Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov

The Jerusalem Municipality has invested a lot in landscaping and vegetation.

Flower beds are planted near many Jerusalem, Israel streets, and intersections.

Chodesh tov, Rosh Hodesh Elul poster made from floral butterfly at Sacher Park

This floral butterfly near Gan Sacher, Sacher Park is in full bloom.

Though similar to four years ago, these are new flowers.

Shabbat Shalom written on Jerusalem Israel flowers

שבת שלום

חודש טוב

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