11 Firsts the Week before Purim in Jerusalem

The time before Purim in Jerusalem, Israel, is usually filled with surprises, like seeing teens going to school in pajamas, children with painted faces, or adults dressed in costumes walking down the street.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met in the Kremlin with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week on Shabbat, which was certainly a first.

Firsts. Also, highs and lows filled the emotional rollercoaster week as we watched reports from Ukraine.

Photo credit: Haim Zach (GPO)

The official welcome for Israeli President Isaac Herzog on a state visit to the Republic of Turkey at the invitation of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the official complex in Ankara was a significant first.

Photo Credit: Haim Zach (GPO)

The Herzogs were hosted by the Jewish community on Thursday morning at the Neve Shalom Synagogue in Istanbul.

While at the Presidential Library in Turkey, accompanied by the First Lady of the Republic of Turkey, Emine Erdoğan, Michal Herzog gifted a number of Hebrew books to the library during the visit.

Certainly, there were other firsts in Turkey and the international scene, but now back to Jerusalem the week before Purim.

This was not the first visit of Mike and Karen Pence to Jerusalem. Three years ago as US VicePresident they received royal treatment. This time their visit to Hebron got more attention than to the Kotel, Western Wall. Former US Vice President Pence received an award from the Friends of Zion at the beginning of the week.

Pence with leaders of Western Wall Heritage Foundation

I never found out what video they were shown last time at the Kotel.

Karen Pence at Western Wall on visit to Jerusalem

But the photos of Keren Pence I took that day are still a favorite of mine.

  1. For the first time, I got a good view of the Jerusalem Gateway Project from above with a look at how they are working around the old cemetery. The housing projects in the distance have expanded considerably.

2. First time I got a tour of the Jerusalem Report, courtesy of editor Steve Linde and the Jerusalem Post, and saw editor-in-chief, Yaakov Katz, at work in his office.

3. First time seeing the new art displays are back in Mamilla Mall.

4. The new Paris Fountain at French Square was revealed. It is not the same fountain, similar and larger.

The area will look very different than before, larger and with seating and landscaping. They started planting flowers today.

Twenty years ago, at this spot was the Moment Cafe, where a suicide bomber blew up himself, killing 11 people. Today a new residential building has been completed and the cafes have closed. Families have come every year to remember their murdered relatives and friends, with posters, flags, and memorial candles.

5. For the first time this year, a special box with spaces to hold 11 candles was in place. I have not seen that elsewhere and there are way too many of these memorial plaques at other terror sites.

Not a first, but unusual, to have thunder and lightning storms over the Jerusalem streets. Thanks to Facebook memories I saw in March, the weather extremes changing by the hour are an annual occurrence.

6. The lightning flashes are too fast to capture. However, this storm went on long enough for me to get a few shorts to make a stormy night video.

And from the video to get an image of one of the lightning flashes to share.

After the storm, Mamilla Pool was half-filled. Lovely photo, though a few minutes later I had to run home in heavy rain, not such a pretty picture.

7. I have seen several tourist buses, but this was the first welcome back sign in a very, very long time. Today I stopped to talk to a couple from Luxembourg with a tour guide and a group from New York City who had been here all week. The women were shopping before going home tonight.

8. Love signs are up along the walking/biking path at First Station

and this heart-shaped sculpture is now in First Station, moved from near the Jerusalem Old City Walls at Tzahal Square.

9. Who does not love those first buds and signs of spring?

Ok. Perhaps those suffering from seasonal allergies are not that excited. At least all the rain is washing away the pollen.

But oh the variety and colors lining the Jerusalem streets.

Even sprouting up from the ancient rocks, a favorite sign that winter is waning.

These purple ones are very common to see on many Jerusalem streets.

10. But this was the first time I saw a sign for ‘Purple in the Armon’. The south has the Darom Adom, Red South for fields of red wildflowers. The Jerusalem event is to promote the local hill filled with purple lupines.

But Purim? Not new, the Hansen House has hosted continuous events and plans for Purim, and on Shushan Purim, it sounds like a place to stop and see.

These new signs at first I thought were for Purim but later realized are for an educational conference in Jerusalem after Purim.

Also, signs are up for the sports EXPO held before the Jerusalem Marathon. It is back at Cinema City, similar to the EXPO before the races in October.

And, a nice winter view of the Knesset, which is now closed for a two months intercession, from the newly developed walking path.

