the mood of the military cemetery.

Again the next morning, groups of young children stood quietly at attention for two minutes at the sound of the memorial siren.

With limited access to Har Herzl on Yom HaZikaron, commemorations were held at smaller cemeteries throughout Israel.

The Givat Ram Cemetery, with the Supreme Court in view, had more flowers and candles and people coming than when I went a few years ago.

This cemetery became active when in 1948, the Jews could no longer get to the Mount of Olives to bury their loved ones as they had for centuries. Some of the old stones are nameless.

Exiting the cemetery to Gan Sacher, Sacher Park, the new Candle Memorial in memory of those who died in the siege of Leningrad is located along the path.

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Gan Sacher was prepared for the Yom Haatzmaut mangals, BBQs, with new large metal bins around for the remains of the grilling charcoals.

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The official state ceremony for Yom Haatzmaut, begins with a transition from Yizkor, remembering the fallen to the celebrating Independence.

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This year again a live audience watched the televised program as well as those at home watching the show. One of the honored torch lighters was Tzipi Harpenes, the principal of AMIT Elaine Silver Technological High School. I visited her school in Beer Sheva and met her, and I can tell you, there is much more to add to her amazing story.

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However, there were multiple community ceremonies as well. This one at Ramban shul was not only standing room only, but due to corona restrictions, people stood outside as well.

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This was the synagogue of Zechariah Baumel’s family, notice his name was added to the memorial wall on the bottom left.

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For many, this was the first time back at the synagogue in over a year. So the welcome back sign was very appropriate.

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Inside the ark was draped with flags as the evening service began.

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The Great Synagogue was open again, but with limited numbers, the “green pass” and id’s needed to enter.

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The memorial flame was at the entrance to the Begin Heritage Center.

The Kotel, Western Wall Plaza, was again the scene of the official start of Yom HaZikaron, with President Rivlin speaking. The corona dividers were gone, but the numbers were still limited on Tuesday night.

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Wednesday night at the Kotel, the memorial names were still seen.

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But the flag raised and memorial torch extinguished as the Independence Day prayers and celebrations began.

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Thousands attended the service, which ending with singing and dancing.

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Solitude was only to be found at the Egalitarian section of the Western Wall.

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From the Hurva Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City,

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from the Takana Rishona, First Station,

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and from Teddy Park the sounds of singing and prayer rang out.

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Teddy Park had limited attendance, but that did not stop dancing in the streets as the music in venues was projected outside.

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It was hard to get a photo of the crowd at Teddy Park – it was so large.

Community centers, Sultan’s Pool, Safra Square, Gan Sacher were some other locations with live music and celebrants well into the morning hours.

But the real streets were not only full of beautiful music and celebrations.

It was distressing and hard to believe so few people made such noise in their antigovernmental protesting. I would have ignored them but they started up again on Shabbat which was even worse.

But to end a busy week on high notes, the flyover was back again this year.

And fireworks. There were multiple locations. But my only decent photo was this one over Silwan which was lit up for Ramadan.

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The beginning of the Muslim Ramadan month and Yom Haatzmaut coincided this year. The walls of the Old City were lit up as we all proceeded home after a night of celebrations.

This year in Jerusalem – so different than last year!

The recording of the national ceremony on Har Herzl – HERE

More Yom HaZikaron images on Facebook HERE

Hope next year to see you on the Jerusalem streets for these special days.

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.