Jerusalem under Corona Going Up

For months I stayed close to home, so when I ventured out it was a shock.

In Jerusalem, Israel, walking in the park and nature areas had been a daily relief from COVID-19 limitations. But seeing what had been done to the Jerusalem streets in my absence was amazing.

Israel Park with people

Some locations recently renovated have become popular out door spaces.

With the announcement of the renovation, expansion, and renaming of the Jerusalem International Conference Center for Shimon Peres, it was time to go again see what was happening.

It was exciting to see new stairs leading up to where the old parking lot was located. The past years access has been difficult with so many changes in the infrastructure. Every time you came for an event, there was a new traffic pattern and the old stairs were gone.

Jerusalem of old is going and the new is going down and up and up.

The old Kraft Stadium has gone down, just down as seen from the street.

But the housing across the road has gone up and up.

This new Abba Eban Street was one of the first in the neighborhood.

The old Foreign Ministry campus is now a luxury housing project going up.

The bollards are up on the new sidewalk in front the Netanyahu house.

But business in the area is down. This red antique van, parked near Balfour Street for a very long time, was in front of a closed restaurant.

The restaurants and bars are closed, but the bakery is open with patrons waiting outside at a distance, and many food places are selling take out.

Not so easy for a tailor to social distance and survive financially.

But walk up the street and there are new traffic lights and construction.

First time I saw a worker cutting stones on the spot.

The street by the Ohel Nechama Synagogue on the way to the Jerusalem Theater is being redone.

The Jerusalem Theater looks the same, however, it is closed. I just missed a dance class which took place on the plaza outside in front.

This is the new footpath and view from the Jerusalem Theater plaza.

The footpath leads to the new parking lot for the theatre. Seems the builders added a couple of extra floors and now construction has stopped and the action has moved to the court room.

The area around the Jerusalem Theater is very different. Be warned the first time you go to give yourself extra time to figure out which direction is up or down or around.

The Museum of Islamic Art, as are the other museums, is closed and in financial trouble with no visitors. An auction of 200 items from the private museum’s storerooms was halted due to negative publicity.

But there should be more concern for the small business owner who can’t legally open their doors.

Walking around the Jerusalem streets, building after building is going up.

Bus stops have been moved, streets were redone with commercial parking.

The construction fence is gone, and now there’s a new theater in Liberty Bell Park near the rollerblading skating rink and new parking lot.

New seating areas with wooden benches and shade grace more Jerusalem streets since the novel coronavirus crippled the tourism industry.

New paths with fancy wood garbage bins have been installed in Gan Sacher, Sacher Park, along with lots of new landscaping.

But walking around Jerusalem, it was good to see some of the familiar sites.

The stairs in Yemin Moshe look the same as before the novel coronavirus.

And the Lion Fountain was back on! No children were splashing and cooling in the water as in past years, but the big lion had the same one drop drip from his chin as before.

So much had changed on the Jerusalem streets over the spring and summer.

The Tower of David is closed to the public for a major renovation. I will share that big project next time. Meanwhile, I will end with a clip from the King David Night and Light Show. Can’t wait to see what they do next!

Hope to be able to share the real Jerusalem streets with you in person soon.

Jerusalem Locked Down

In the middle of a conflict, later called the Second Lebanon War, I made aliyah and moved to Jerusalem, Israel.

I accompanied missions to southern Israel during multiple “operations.” We watched early Iron Dome successes over our heads at a rest stop café. From our van (buses were too big to exit in time) we ran to a ditch during a red alert. Crowded into a family’s bomb shelter in a border community during one warning siren, the mother could tell where the rocket landed by the sound. The bomb shelter was her children’s bedroom, they had never known another existence.

I used to really get around. Israel is really not so big.

There were northern border excursions during “heightened” alerts.

In an Arab town with Yassir Arafat and Abu Mazen photos looking down at me, I sat and listened to a woman’s land ownership story go unchallenged. For sure, I was very careful to stay with the group that time.

Even during the “stabbing intifada” I was out on the Jerusalem streets.

And then came along the microscopic novel coronavirus and I stayed home.

Finally, and for many weeks my morning walk was aimed to avoid people.

As the end of the second lockdown came to an end, I decided it was time to get out again and see what was really happening on the Jerusalem streets.

Some people used the time at home to improve their front porch gardens.

The building construction was so overwhelming, it requires a post of its own in the future. As you can see, there was no ban on building construction.

With less cars on the roads, road work closed and changed many streets.

Shops in Jerusalem’s Mamilla Mall were closed during the lockdown.

The end of February was the last time I had gone to the Old City.

Usually, this area outside of the Old City near Jaffa Gate is filled with traffic, day or night. Not during this lockdown.

Usually, this area outside of Jaffa Gate, is filled with people.

Jaffa Gate was closed, as it was during the first lockdown.

Security was posted at the entrance, checking vehicles and pedestrians.

I had to show my press pass to enter. There was security at all gates. With the one-kilometer distance restriction, only residents were allowed to enter.

The only crowd I saw was waiting outside the Old City post office.

The stores inside Jaffa Gate were closed, as they have been for weeks. The tourism business has been extremely hurt for months.

