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.

Jerusalem Looking Forward to New Year 2021

As the calendar year of 2020 comes to a close, I think it is safe to say 2020 has been a most unusual year. Not the best of years, unless computers and online sessions are your favorite things.

In 2019, millions of visitors were in Jerusalem, Israel, and things were thriving and growing and going great.

But then, in March, closings due to the novel coronavirus pandemic hit Jerusalem – hard. Businesses closed. The poor got poorer. Seniors living alone became more isolated than before.

The view from the Tayelet was one of the few things familiar in 2020.

The newest popular spot is a seat in the health fund, in the chair for the COVID-19 vaccine. Interestingly the information sheets were in Hebrew and Arabic, and not in English.

With a third lockdown looming, people took advantage to get outside when the skies cleared this past week.

Tayelet scene Muslim woman  near Hanukkah menorah

I went to the Tayelet after Hanukkah and the large Menorah was still there.

Not all was Hanukkah in Jerusalem this past week.

Tour group on Tayelet

Tours from Israeli business groups were spotted in multiple locations, and not just the Tayelet with its view of Old City.

Piano by Tayelet

The public pianos attracted small groups and music filled the brisk air.

Jerusalem parks have been upgraded, new ones built, and were open for all.

As in past years, the Jerusalem Municipality gave out free trees to the Christian residents. And as usual, though the distribution was advertised as between 9-12:00 near Jaffa Gate, they went quickly.

Here is a gift shop near Jaffa Gate. An Arab woman passes by the store where Jewish religious garments are on display. Bethany wearing the blue jacket is from Canada, inside with her tree safely stashed in her cart.

Later she told me she came with her friend Sarah at 9:00 am. to be sure and get a tree. People stopped as we chatted at 11:00 am to ask where she got it.

Sorry, every year, only the early birds get those trees.

Seems when the post office near Jaffa Gate is open, there is a waiting line.

Santas were there early in the week, but gone by Friday, December 25th.

The crowds on Friday were headed to Muslim midday prayers.

However, Friday, I did spot a few of Santa’s helpers, or at least the red hats.

At Jerusalem’s New Gate, it was not a bright and happy holiday season.

However, the lights were bright all month at night at the YMCA.

And those lights strung down from the YMCA bell tower lit up the sky impressively from a distance.

Take out food was allowed. People came to Mamilla Mall to eat. Stores were open, and to shop, but access was limited.

However, the open malls are to close by 5:oopm Sunday, December 27, 2020.

These capsule plastic igloos popped up at First Station for small groups to eat their takeout meals. But for lockdown #3 these are a new no-no.

While people did come to eat, the craft stalls have been empty for months.

It was sad to see that the first dairy restaurant to open in the new First Station is now closed.

With Saturn aligned with Jupiter many looked to the heavens for light.

This year the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens offered colorful lights at night.

From across the pond the reflections were quite a popular show.

But December 26, 2020 was the last chance to register and go for now.

It is also had to close. Nature reserves and parks are not to open for at least two week, and maybe more.

The Israel Museum was lit in red at night on December 26, in support of an international Red Alert Campaign. Before I had a chance to share that the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem was open again, and go see YEMEN, it had to close. Culture has been hard hit, with institutions closed for months.

February 2020 seems like a life time ago.

But not to leave you and December 2020, on such a low and down note –

here is a favorite scene from this past week. An elderly Arab man had dropped his cane and could not bend down to pick it up. Several people walked by either not noticing or pretending not to see his problem. As I walked toward him, a Jewish woman also noticed. She had been on her way to Jaffa Gate, but came back and bent down to give him the cane.

So there you have it some of this past week in Jerusalem, Israel.

He was speaking about upcoming Israeli elections, but Eyal Arad’s comment about the Israeli Air Force – “the thing you don’t see is what shoots you down” seems apt here for this past corona year.

Of course, there was more, but this is getting too long and I want to conclude with a new video with added English subtitles.

The novel coronavirus vaccine program is going strong.

From Sunday to Wednesday 650,000 people were vaccinated.

Let’s hope a 3rd lockdown is the last one.

Take care and stay well and

hope to see you in 2021 on the Jerusalem streets.

Online, In-Line Jerusalem

Days go by. Weeks go by.

Time during the COVID-19 pandemic has become a blur.

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Jerusalem tourism went from unprecedented highs down to zero.

Chayei Sarah in Hebron in past years became one giant Shabbat celebration with thousands crowding into the area around the Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs.

This year before Shabbat, Chabad of Hebron hosted an online celebration of this week’s Torah reading marking the death and burial of Sarah in Hebron. Three men danced to a downsized band in an area near the walls.

The OUD international music festival is going on line for its 21st year.

Ethiopian Sigd holiday and women praying.

Sigd celebrations in the past years were major events with tens of thousands on the Tayelet in Jerusalem for prayers and breaking the fast.

This year there are smaller events being organized for the November 15th and 16th holiday celebration, 50 days after Yom Kippur, one which started in Ethiopia centuries ago.

One year ago, the AYLN Wheels of Love cyclists arrived in Jerusalem at the end of their annual fund-raising ride. This year riders met as a virtual group on a Zoom event and raised funds for the special rehabilitation hospital without the ride up the hills of Jerusalem.

The annual Pianos Festival at the Jerusalem Theater was held online and shown on YouTube and Facebook – for free. No lines to stand in while waiting to enter the concert halls.

Standing in line for parking stickers at the city hall is history. Those cherished parking spot stickers can be gotten from home by registering with the municipality online.

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As corona lockdown restrictions were lifted to a second stage, the areas near the Old City walls were still quiet on the sunny first Monday.

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The entrance toward Jaffa Gate not crowded as in “normal” times.

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Jaffa Gate was open, and guarded by two security women.

Standard and Poor’s, the global credit rating company, left Israel’s credit rating unchanged at its high level during the global coronavirus crisis, as reported by the Prime Minister’s Office.

Construction in Jerusalem proceeded during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Signs for Museum Lane have gone up along the renovated street by the new National Library. One of the huge cranes has been removed from the building site across the street from the Knesset, while the 6th National Library film festival was run online.

Commerce moved online and in-person shopping came to a halt for months.

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Jerusalem’s Mamilla Mall was filling with eager shoppers as stores on the street were finally allowed to open with four customers at a time.

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The longest line at Mamilla was waiting for Nespresso coffee.

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Shoe stores also had customers waiting in line.

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The store selling eyeglasses had a line. It had been allowed to be open during the lockdown and was often empty of customers.

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Walking by Kikar Safra, the Municipal Government plaza, the new landscaping was in full bloom, but the stones below were empty of people.

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However, minutes away on Jaffa Road, lines could be found outside many shops. Children need new clothing for size and season.

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The longest line award in downtown Jerusalem goes to FOX. I took a Facebook live video to show how far down the block people were waiting in line to enter on the first nice shopping day in town.

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Jerusalem’s Jaffa Road was coming back to life with stores open and people strolling in the midday sun.

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Ben Yehudah Mall looked so busy and full, I decided to go a different way.

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People ate lunches of takeaway food, sitting outside to enjoy the warmth of the sun on a November day.

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Shops on Yoel Salomon Street were open, but there were no lines when I walked by on my way home.

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The music was playing again on the oversized radio near Kikar Safra.

When the sun comes out, so do people.

Jerusalem, Israel shops and streets are slowly getting back to business and showing signs of renewed life. The youngest school students are back in class, while older students are online.

Hoping the corona numbers will stay down and we can see you soon on the Jerusalem streets.