3 Special Visitors and One Above the Jerusalem Streets

Have you also been getting reminders it’s been an entire year since the last- event, gathering, conference, meal out, or whatever?

Slowly signs of life are returning to the Jerusalem streets. Today a new list of restrictions went into effect, with new openings and relaxed regulations.

A tour group was outside the walls of the Old City ready to enter Jaffa Gate.

Though inside Jaffa Gate, there were still more birds than people.

Four special international visitors made headlines this past week. On Monday morning, the airport was open for the arrival of the first United Arab Emirates Ambassador to Israel, Mohammed Al Khaja.

In the afternoon, he arrived at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence.

The flag of the United Arab Emirates was flying on the Israeli official limousine as Mohammed Al Khaja came to present his credentials.

The motorcycles did not use sirens, but led the limo into the open gates.

Orange monster over Beit Hanasi in Jerusalem for Purim

You will note the Purim monster from last week was no longer over the gates!

A full red carpet was rolled out, though the IDF band and honor guard were limited in size due to corona restrictions. The fancy red UAE folder to be presented to the Israeli President can be seen here, on the far right.

Surprise! I ended up on Dubai TV news. Yes, that’s me across the street lurking by the white van. Very glad I did not wear my red hoodie.

Inside the Beit Hanasi main hall, both President Rivlin and Mohammed Al Khaja spoke. The new Ambassador presented his credentials and signed the official guest book. No months-long wait as for some other ambassadors.

When it was over President Rivlin walked his guest outside as music played.

The UAE and IDF military honor guard stood as the newest Ambassador to Israel entered the limousine to go to the King David Hotel.

King David Street in front of the hotel is closed, but officials usually use a side entrance. There was almost no one around, but I decided to go home instead of trying to get inside.

Also this week the King David Hotel hosted Prime Minister Netanyahu, Austrian Chancellor Kurz, and Danish PM Frederiksen.

Around the corner the Dan Panorama Hotel was busy, but with a very different group of international arrivals. Returning Israelis were required to quarantine in assigned hotels.

On Friday afternoon, people were dropping off packages before Shabbat. One man was let free after his isolation. If you want to see long emotional hugs, this is the place. No photo though, after travel ordeals and delays, I decided to let you use your imagination when she was finally able to greet him.

The requirement to quarantine in designated hotels is canceled as of today and will be replaced by increased enforcement by the Israel Police regarding those returning from abroad who are quarantining at home.

The night I went by the Panorama Hotel, and I saw that the YMCA was lit for the “Follow the Lights” which because of the Purim restrictions were short-changed.

Even the signs were not posted until late. Millions of shekels and hundreds of hours went into the “social distanced” event and half of the nights, sad to say, most of the lights were out during the curfew.

Back were the Flea Market and Bezalel Arts and Crafts Fair. Shots for shots, vaccinations in Machane Yehudah Market on Thursday night were given at a bar.

The fourth election in two years is set for March 23rd, and signs that go up are then taken down if they are posted in illegal locations. Jerusalem street cleaners are at work, day, and much of the night.

Anti-Bibi people are not happy even though there is another election. They come out daily, rain or shine, with umbrellas to scarves matching their signs of protest. And of course, they are loud at night too. I will spare you those photos and videos here.

Instead, I want to share the newest tourism campaign to ‘return to nature’ this spring in Jerusalem.

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From March 3-20, 2021, Jerusalem invites a return to exploring nature locations.

Winter rains may have been cold and bone-chilling, but the fields are green.

My quiet walking paths will be much busier soon.

There were new signs posted along the way in the Valley of the Cross.

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Will be nice though to see visitors returning to the Jerusalem streets, and off the streets in these nature locations as restrictions are now lifted.

Oh, and the One visitor above the Jerusalem streets?

Pope Francis flew over Israel on his way to Iraq and sent greetings to President Reuven Rivlin from the airplane. President Rivlin was so pleased he tweeted a reply as soon as Shabbat was over.

Interested in seeing more of Jerusalem for yourself? Take a Jerusalem Photo Walk. Check details out HERE

Jerusalem Purim Highlights

Purim.

Purim in Jerusalem is special.

Where else is Purim a three day holiday, that is celebrated for a week?

This year with corona restrictions and lockdowns, it was really different.

In years past, the Jerusalem streets were filled with happy people.

Scroll of Esther in Israel Museum illustrated and small on regular Purim exhibit

Reading Megilat Esther was a huge community event.

Synagogues were overflowing with people of all ages.

children dressed in costumes for Purim

Excited children came dressed in costumes, waiting for sweet treats.

This year, daytime readings were held in multiple locations on the hour.

Many readings took place outside with social distancing, like this one on Friday morning organized by Chabad of Rechavia.

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Following the Megillah on a cell phone has become common sight.

Readings were held at Thursday night outside. Jerusalem celebrated with the reading at the same time as the rest of Israel, on this Triple Purim year.

No costumed families in crowded malls as in past years.

But, Mamilla Mall was finally reopened and people came back to shop.

Holiday signs were placed in Kikar Safra, the Jerusalem Municipal Building.

Online programs from the Tower of David and Jerusalem Symphony special for Purim were available. But museums and some theaters are reopening for live audiences, however, with limited performances.

Jaffa Road was busy as the city is coming back to life again after the numerous business lockdowns.