11. And to close, another first. An RJS video recap of some of the sights and sounds on the Jerusalem streets of the last week before Purim.

More upcoming Purim events in Jerusalem – Purim in Disguise

Safra Square on Shushan Purim – Friday, March 18th this year.

Certain early events have already been postponed due to the changing weather. So check back next week for the real story of what happened on the Jerusalem streets for Purim.

You never know what you will find on the Jerusalem streets.

February Signs in Jerusalem

Another very up and down week with the Jerusalem weather, constantly changing from winter to spring–almost summer-like.

When the sun came out, or at least the rain stopped, it was time to get out and walk and see what was new happening as people are returning to the Jerusalem streets. Yes, even some tourists are back!

First, the Jerusalem shopping area along Jaffa Road was busy, a positive sign of things in Jerusalem returning to normal and coming back to life.

Purim costumes on display – a sure sign Purim is a month away.

This sign was posted inside the Kosovo Embassy in Jerusalem for the celebration of 14 years of Kosovo independence held on February 17th.

Charge d’affaires Ines Demiri posed near her country’s flag with each dignitary as they arrived, here smiling with Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan Nahoum who represented Jerusalem municipality.

Representing Israel at the event was Minister Matan Kahana who spoke to the standing-room-only crowd, including Ambassadors to Israel.

This was after the green pass restriction was lifted, but as you see most people wore masks except when speaking or eating. It’s been two years or more since I saw some of the people, and there were plenty of comments about masks and recognizing each other at the feel-good evening.

The week began with these FREEDOM signs arriving in Jerusalem, Israel on vehicles from all parts of the country, copying the Canadian convoy.

Assembling near the Knesset, protesters posted signs on the menorah in the traffic circle near the main entrance, certainly not feel-good ones.

One day there was a giant covid virus near the menorah, and people dressed in costumes. Ready for Purim or not-for-Purim?

Food and tents and wood-burning stoves – these people came prepared.

Shabbat morning with the green pass requirement lifted, the Jerusalem Great Synagogue had 75 people attending according to my friend’s count.

I walked by the “FREEDOM” tent city on Shabbat morning and counted about the same number of tents as there were people in the 1200-seat shul.

A friend in Hong Kong said the Ohel Leah Synagogue was closed on Shabbat due to pandemic restrictions, and there is a two-week quarantine restriction.

Here in Jerusalem, hundreds are protesting. Last year it was anti-Bibi. This year it’s anti-government. At least near the Knesset, there are very few residents who will be disturbed by the noise, as opposed to the noisy protests that were held near Balfour Street.

Across Eliezer Kaplan Street from the Knesset, I found it more exciting to see that the construction fence around the new Israel National Library was removed and landscaping has started.

New signs are going to be needed as the major project progresses.

I noticed some new signs for modest dress in Meah Shearim.

For those who don’t know the Jerusalem streets, Meah Shearim is right across the street from what is called “east” Jerusalem. Shimon Hatzadik/ Sheikh Jara is minutes from this spot.

Now, this was a sign I had to share. So guess where I had to go?

Right – on Hanevim Street!

Walking past the Ethiopian Consulate constructed in 1928,

the large building is not looking good these days through the shuttered gate.

These signs and the entrance gate down the street were hard to pass,

without peeking into the gate of the new hotel. Quite a contrast to the old stone buildings on the street with ongoing renovations.

There is much more on the historic and busy Hanaviim Street with Conrad Shick’s home so large it is hard to photograph with non-stop traffic.

One more sign, “Continued path blocked” – I did not obey this week.

The path by Sir Charles Clore Hill Gardens has been under construction and has not been passable for some time.

There is still work to be done to fix the under-road passage to Sacher Park.

But, though I would only go there in the day in the past, new lights make this a much more desirable way to walk in the future.

And new seats have been placed along the path with either a view of the Knesset and Israel Museum or facing away from the afternoon sun.

Monastery in Valley of the Cross in Jerusalem

The valley below and to the Israel Museum is a gorgeous green now and

when the sun shines with the red flowers, the best signs of spring in Jerusalem.

Abraham Lincoln Street sign new the YMCA in Jerusalem, Israel

Since it’s February, in the US it’s Presidents Birthday weekend, which means it’s time again for the Jerusalem street signs for Lincoln, pronounced by Israelis as Link-o-lin, and occasionally Avraham,

Sign for Jerusalem Washington Street.

and Washington Street. Does anyone local say George Washington Street?

