Jerusalem Streets Slowly in War Time Returning to Normal

Another week — where to begin and what to share?

No, this is not a Six-Day War.

However, life is beginning, ever so slowly, to return to the Jerusalem streets.

The buildings are rising higher and higher than in the past.

The shops are opening after dark again.

Winter clouds fill the skies and the weather is again a topic of conversation.

The “activity” on the northern border reminded me of this photo from the last trip to the border with Lebanon when we were shooting each other with cameras, not missiles. Hezbollah was already on the border, in violation of UN Resolution 1701.

The residents of northern communities have been evacuated from their homes for months, as well as the residents of southern communities. Up to 300,000 Israelis cannot go home yet.

However, to start the New Year, the barrage of rockets fired from Gaza reached the partygoers in Tel Aviv.

On December 31st, there was a well-attended book launch and program at Ohel Nechama Synagogue in Jerusalem.

The farmer’s markets have become a regular sight, along with soldiers in uniform with a weapon over one shoulder and a child in tow.

Baking has become a weekly event in thousands of households. Thousands of challahs and cookies are being sent every week to soldiers on all fronts, as a way for those not toting a weapon to support the war front from home.

The delicate beauty in nature can still catch your eye if you walk along the Jerusalem streets.

However, a favorite sighting was the new Japanese Pagoda in the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens lit at night as seen from the road. It is planned to open when the cherry trees next to it start to bloom, which is only a few weeks away. Perhaps it will be on schedule.

While plans for events in the future are limited, some are being held. One bat mitzvah girl had a party for close friends to mark the occasion, a larger event for family will be held later. Each girl made two bracelets, one for themselves, and one for a girl who was evacuated from her home.

So Jerusalem streets are filling with honking traffic again, with reminders of those still held hostage in Gaza to “Bring them home now.”

And below this sign, near the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens, I saw a Gett taxi driver who had just gotten off his knees after evening prayers. As he tossed his prayer mat into the taxi, I walked around and up the stairs to go home.

Just another day on the real Jerusalem streets that does not make headlines.

Jerusalem Remembers but Looks to Better Future in 2024

On my social media feed, Israeli friends are posting, “For the rest of the world it’s New Year’s Eve,

but here in Israel – it’s October 85.” Today is the 86th day since Hamas invaded on the Shabbat of Simhat Torah, October 7, destroyed thousands of lives, and hundreds of Israelis were taken hostage in Gaza.

The Jerusalem streets are filled with refugees from the south of Israel and the north, as the war rages on. Life also goes on, though at a different pace.

This past week, there was another full moon over Jerusalem, as the seasons began to change from long dark nights to longer brighter days.

The lively sound of piyut music was coming from downstairs at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center.

While upstairs Benny Begin son of Menachem Begin was giving a short history of Gaza.

Oh, how I dislike the photos that show those posters in the small hall.

But there was something about the way Ariel Sharon kept staring during Begin’s interesting presentation.

I knew of the mosaic from a 6th-century synagogue in Gaza, but his image is better than the one I had.

I did learn about the Margolin family who owned a hotel in Gaza. In the 1929 riots, the Jews living in Gaza were able to shelter in their hotel and escape without being killed.

On the way home the sign at the parking lot near First Station said “FULL” and it really was, as people are slowly coming back to the Jerusalem streets.

Jerusalem Municipality is promoting culture with multiple sponsored events.

Coming back, a new kosher restaurant at 1 Ben Maimon Street, at the site of the old Moment Cafe.

The extra-long Israeli flag is too short for the new buildings rising in Jerusalem.

It was a surprise to see work being done on the future Knesset Museum on King George Street.

A very good sign to see the tables out and a few people back in Kikar Hamusica, Music Square.

These decorations were put up before the summer but seemed to only get attention now.

While the holiday decorations are up the holiday crowds stayed away by the millions this year.

But the volunteers and solidarity missions keep coming to Israel. This group of 18 young adults from around the world came for a first-hand experience to take back to their countries to support Israel. This is so important as social media is filled with lies, distortions, and denial. They are part of a Young Leadership Academy sponsored by KKL-JNF and WZO, each one an outstanding individual, and hope for the future.

Their last stop on the brief mission was at the Kotel, Western Wall, before heading home.

These female soldiers caught our attention as they came to pray.

This case of candles is located at the Kotel Plaza, in memory of the murdered and fallen on October 7.

As the world moves on, after 3 months, the candles are a sign to also remember the hostages.

For the holiday season, the Old City was sadly too quiet, with early evening looking like the middle of the night.

Even at the Hurva Synagogue, I could get a photo with no one in the image.

Also sad, is the Arab shuk, where the Arab vendors have missed another big holiday season.

A lone Jerusalem cat at First Station is also suffering from a lack of tourists.

However, to leave you on a brighter note, the new Jerusalem swimming pool and fitness center is open.

The pool is not Olympic-sized, but large and open all year round, the only comparison to the old one is its location. There is a baby pool outside ready for the summer. The fitness center upstairs is impressive.

The “Israel loves Biden” sign has been replaced with “You are great Congresswoman Elise Stefanik.”

Dana & Yakir got married last week. Love the flowers and bows decorating the wedding party cars.

So along with the sadness, life moves along. One day at a time. We wish Dana and Yakir a big mazel tov.

And hope to see you all soon on the Jerusalem streets. That’s it for 2023.

In Jerusalem, Hanukkah lights in the darkness

Hanukkah was over Friday night at sunset.

In Jerusalem, sirens sounded over the Jerusalem streets at 5:01 pm, as Shabbat services were to begin. People had to seek shelter. A stark reminder that the rockets from Gaza could still be headed to Jerusalem, Israel, not just along the Gaza border or the border in the north.

These large flags are displayed all over the roads, a reminder that we are at war.

These silent construction projects are a reminder of the Arab workers, who are not working.

But the clean-up crews from the Jerusalem municipality keep going strong to collect the trash.

On Hanukkah Cinema City was a popular family recreation site.

The OU Hanukkah event for Olim filled the Nefesh BeNefesh hall with young families.

A shortcut through the Supreme Court to the Knesset was not a good idea.

The gate to the path through the Rose Garden was locked.

Who knows if and when the Rose Garden will reopen again?

Or when the protest tent with the families of the hostages will close?

The National Library of Israel is gaining popularity and more readers are in the reading room.

The circulation desk is open and appears to be responsive.

A small coffee shop also is now open for people to drink and eat, and sit and talk.

These chairs and books are ready and waiting for the hostages to finally return home from captivity.

The Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein National Campus for Archaeology of Israel is across the street from the National Library and the Israel Museum and is next to the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem, all near the Knesset.

It was open briefly to the public for two hours on Hanukkah. The entrance might appear modest.

Tours begin with the mosaic on the floor as you enter the building site.

But the outside appearance does deceive. It goes down 8 stories! I have waited to see what has been accomplished since my first visit in 2016!

The spaces were designed to be open to see the work being done.

The library had been a shell, with bare cement walls, but is now very impressive.

Multiple labs are open and appear to be operating.

This year was not a perfect festive eight days of Hanukkah.

The first night lighting the first candle on the Jerusalem streets,

and other nights I missed doing the usual big tours and crowds.

However, I noticed the lemons were turning yellow against the blue sky,

and the new winter grass is bright green.

While the clouds at night have been mostly pink.

A simpler eight days of Hanukkah 5784 have passed.

The colorful candles of Hanukkah have burned down and are put away for this year.

However, we continue to believe good must triumph over evil.