Jerusalem: Summer 2020 Starting Ready or Not

Jerusalem: Summer 2020 Starting Ready or Not

Skies over Jerusalem, Israel, were not as bright this morning, with a partial eclipse of the sun. Sadly, my attempt to get a photo failed.

June clouds over Jerusalem Israel skyline

However, the clouds over the Jerusalem streets last week were amazing.

June clouds over Jerusalem Israel streets

Here’s another image of clouds with a view of the center of town.

Summer is a time for a vacation in Israel. After inbound tourism to Israel had reached a historic high of 4.55 million tourists at the end of 2019, the industry expected to break another new record of 5 million tourists in 2020. But as a result of the global tourism crisis, the tourism industry in Jerusalem has been hard hit.

Some smaller venues and the Tower of David Museum have started to open.

Israel Museum in Jerusalem closed because of coronavirus regulations

But the Israel Museum gates are shut. It stands empty at the start of summer. In the past, it would be a time filled with people of all ages from around the world.

Israel Museum no people grounds empty midday in June COVID-19

I always wanted a photo of the Israel Museum’s  ‘Turning the World Upside Down’ by Anish Kapoor without people standing around and in my way. Certainly, I never imagined it would be finally possible with the world turned upside down due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. As people around the world Zoom into funerals, conferences, and weddings, standing outside the Israel Museum all I needed was a simple zoom lens.

Construction on Israel National Library progress even during coronavirus restrictions and closings

However, across the street, the National Library construction was proceeding and visible well above ground. Interesting to compare to what the library site was like five years ago. 

The larger hotels, like the King David, Crown Plaza, and Orient are still closed.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Israel’s first international state visitor at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Jerusalem. In the framework of the G2G meeting between the governments of Israel and Greece, he met with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Greek and Israeli flags at Beit Hanasi for official state ceremony

Before COVID-19, Greek officials were received at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence with blue and white flags.

And an honor guard red carpet welcome, with national anthems, and media invited to attend and record.

But, the current smaller-scaled reception resulted in the signing by ministers of three MOUs – on cyber, agriculture, and tourism. Plus, it was announced that it will be possible for Israeli tourists to travel to Greece and possibly return from Greece and Cyprus without a quarantine requirement by August 1, 2020.

Prime Minister of Greece and President of Israel at Beit Hanasi
Photo credit: Mark Neyman (GPO)

Besides the important agreements, there was an official photo with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of Greece and President Reuven Rivlin at Beit Hanasi.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of Greece:and Israeli President at Beit Hanasi bump elbows
Photo credit: Mark Neyman (GPO)

And the new coronavirus greeting of bumping elbows and not shaking hands.

There was also to be an official visit from Cyprus, but it was postponed as the numbers of coronavirus cases has started to rise again in multiple Israeli locations.

Knesset in 2017 opening session Tzipi Hotovley

It was announced that MK Tzipi Hotovely is leaving the Knesset to replace Mark Regev as Ambassador to the United Kingdom. The usual anti-Israel sources are protesting the appointment. Remembering when Brazil would not accept Dani Dayan?   The best thing that happened to Dayan was when he went to New York as Israel’s General Counsel and has done an outstanding job.

View of Gaza from Israel where IDF monitors border

Back in November 2018, we were on a media tour near the Israeli border to see the IDF view of Gaza.

Israel Gaza border Tehilla Friedman on tour

There was Tehila Friedman in her signature red hat having a private guided tour. With the new Knesset arrangements, Tehila is one of the newest Knesset members. As Knesset members, the two female politicians are from different parties with very different political views, but both are concerned with the welfare of Israel.

New Jerusalem Israel summer tourist hamburger food trucks

The red food truck came back, with labeling for burgers, both meat and vegan burgers.

I love the name of Beyond Burgers in Hebrew – ביונד מיט-הדור הבה

In time for today’s International Yoga Day, Abraham Hostel announced rooftop Yoga.

What a contrast to two years ago and the big events for the first day of summer.

Man praying in Valley of Cross park area

Now a man praying alone in nature is more likely scene than group yoga.

Wildflower in Jerusalem Israel park area

The summer flowers around are blooming.

The sights and smells of summer abound.

Wild flower in Jerusalem Israel

Even this bead tree or Indian lilac flowers were pretty, though it’s toxic and intrusive.

The pleasant senses of nature will have to suffice.

This summer of 2020 the large annual festivals are not happening.

Protests from the cultural community, one of the daily protests near the Prime Minister’s Office and Knesset, could be heard from kilometres away.