And back around to where I started this whirlwind Jerusalem tour, if you walk between Lincoln and Washington Streets, you will find the sign and flag flying outside the Kosovo Embassy in Jerusalem.

Lots more happening on the Jerusalem streets, but enough for now, more next time.

Take care and stay well.

SNOW in Jerusalem – photos!

Snow.

Snow in Jerusalem is big news.

It is international news. People seem to love Jerusalem covered in white.

The last significant snow accumulation was in 2015, large enough for an individual post. Fascinating some of the latest photos from Elpis (that is the official name of this storm) are very much the same as the big snow in 2013.

The weather has been wet and cold so when the sun came out I walked to the Old City. It felt almost normal seeing people again was exciting.

There was an international tour group! Smaller groups also were on the Kotel, Western Wall Plaza on Tuesday afternoon.

Snow was predicted in Jerusalem and other higher elevations.

First came heavy rain, and then the snow started after dark.

Coming down heavily, trees were bending under the weight.

The white stuff was piling up all night long. You could hear the excited voices of children (of all ages) who ran out to play in the snow, some seeing it for the first time.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Snow-001-2-1024x644.jpg

Very few people were out after the earlier snowball fights and fun.

Looking out at 3:00 am, it was interesting to see other lights on!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Snow-084-2-1024x617.jpg

By dawn, the sky was clearing and snow covered the Jerusalem streets.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Snow-109-2-1024x620.jpg

Jerusalem was again appearing as a winter wonderland.

My finger was too cold taking photos, to avoid frostbite I went back inside.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Snow-152-3-1024x620.jpg

But clearing in the morning sun, the fog was hovering over the new taller buildings in town.

The grounds near the Knesset were covered. You can tell the new snow photos from old ones, as here with a new hotel in the image.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Snow-119-2-1024x573.jpg

The Israel Museum had the heat on with smoke rising after the cold night.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Snow-208-3-1024x492.jpg

What a lovely morning in Jerusalem, with blue sky, white clouds, and snow covering the ground.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Snow-172-2-1024x552.jpg

The cactus plants were still visible in their pots.

And the inches of snow were similar to the serious snowfalls of the past.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Snow-210-2-1024x571.jpg

Not in the past was the roof of the new Israel National Library.

During the day the Kotel had snow and slush, and not as many visitors as the day before. The afternoon turned cold and wet, and I had missed the moment, since being up too much at night made for a late start.

So Friday morning I was determined no matter what to get to Gan Sacher, Sacher Park. Tree branches were down in many locations.

Besides branches blocking the sidewalks piles of plowed snow blocked crosswalks.

This tunnel was filled with people partying Wednesday night as it snowed, but Friday morning it was wet with water leaking from above. Serious runners were also out in spite of the weather.

While snow is big news in Jerusalem, two years ago we had a different kind of white stuff covering Jerusalem streets and many streets were closed.

I had wanted to get Gan Sacher not only for the snow, but also the Candle Memorial on January 27th, but it had started to rain.

On Friday, again the rain started. It was wet and tree branches blocked the path. Oh the top right, you can see that hotel which is next to Cinema City.

Jerusalem Candle Monument

So I headed home and decided to reuse these previous images,

text Candle Memorial

of the monument dedicated two years ago on January 27th when world leaders including Putin were in Jerusalem for the Holocaust Memorial.

Top of Candle Memorial in Jerusalem

I wrote about the Candle Memorial last year remembering the liberation of Leningrad from the Nazi occupation.

Israeli families were out in the rain and cold and in the new play area.

The lower areas of Gan Sacher were a soggy mess of melted snow with branches down on the wet paths.

But there was still enough snow on the higher parts of the park for attempts at sledding, and one lone large snowman built the day before was still photo-worthy.

This should have a masterpiece on the pedestal the day before the rain.

So one serious snow day with no school in Jerusalem was enough for me.

I decided instead of looking for more photos to share to head home and make a pot of chicken soup before Shabbat.

Snow in Jerusalem.

Most everyone loves it.

There was plenty of snow for great creations and lots of snow angels.

Plus mountains of broken branches to clean up now.

I am looking forward to warmer weather.

Hope to see you soon on the Jerusalem streets.