Jerusalem Getting Back to Normal

People are slowly coming back onto the Jerusalem streets, like bears emerging slowly from hibernation, lumbering up from deep in their caves.

Recognizing friends you have not seen in over a year (or was it two?) whose faces are hidden behind a mask is not so easy. But what a pleasure it is to reunite and speak to people in real life, rather than via a computer screen.

Weddings with bubbles and brides! What could be better this week? Albeit with caution and held outside, but celebrations are back, better than last year and with anticipation and enthusiasm.

Organized tour groups have returned to the Jerusalem streets.

The Kotel (Western Wall) train is back in business.

Not your usual train tunnel

or usual train track,

but the Kotel train, love it or hate it, is back on the Jerusalem streets.

Inside and even outside the walls of the Old City, photoshoots for bar mitzvahs and other celebrations are common again.

Shopping at Mamilla Mall? Masks are needed inside stores, but not outside.

The cats are not back, they never left the Jerusalem streets. Need at least one cat photo, here in the new parking lot in the Armenian Quarter.

Parking in Jerusalem has never been easy, but these workers found a convenient spot on the sidewalk near the construction area at the Paris Fountain.

Remember the parking lot at Shaare Zedek hospital that opened up and swallowed cars? Repair work has progressed, but the area is still not back to normal.

Construction outside the hospital parking area is only part of the story.

The work on the new Route 16 nearby is extensive.

Mountains of dirt are being moved, and

tunnels are emerging from underground.

On the other side of Shmuel Bait Street, there is more huge equipment.

Part of the mountain is gone to make room for new lanes of traffic.

A whole new scene awaits when you return to these Jerusalem streets.

As mentioned last week the Jerusalem Marathon is back!

The Sports Expo returns for two days, October 26-28, at a new venue in the Jerusalem Cinema City, before the Friday marathon races.

Will the new children’s playground at Sacher Park be ready in time?

Participants will see new buildings in the city center as they run by.

The Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference is to be held at the new The Museum of Tolerance building. Last year it was held online.

Israeli President House lunch for German delegation in Jerusalem Israel

Andrea Merkel is back again. Three years ago this was the table set for the German Chancellor at a special lunch at Beit Hanasi, with then-President Reuven Rivlin and Israeli Nobel Prize winners. This time no media, private lunch for two, but I did see her motorcade leave.

The First Station parking lot has been full at night. People are back in large numbers. But, the winter igloos have popped up for those who still need more time in a cave and are not ready to party in crowds.

Here’s to celebrating, coming back, and enjoying life.

Hope to see you soon on the Jerusalem streets!

New Year in Jerusalem

Happy and relieved, in Jerusalem, Israel, that the summer temperatures went down for Rosh Hashana, and Shabbat Shuvah was even cooler! We could leave the air conditioning off, open the windows, and open our table up for guests again. A very limited number, but 5782 started so differently than last year.

I went all out for the first night of Rosh Hashana, even took time for a photo. Who even remembers last year–it was so uneventful. One short strange week, but slowly getting back to ‘normal’.

Selihot, prayers said late at night, or early in the morning are the norm for this holiday season before Yom Kippur.

Thanks to the Western Wall live stream I could watch while sitting at my desk at home past midnight when they begin.

The crowd at the Kotel, Western Wall grew larger as the clock turned to 1:00 am. I took this image to show how many women were out in the middle of the night for the special prayers.

And here you see some of the divisions on the Kotel Plaza to keep with the changing and challenging corona limitations and regulations.

Last year selihot at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence was canceled due to COVID. But this year it was back again – though limited in number.

In the Beit Hanasi back garden near the synagogue, the pomegranate tree planted in memory of Nechama Rivlin z”l was bent over from its ripe fruit.

President Isaac Herzog hosted the annual Selihot at Beit Hanasi that Ruvi Rivlin started during his term as Israeli President.

Popular singers were back to perform and lead the prayers. This year pa’aytan  Lior Elmaleh and singer Uriel Shay were selected.

President Herzog spoke to the socially distanced audience, IDF soldiers in uniform, and the Beit Hanasi Synagogue regular minyan goers returned to attend selihot. The entire program was live-streamed on his social media channels.

The President was honored to open the ark of Torah scrolls as in the past.

No one sat inside this year, so it was easier to get a clear photo in the small empty synagogue.

Will people return to synagogues after so long attending outdoor street services? Many people in Jerusalem have become comfortable just walking out their front door or listening over the back fence for services, some daily, and many on Shabbat, and including this past Rosh Hashana.

The Presidential cat made an appearance at the late-night selihot.