People were on Jaffa Road shopping for holiday costumes before Purim.

There were a few costumes on the Jerusalem streets early in week.

New colorful plastic chairs are seen on many streets. With no inside dining allowed, the Jerusalem municipality has provided these chairs for outside.

Imagine stopping strangers on the street to take their photos? Then to find a family member who knows them – that is always a Purim favorite.

Ah, but on the Jerusalem streets, it is often hard to tell who is in costume.

On Purim day it is easier when someone waves and smiles across the road.

Live music played on this corner on Friday, providing a holiday mood.

Purim is always a good time to head to Shushan Street, near Jaffa Road.

On Sunday, the day after Shushan Purim, the Jerusalem streets really came alive with sounds of music.

Dozens of street performers in colorful costumes entertained.

One dance group was perfectly choreographed and drew admiring crowd.

Costumes were varied, colorful and plentiful, especially on Sunday.

Monsters were popular this year, like these on the Montefiore Windmill,

at the beginning of Jaffa Road overlooking Kikar Tzahal,

and at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence.

I hope someone explained Purim to the six new ambassadors to Israel who presented their credentials on Wednesday, entering through the main gate under the orange inflated monster.

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The ‘Follow the Lights’ event with 22 Jerusalem sites lit up at night is to run through this week.

On Purim night with the 8:30 pm curfew, these wheels were spinning.

The Knesset was lit for the ‘Follow the Lights’ but no beams on top for the three nights when coronavirus restrictions limited movement on streets.

I was glad I took this video on Monday before the the curfews began.

The Montefiore Windmill was lit up on Purim night and needed a video.

On Purim in Jerusalem, you never know what or who you will find.

When posting some Purim costume street photographs on Facebook, a person commented that it was good to see “normality” again.

Like the two giant leprechauns out for a stroll on Ben Yehudah Street?

Yoda reminds us, “The dark side clouds everything. Impossible to see the light, the future is.”

The Purim holiday reminds us to look to the bright side and light in the future from behind our masks.

The fourth monster in the Purim fancy dress series was the Jerusalem icon Mifletzet. The Monster in the Kiryat Yovel Rabinowitz Park wore a gold crown -corona is Spanish for a crown – this Purim holiday.

As we end this most unusual Purim, hoping next year in Jerusalem for all!

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Happy Purim!

Three days of Purim not enough? There are more photos HERE

Jerusalem Week of Contrasts

In Jerusalem, Israel it was another week of extremes and contrasts.

Jaffa Gate was still closed and the plaza was empty outside and inside. As the world turned and the sun rose and set, the Old City was shut down.

Warms days followed by heavy winter rains filled Mamilla Pool. By Friday, people had ventured down to check out the winter wonder.

A view of the new of the Museum of Tolerance from old Mamilla cemetery .

Businesses are struggling to survive near Mamilla Mall during lockdown.

Two (even one) wheelers are in the still closed Mamilla Mall, where only a liquor store was open this past week.

The Arab shuk near Jaffa Gate was shuttered tight on Friday.

The only two people on the street Friday afternoon were police officers. The souvenir store vendor who earlier in the week tried to get me to buy something, anything, was not around and his store was shuttered down.

The infrastructure work near the Kotel, Western Wall, was completed by Friday and all was quiet. Guards were carefully watching who could enter.

I was instructed “No praying allowed” this past week.

On Monday, construction work was going full steam on the Kotel Plaza.

Interesting how fast work can proceed in Jerusalem- or how slowly.

Maybe one day the abandoned Pearl hotel will be fixed up for guests, at least no one sleeps on the streets outside now.

Parts of the old President’s Hotel were reduced to rubble last week.

Building on King George Street which was torn down to build hotel

Remember this derelict building on Jerusalem’s King George Street?

Two 10-story towers are rising in its place on the street near the Plaza Hotel.

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Even the old police station on Jaffa Road was getting a new paint job.

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Look what is rising over Jaffa Road next to the Machane Yehudah Market!

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Contrast this lockdown scene in the shuk – at the same time as the Old City was closed and empty.

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A favorite winter sight, not masks, but piles of those ripe red strawberries.

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Walking home I noticed new bright graffiti covering old walls in Nahlaot.

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The old synagogue was shut tight, with no prayers allowed inside.

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But the light shining through its stained glass window was colorful and bright and could be seen from the street.

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One more bit of new graffiti on a wall and the mess of a contrast next to it.

Jerusalem streets may have light traffic, but the sidewalks have been busy!

Besides people out walking more during the limited distance restriction,

there have been plenty of two wheelers of many types and kinds and skills.

I will spare you all the photos this week of bikers who nearly ran me over.

We continue to have to deal with noisy protesters day after day after night.

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Ah, but Jerusalem the center of the world, is quieter than usual.

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However wandering the Jerusalem streets there was still music to be heard.

And signs of spring to see in nature, even in this locked down week.

Hard to believe this was Tu Bishvat last year, remembering a favorite and beautiful moment, Hatikvah – the hope at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence – BCE – Before Corona Era.

What a contrast to this year! And next year?

No one knows what will be or even who will be the next Israeli President?

Hope and flowers and continued vaccination campaign…and partial lifting of restrictions to begin this week.

Hope to see you soon on the Jerusalem streets. Take care and stay well out there.