Jerusalem Moving Forward: The Hope for Future

If last week was a week of transitions, this one is set to be even greater.

Not only because we had the whole family together for the first time in years for a photo and it’s my birthday. The final countdown has started for a new Israeli government after 12 years under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Jerusalem tourism is looking to improve with an announcement that on July 1st tourists are to be allowed into Israel. People have already started traveling again, as much as possible.

Photo credit: Mark Neyman GPO

Reuven Rivlin, in his last month as president, flew to Romania on an official visit this past week. An important stop was to speak at a joint session of the Romanian parliament before some 350 members of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies.

Last week, a corona is over celebration was held at the Jerusalem Theater.

Outside, security told me “no photos,” so this was as close to the white security tent at the entrance I could get. Most people didn’t know what was going on inside, and traffic was not blocked.

An award ceremony was held at the Jerusalem Theater to show appreciation for the Israeli health institutions and their contributions to successful efforts during the pandemic.

Real food – a sign of back to what was before corona, plus this event included healthy food options.

Hospital heads were present plus, police, military and emergency services.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein entered the theater wearing a mask.

A moment of silence for those who died and Hatikvah began the program.

A video with milestone days, ended with 461, and together we won.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke proudly of his accomplishment.

Ironic. Corona-over-celebration. However, the former Health Minister was one of few not wearing a mask in the packed auditorium. It was in his speech that Edelstein announced that the mask law was to be lifted.

However, as the certificates were presented, masks were off. It seems handshaking and hugging are back,

and smiling,

as the dozens of certificates were presented at the big feel good party.

One would never have imagined all that was happening outside.

Fires. Low flying planes circled around the entrance of Jerusalem. Dry and hot, too many large forest fires close to Jerusalem for one week.

After a year of no live events, two nights in a row felt like setting a milestone. The next night at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, there was a preview of a new documentary on Begin’s life, titled “Upheaval.” I highly recommend it – you can check it out HERE

Of course, seeing a movie in a real theater, and with Menachem Begin’s son and secretary, along with many others featured in the film, and a few Ambassadors was a really nice bonus. And, also food and wine were served before the film was shown in the renovated auditorium.

Not everything was live, Israel hosted over 400 participants from 58 countries virtually to discuss cutting-edge issues such as the security of the Internet at OECD Global Forum on Digital Security. Next year Japan is host.

The ever popular Shavuah HaSefer, Hebrew Book Week is back – live.

I was not the only one who was disappointed going on Friday to find it wasn’t open. The event is only on nights, from 6-8:30 pm until June 19, 2021.

According to the Israel National Library, in 2020, there was a decrease of 2,000 books published in comparison with 2019. But the Hebrew Book Week sales attract crowds of all ages, the full library report – HERE.

However, even without the books, Takhana Rishona, First Station was busy.

A Latin American Festival with booths and dancing got people’s attention.

A Brazilian singer entertained from the center stage. The Brazilian Ambassador was also in the crowd. Was it the food, Latin music, no masks outside, or the weather that put so many people in a festive mood?

Live performances are again being promoted along the Jerusalem streets.

New parks are popping up around Jerusalem, Israel.

It’s been a difficult time period going from a long pandemic, to Meron tragedy, to Operation Guardians of the Walls with thousands of rockets fired at Israel, fires surrounding Jerusalem, and all in the shadow of election dramas.

Who would have ever imagined all that has happened since Tu Bishvat 2020 at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence?

Hatikvah, The Hope – Israel’s anthem, no matter how you sing it,

or where – the hope for the future is a constant theme throughout the years.

Hope to see you soon on the Jerusalem streets.

Online, In-Line Jerusalem

Days go by. Weeks go by.

Time during the COVID-19 pandemic has become a blur.

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Jerusalem tourism went from unprecedented highs down to zero.

Chayei Sarah in Hebron in past years became one giant Shabbat celebration with thousands crowding into the area around the Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs.

This year before Shabbat, Chabad of Hebron hosted an online celebration of this week’s Torah reading marking the death and burial of Sarah in Hebron. Three men danced to a downsized band in an area near the walls.