These attendees were mostly soldiers. However, there are multiple large selihot planned for this week, the Jerusalem Municipality at Kikar Safra and of course the Kotel, and plenty of selihot tours.

Yesterday was September 11th which marked twenty years since terrorists attacked the Twin Towers in New York City and the Pentagon. The thousands of lives taken by the suicide plane hijackers are remembered annually at the 9/11 Memorial location off the main road to Jerusalem.

The memorial commemoration is very limited this year.

Jerusalem memorial to victims of September 11 flowers placed on names of murdered.

However, before the corona, Remembering September 11 was typical.

All the names of the murdered are recorded on the walls of the monument.

United Airline pilots place flowers at memorial for victims of September 11

Pilots would place flowers near names they remembered.

Sobering.

Sad.

Twenty years later.

I cannot remember last year, but I remember the week prior to Rosh Hashana after 9/11 so well. We lived near Washington, DC, and the Pentagon. Our son was coming to spend the holidays with us, and was on a Lufthansa flight from Israel to Dulles Airport, due to land around 1:00 pm on September 11, 2001. His plane diverted to Gander, Newfoundland, and he was fortunate to make it out of Canada on the last flight, in order to be home for the holiday. Others were not so fortunate.

Now to end on a positive note!

A short video clip of selihot at Beit Hanasi this week.

And resharing a favorite from years past…

May all have a sweet and healthy year.

Here’s hoping to see you soon on the Jerusalem streets!

גמר חתימה טובה

May you be sealed for a good year

From Jerusalem – Shana Tova

Oh, what a year this was in Jerusalem, in Israel, and in the world!

Hard to believe I used to worry about things being the same year after year in Jerusalem and finding new things to share with you.

But now it’s time to say goodbye to the challenges of 5781 and welcome the new year 5782, beginning on Monday night.

The clouds in the night sky covered the Knesset.

Nature has been a constant this past year, but which will come first – the first rain or the budget – or – oy – another election?

The new sign at the bus stop reminds us of a sweet summer in Jerusalem.

Sports fans are celebrating Israel’s win over Austria 5-2 and advancing in the World Cup competition.

The Paralympics in Japan received less attention than the Olympics, but as usual, Israelis received medals in those races. Nine Israeli athletes received medals of which 6 were gold medals.

The Jerusalem Night Run included a group of visually impaired runners.

The winner in the Jerusalem Night Run received almost no attention. The event was much more modest than the last Jerusalem Marathon.

A book launch for the book ‘Hidden Heroes’ brought together Russian refusniks and individuals who worked for their release. More on that another time.

Tours are back at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence. The table buffet was set with sweets for the annual Israeli President’s New Year Diplomats Reception, not for the tourists from Kiryat Gat.

However, there was time for a photo with Herzl next to the pomegranates.

Last year, the 5781 annual diplomat event was all online.

For 5782, President Isaac Herzog and his wife Michal hosted a live event. All the diplomats lined up to shake hands, pose, and have their photos taken.

The new Ambassador from Morocco was the only one to make a presentation to the new Israeli President.

The Egyptian Ambassador has been to Beit Hanasi many times.

But the Ambassador from Bahrain, Khaled Al-Jalahma, made his first appearance at Beit Hanasi.

Still serving as Military Secretary to the President of Israel is B.G. Alaa Abu-Rukun, and he and the ambassador agreed to stop, pose, and smile for me.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid arrived late and spoke briefly at the formal part of the program inside, where everyone was required to wear a mask.

The diplomats were then asked to go outside, and take a glass of wine or juice to raise for a toast, l’chaim,

and taste an apple in honey for a sweet new year.

Apples and honey can be found on the new Jerusalem street signs.

Signs for a sweet year for 5782

and a healthy one, line Jerusalem streets,

along with the new signs for the new school year. Classes have started even as the number of corona cases rises. One girl in our family was in school for only one day before returning to zoom school.

When corona closings started last year, outside minyanim popped up and out on many Jerusalem streets. For Rosh Hashana 5782 outside prayers are again recommended, but not mandated. Thousands were at the Kotel, Western Wall, divided into sections, for selihot after Shabbat.

The rules keep changing to keep us on guard. Tour groups are to be allowed into Israel soon with no mandatory quarantine.

Now to prepare holiday meals, starting back slowly from no guests for so long. Oh, the days when eight at the table was a normal day.

After taking photos of hundreds of dignitaries and not being in any of them,

I finally gave in and had my photo was taken with the oldest working journalist in the world, 97 1/2 years young Walter Bingham.

As 5781 comes to an end – Shana tova!