I will leave you with one of the favorite sights and sounds from the Jerusalem Light Festival of 2018.

Here’s to hoping next year – or better – this year to see you on the Jerusalem streets.

Celebrating Yom Yerushalayim 2020

Celebrating Yom Yerushalayim 2020

Yom Yerushalayim 5780, Jerusalem Day 2020, marks the 53rd year of the liberation of Jerusalem from Jordanian rule and the return of Jews to the Old City after 19 years of exile.

With restrictions due to pandemic COVID-19 still enforced, the usual large public musical gatherings did not happen. However, multiple events were held and broadcast live. The backyard minyan in the back of our house concluded their morning prayer service with the singing of HaTikvah.

Music going around to neighborhoods on Jerusalem Day

A truck blasting holiday music went around Jerusalem streets on the eve of Yom Yerushalayim. I noticed later all the Israeli flags on the cars following behind.

Israeli Ethiopian memorial in cemetery on Mount Herzl

It has become a tradition on the eve of Yom Yerushalayim to remember the Ethiopians who died on the treacherous journey to reach Jerusalem. The annual ceremony is held at Har Herzl near the monument in their memory.

Ethiopians who died on journey to Israel remembered before Jerusalem Day
Photo credit: Mark Neyman

Here President Rivlin greets the religious leaders after the official state event, held before a much smaller audience this year.

New olim from Ethiopia arrive in Israel
photo credit: Shlomi Amsalem

Later in the day, Jewish Agency Chairman of the Executive Isaac Herzog and the new Minister of Aliyah and Integration Pnina Tamano-Shata welcomed 119  new olim from Ethiopia to Israel. Each year for Sigd, I marvel at how they prayed toward the holy Temple in Jerusalem,  yearning to return to Zion, long before Herzl and political Zionism.

Kotel for Yom Yerushalayim restricted for COVID19

At night the scene at the Kotel, Western Wall, was also different than in the past, divided into sections and numbers greatly limited.

Kotel for Yom Yerushalayim with large Israel flag

This Israeli flag displayed before the evening prayers was not small at all!

Jerusalem Day special prayer book at Western Wall

There was a live broadcast of the special evening service, with a special prayer book,

Rabbis at Kotel for Yom Yerushalayim prayers

and with the Israeli Chief Rabbis in attendance.

Cantor Shai Abramson once again led the service with his powerful and impressive voice.

Flagdance at the Kotel on Yom Yerushalayim coronavirus

Thousands of people singing and dancing with flags – not this year.

But there was an enthusiastic FlagDance of coronavirus proportions.

Remembering fallen soldiers at Ammunition Hill official state ceremony

At Ammunition Hill the official state celebration of the liberation of Jerusalem 53 years ago began with remembering fallen soldiers.

President Rivlin speaking on Yom Yerushalayim
photo credit: Mark Neyman (GPO)

President Rivlin spoke and also Prime Minister and Jerusalem Mayor.

Ammunition Hill on Yom Jerusalem 2020

Fireworks ended the program which included musical performances.

The traditional celebration at Yeshivat Mercaz Harav was held outdoors this year, and featured the Prime Minister as a speaker.

Each year the Mayor of Jerusalem rushes from one event to another.

The rest of us have to decide where to go and how to get around the crowds.

This year it was not such a big problem.

Everything was new and different this year and most of it online!

Musical performance near old City walls for Jerusalem Day

Want more? See 2 hours of Jerusalem songs from Yom Yerushalayim   HERE

I love Jerusalem on Tel Aviv municipal building

Even Tel Aviv lit up its love for Jerusalem on Yom Yerushalayim.

This video was taken 5 years ago, but it’s worth sharing again to hear such beautiful voices.

I posted the video on LinkedIn for Yom Yerushalayim, and surprise!  I found out that the ‘soldier’ on the left is the cousin of an old friend!

On or off the Jerusalem streets, there is always something happening.

Yom Yerushalayim Sameach!

Happy Jerusalem Day

 

Jerusalem Lag B’Omer to Yom Yerushalayim

Jerusalem Lag B’Omer to Yom Yerushalayim

Jerusalem, Israel center of the world?

Jerusalem at center of world

This mural, based on a medieval map, is at Kikar Safra, Municipal Square, and is called “Center of the World.” There’s Jerusalem in the center with Europe, Asia, and Africa positioned around it.

Walls of Old City Jerusalem Israel light with flags and we stand with you COVID-19

With the world going virtual and viral during this coronavirus crisis, a night of unity with the Diaspora was held with a projection on the walls of the Old City near Jaffa Gate, which had flags and the message “Israel stands with you.”