The OUD international music festival is going on line for its 21st year.

Ethiopian Sigd holiday and women praying.

Sigd celebrations in the past years were major events with tens of thousands on the Tayelet in Jerusalem for prayers and breaking the fast.

This year there are smaller events being organized for the November 15th and 16th holiday celebration, 50 days after Yom Kippur, one which started in Ethiopia centuries ago.

One year ago, the AYLN Wheels of Love cyclists arrived in Jerusalem at the end of their annual fund-raising ride. This year riders met as a virtual group on a Zoom event and raised funds for the special rehabilitation hospital without the ride up the hills of Jerusalem.

The annual Pianos Festival at the Jerusalem Theater was held online and shown on YouTube and Facebook – for free. No lines to stand in while waiting to enter the concert halls.

Standing in line for parking stickers at the city hall is history. Those cherished parking spot stickers can be gotten from home by registering with the municipality online.

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As corona lockdown restrictions were lifted to a second stage, the areas near the Old City walls were still quiet on the sunny first Monday.

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The entrance toward Jaffa Gate not crowded as in “normal” times.

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Jaffa Gate was open, and guarded by two security women.

Standard and Poor’s, the global credit rating company, left Israel’s credit rating unchanged at its high level during the global coronavirus crisis, as reported by the Prime Minister’s Office.

Construction in Jerusalem proceeded during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Signs for Museum Lane have gone up along the renovated street by the new National Library. One of the huge cranes has been removed from the building site across the street from the Knesset, while the 6th National Library film festival was run online.

Commerce moved online and in-person shopping came to a halt for months.

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Jerusalem’s Mamilla Mall was filling with eager shoppers as stores on the street were finally allowed to open with four customers at a time.

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The longest line at Mamilla was waiting for Nespresso coffee.

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Shoe stores also had customers waiting in line.

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The store selling eyeglasses had a line. It had been allowed to be open during the lockdown and was often empty of customers.

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Walking by Kikar Safra, the Municipal Government plaza, the new landscaping was in full bloom, but the stones below were empty of people.

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However, minutes away on Jaffa Road, lines could be found outside many shops. Children need new clothing for size and season.

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The longest line award in downtown Jerusalem goes to FOX. I took a Facebook live video to show how far down the block people were waiting in line to enter on the first nice shopping day in town.

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Jerusalem’s Jaffa Road was coming back to life with stores open and people strolling in the midday sun.

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Ben Yehudah Mall looked so busy and full, I decided to go a different way.

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People ate lunches of takeaway food, sitting outside to enjoy the warmth of the sun on a November day.

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Shops on Yoel Salomon Street were open, but there were no lines when I walked by on my way home.

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The music was playing again on the oversized radio near Kikar Safra.

When the sun comes out, so do people.

Jerusalem, Israel shops and streets are slowly getting back to business and showing signs of renewed life. The youngest school students are back in class, while older students are online.

Hoping the corona numbers will stay down and we can see you soon on the Jerusalem streets.

Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, What Next?

Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, What Next?

Yom Yerushalayim. Jerusalem Day.

Another fabulous day of celebrations has passed, celebrating 52 years of reunification in Jerusalem, Israel.

Remembering the divided city and nineteen years under Jordanian occupation is more important than ever as anti-Israel groups spread their narratives.

Yom Yerushalayim posters Jerusalem Day

Celebrating Jerusalem 52 signs lined Jerusalem streets.

On Yom Yerushalayim a large morning prayer service was held at the Kotel, Western Wall, and another with music on the Tayelet Promenade, with the Temple Mount in view.

The official memorial ceremony for Ethiopian Jews who perished on their way to Israel is held in the morning at Har Herzl Military Cemetery.

Israeli Ethiopian memorial in cemetery on Mount Herzl

A government minister and a representative of the bereaved families spoke at the event along with President Rivlin near the memorial for those who died during the treacherous journey from Ethiopia to the promised land.