The Armenian way had more flags than usual, but what was a very busy road in the past, with people and cars, day and night, was mostly empty.

There is a new archeological stop in the Rova HaYehudi, Jewish Quarter, but no visitors to learn the stories of these ancient finds.

A couple of the food places in the Jewish Quarter had take out prepared food, but no sit-down dinners or the usual walking noshers in sight.

There were more construction workers than worshipers near the Kotel, Western Wall. Construction of the new elevator is finally moving along.

The 1-kilometer distance regulation was enforced with more security by the Kotel. Showing my press pass was not enough, the guard wanted me to get close and hand it over for inspection.

I decided not enter the empty plaza to get to the partitioned area.

Two workers were on the scaffolding doing repair work along the Western Wall near the Southern Wall. More on that later also.

Jerusalem’s usually vibrant Old City was locked down and quiet.

What a contrast to the the traffic on other Jerusalem streets last week.

The sounds of traffic could be heard as the sun rose this morning, October 18, as some restrictions were lifted. The idea is to open slowly to avoid the increase in coronavirus cases as happened after the last COVID-19 lockdown.

This morning the family Whatsapp had the smiling faces of the under 6-year-olds off to gan, nursery school for the first time – again – this year.

The “Time” exhibit opened at the Islamic Museum in August.

What a time it has been! This most unusual holiday season is over.

Despite these crazy times of political and health uncertainty, the sunsets last week were colorful spectacles.

Nature, the sun and moon, the seasons changed as usual, despite the pandemic.

Another day, I also walked into town for the first time in months – but will save those lockdown photographs for next time.

חודש טוב

This image from Yoel Salomon Street of the hanging umbrellas overhead waiting for the summer tourists who never arrived, was popular on social media as a Shabbat Shalom greeting.

So I thought to use it again for a new greeting of Chodesh Tov.

The new Hebrew month of Marcheshvan is here.

May it be a good month and good year for all.

Stay safe and well!

Sukkot in Jerusalem 2020

Oh, Jerusalem of 2020.

It used to be that “20-20” was an expression for hindsight.

This year of 2020 has taken on a different context with the COVID-19 pandemic. The novel coronavirus has changed the world and certainly life as we knew it in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem, Israel, endured a holiday season so unlike recent years, the excited holiday crowds and tens of thousands of international visitors were missing from the Jerusalem streets.

The huge Birkat Kohanim at the Kotel, Western Wall, was extremely limited.

The Israeli Chief Rabbis, Mayor Moshe Lion, US Ambassador David Friedman attended, however, the main plaza was empty. People watched from home on a screen, on Facebook for a live stream of the service.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Capture-chohen.jpg

On other days a lone Kohen could be found blessing the small prayer groups. Regulations for the holiday week this year limited outdoor groups to 20 people, and within one kilometer from home.

This was the year for the private home sukkah, tucked away in the garden,

or up on the roof,

in all shapes and styles.

Some sukkot blended into the architecture,

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is library-water-home-034-b.jpg

while others were easier to see.

A wooden one on this small porch is an annual sight,

but there seemed to be many more new white walls in driveways this year,

as more people had to stay home and not travel near or far.

They were placed in parking spots next to apartment buildings.

On the last night of Sukkot, I took a walk around the neighborhood and found a friend eating dinner. This “communal” sukkah is shared by many people in the building, but this year families were eating at separate times and not sharing meals.

When I started going each year, President Shimon Peres was at Beit Hanasi, hosting the Israeli President’s sukkah which was open to the public.

But this year, President Rivlin missed out hosting the public, and the “open sukkah” was a two-hour program online, which included

the Israel Space Agency, a program involving young Israelis.

The little Professor G got my vote as the cutest presenter.

Photo credit: Aleksandr Tokar

Even the sukkah at the Kotel Plaza, though brightly lit, was much smaller this year and was used only by those who lived near by.

Instead of running around all night long in Jerusalem to attend classes, now one can sit anywhere in the world and zoom in and out to learn Torah.

This year went online for dozens of lectures for Hashana Raba.

And music – last year Akiva Tourgeman was singing at Beit Hanasi, this year he was on Israeli TV.

This year Tourgeman was on stage for Hashana Raba televised concert.

Yemima Mizrachi spoke and introduced Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion and other performers on the outdoor stage for an online Hashana Raba event.

This was the year of the small sukkah and even smaller holiday businesses.

Hoshanot at the Kotel, were seen live on Facebook and now on YouTube.

The Jerusalem March with tens of thousands from around the world coming to show love for Jerusalem did not happen.

The Bible Marathon was run online, not over the Judean landscapes.

Tourism which had been in the millions of visitors, went down to zero.

Small business owners have really been suffering with forced closings.

This was a year to find simple pleasure in nature close to home.

Repurposed unused school lunch bags made into a sukkah decoration.

Of immediate family time together,

seeking quiet time and some sun up on the roof,

or on a rock in the park for solitude.

The Sukkot and Simhat Torah under corona limitations for many were at home, home alone without the usual dancing and large parties.

None of the crowds of past years.

Oh, Jerusalem of 2020!

The sun set on another holiday season so different than last year.

Sukkot 2020 one to remember or one to try and forget?

Next year in Jerusalem.