Now is a good time to stay inside.

A May heatwave is not unusual in Jerusalem.

Neither is the weather going from too cold to too hot.

However, this week is very hot!

Jerusalem Israel view of Valley of Cross from above

On my last walk before locking down, the Valley of Cross was bright green.

Today in the dry heat it is rapidly turning to summertime dead yellow.

But the big news, after over 500 days and 3 elections – there is a government.

Israeli Government 35 cabinet in Chagall Hall

The new Israeli Government #35 has 36 Ministers and 15 Deputy Ministers. The first socially distanced meeting was held in the Chagall Hall. Already there is the discussion (or rather dispute) whether this is better than a 4th election. Time will tell, but stability and progress would be nice. Meanwhile coming up with clever names for ministerial positions kept some folks entertained.

Lag B’Omer was very different this year, besides the cool weather last week.

In Jerusalem, we could open our windows, as air quality was a great improvement over past Lag B’Omer celebrations.

The smell of forest fires was in the air this morning, though we cannot see anything burning.

However, for Lag B’Omer, Jerusalem is not the place to be, but usually Meron is.

Light large fire at Meron on Lag B'Omer

This year the only legal large bonfires were in Meron.

Where, instead of the usual tens of thousands of people crowding around, 50 guests were allowed for each of three fires.

One of the Lag B’Omer events at Mount Meron was broadcast live by the Government Press Office.

Singers on Lag B'Omer at Meron at night

Musicians and speakers were spread out on various outdoor positions.

Screen shot GPO live of Meron on Lag B'Omer coronavirus

The guitarist was wearing a mask.

Boyaner rebbe wearing gloves at Mount Meron

The Boyaner Rebbe who was honored to light the fire wore gloves.

Two Haredi men wearing hats and face shields COVID19

These two men wore face shields, at a very different Meron celebration this Lag B’Omer.

In Jerusalem, for Lag B’Omer in the afternoon, our local Chabad tried to provide some music.

It was not quite Macy’s parade but was meant to entertain the children at home.

Now schools have reopened and traffic appears to be back to normal.

Emergency MDA bus
Credit MDA Spokesperson

COVID-19 new cases and other numbers have gone down. But MDA is ready with its latest emergency vehicle – a MDA bus.

Inside demonstration of new MDA bus treatment center
Credit MDA Spokesperson

Inside multiple patients can be treated at the same time as seen demonstrated above.

Israel transports into Gaza in May 2020 COVID-19

The entire time of this novel coronavirus Israel has sent supplies into Gaza on a regular basis. The first week of May, 260 tons of medical supplies crossed over from Kerem Shalom Crossing.

View of Nachlaot in Jerusalem Israel

On my last photo walk, this was a view of Shaarei Hesed.

Liberty Bell Park in Jerusalem Israel in January 2020

Here is another image from the Liberty Bell Park.

For the first time, Jerusalem has overtaken Eilat in the number of hotel rooms (11,100) and now has the most in Israel. Some hotels are planning to start open next month.

No idea when photo walks will start up again.

King George Street Yom Yerushalayim

The crowds of singing and dancing for Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, will not happen as in the past years. The major official event will begin at Mercaz Harav Yeshiva on Wednesday evening with the Prime Minister and President scheduled to speak.

Music and songs will be broadcast by Jerusalem municipality and multiple organizations. Smaller events are to be held in Jerusalem community locations.

Plus, there are to be small local flag dances in dozens of cities around Israel to celebrate the 53 yeas of the reunification of Jerusalem.

Yom HaZikaron and Yom Haatzmaut flags and flowers

Neighbors have their flags ready for Yom Yerushalayim. 

Jerusalem Pesach crowd on Jaffa Road

Celebrations changed drastically this year. The large holiday crowds did not appear as last year.

Jerusalem Israel Dome of Rock Old City

For centuries Jerusalem has been an attraction. Last year, 1.26 million tourists stayed in Jerusalem, spending a total of 4.17 million nights in the city.

Jerusalem continues to be Israel’s largest city, with 919,400 residents.

For a second consecutive year, there was negative migration of -6000, the lowest level for a decade. Of those leaving the city, 46% have left for communities in the Jerusalem metropolitan area. The number of those moving to Jerusalem is the highest ever – 12,800 people.

Red sky at sunset over Israel Museum in Jerusalem Israel

And the blazing sky over the Israel Museum and Jerusalem streets at sunset – impressive.