Then there was another Har Herzl official memorial ceremony for the fallen of the Six-Day War and the War of Attrition.

The list of municipality events is too long to mention, and it was certainly impossible to attend them all. There were free tours, including the reopening of the sifting project, plus musical events and parades.

King George Street Yom Yerushalayim

The long-established parade dancing with flags went through the Old City. While a family-friendly parade begun four years ago was held elsewhere.

Roads were closed. Cyclists rode in from Gush Etzion.

To end the day, there was an official ceremony marking the 52nd anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, with the President, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion in attendance, at Ammunition Hill.   At the Kotel, the singing and dancing went on until well after dark.

Flags along Jaffa Road for Yom Yerushalayim

Flags lined major routes, such as Jaffa Road along the light rail line. The trains did not run Yom Yerushalayim in the afternoon as thousands walked this way to Jaffa Gate and the Kotel. 

Jerusalem street repair on Yoel Salomon Street

Construction somewhere in Jerusalem is a given, as here on Yoel Salomon Street.

Repairs and painting were slower as this has been the month of Ramadan.

Muslims fast by day and break their fast at sunset meal called Iftar.

President Rivlin hosted iftar meal at Beit Hanasi

President Rivlin hosted an annual Iftar meal in the gardens of Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s residence, for 200 guests, including the Ambassadors of Egypt and Jordan and Muslim leaders.

Ben Yehuda Street Muslim women shopping during Ramadan

There is less shopping in Jerusalem by Muslim women during the heat of the day on Ramadan. However, these women were out on Ben Yehudah Street.

Jews were allowed on Temple Mount in the early morning Yom Yerushalayim. Police had to control the Arabs who rioted, screaming and throwing chairs.

Sheikh Jabari and Avi Zimmerman pose after press conference at Media Central

However, this past week Sheikh Ashraf Al Jabari from Hebron joined Avi Zimmerman from Ariel at Media Central for a press conference to discuss the Judea-Shomron Chamber of Commerce, economic cooperation and plans to go to Bahrain.

US Rep Eliot Engel in Jerusalem Israel with IDI and Brookings Institute

Also this week, US Rep Eliot Engel was at the Israel Democracy Institute to discuss his views on US and Israeli relations.

Signs for Israel Festival on Jerusalem Theater

While across the street, the Jerusalem Theater was being readied for the two-week Israel Festival opening night musical event.

Jerusalem Theater stage on Sherover Plaza for Israel Festival

A huge stage was erected in the plaza for bands to play at night.

Jerkily exhibit at Islamic Museum

The Islamic Museum has a new exhibit on jewelry, where old pieces are given a new look by new artisans.

Street sign for Bear Sound

Not just art and design, but the music of Beat/Second filled the Jerusalem streets.

If that is not cultural enough, opera is coming back to Jerusalem.

Opera in Jerusalem Israel in Sultan's Pool

Nabucco, “the beloved opera with the Hebrew slaves choir” is to be performed in the Sultan’s Pool, on June 20.

President Rivlin opened his Yom Yerushalayim evening remarks:

“My brothers and sisters, lovers of Jerusalem, 52 years ago this city was liberated, 52 years since the hearts of millions of Jews, Israel and the world heard the ‘Temple Mount in our hands’…52 years since we stood on the summit of Mount Scopus, touching a dream, a united Jerusalem.”

After dark,  Yom Yerushalayim did not ebb away quietly. Near the Kotel, music, and dancing continued. as tens of thousands of people filled the plaza.

Jerusalem Old City Walls for Yom Yerushalayim

On the walls of the Old City, Facebook comments were projected.

White night for Jerusalem Day

White Night in Gan Sacher, Sacher Park, with live loud music continued all night long.  People as far away as Baka and Arnona said they were kept awake by the music.

But not to worry, no downtime in Jerusalem!

Design Week and Shavuot Hebrew signs in Jerusalem Israel

Another Jerusalem Design Week is coming.

But first, the holiday of Shavuot begins as soon as Shabbat is over.

Again people plan to stay up all night, this time learning Torah.