Top 10 Old and New Happenings This Week in Jerusalem

Jerusalem, Israel, this holiday season is missing the usual annual mega-events.

However, even with the corona pandemic limiting activities, and Yom Kippur mostly in small groups outside, things are still happening on the Jerusalem streets.

Here are 10 favorites from this past week:

  1. Old – but still special, the Walls of the Old City at Jaffa Gate, lit up at night, always an impressive sight.

2. New – Lior Haiat · Spokesperson of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs conducted a record-breaking marathon of 99 interviews over 15 hours. Here he was “talking peace” with an interviewer in Turkey.

3. At the same time, at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence, a smaller, socially distanced honor guard stood by the red carpet reception for six new Ambassadors to Israel.

The IDF band was in the distance in the garden and played the anthems.

With a new President, a new lineup procedure with the executive staff.

Signing the Beit Hanasi guest book is routine, but note the new guest book.

Greeting the new Ambassadors, with masks, but also without them.

The first Ambassador from Bahrain, Khaled Yusuf Al Jalahma, carefully copied his message from a piece of paper. While he was copying, President Herzog had an opportunity to explain the ceiling and the artwork in the main hall to the Ambassador’s wife.

I tried, but I could not get a clear image of his message, though I noticed that the last word before the signature was “peace.”

President Herzog also received the credentials of the new ambassadors of Mexico, Estonia, Spain, Greece, and Vatican City.

Contrast this with the page from the new Greek Ambassador.

Guest book of Israel President signed by HRH Prince William in Jerusalem Israel

But Prince William still remains the most concise message I have seen.

It was almost like old times when I returned to Beit Hanasi in the afternoon.

4. The new medalists and Tokyo 2020 Paralympic athletes were hosted by the Herzogs at a special session.

Speeches were inside in an interesting setup of the room and a video recap,

and outside for multiple photos with these 33 Paralympic athletes.

While it seemed everyone wanted their hands on the gold, I think all these athletes are special and winners.

5. There were new venues for the old Yom Kippur prayers, like this one on Charlap Street outside the synagogue.

A local park where I stood on Rosh Hashana looked so nice without the flies.

6. This is the new playground under construction in Gan Sacher, Sacker Park. It was to be ready in May but still needs work. The new children’s playground will be very different than the old one.

7. The cooler weather is lovely for walking in the evening under the new lights off Ben Yehuda Street.

8. When tourists return they will be amazed by the number of new hotels waiting for them, like this one on Ben Yehuda Street,

New Building on Bezalel Street

and new impressive buildings along many old Jerusalem streets.

9. Safra Square was set up each night for large crowds before Yom Kippur.

Special musical Selihot programs combined new and old melodies.

10. The first new sukkah I spotted before Yom Kippur was in Mamilla Mall. Now there are thousands. Shortly after the Yom Kippur fast was broken, the sounds of hammers could be heard all around town. One after another, the sukkot popped up around the Jerusalem streets. Just look up or behind apartment buildings, the best of them for next week.

Happy Holiday sign at Israeli President's house on Sukkot 5778 - 70 years.

Not quite back to normal, Beit Hanasi will not be open to the public again this year on the intermediate days of Sukkot. The Herzogs have invited only Shalva and its founder Kalman Samuels, with no media access either.

Huge events like the Jerusalem March also are not happening. But I plan to be back next week with the new event planned for here in the neighborhood.

Chag sameach!

Jerusalem New and Old

While so much in Jerusalem is old, much is also new. It is hard to tell which stones on the ground are really the old ones. Even some buildings are made to look old.

Amazing Old and New in Jerusalem looked so very different 3 years ago.

Walking along Hanasi Street, you can see new signs outside of Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s official residence, marking fifty years in the present location.

Images from the past complement the sign with more detailed information.

It’s been Middle Eastern hot this past week. I have refrained from midday excursions, as it was not pleasant to walk under the blazing sun.

But how nice to see the shade provided in children’s play areas in new Jerusalem parks, even if very few children were out playing.

Covered play areas have been a given in Australia for decades, finally, they are in more and more Jerusalem parks.

And now there is a shade for this school, finally, work has been done over the summer after years of neglect.

Families are busy getting ready for school to start on September 1st and hoping for a better new year after the difficult conditions with COVID-19.

Others families were busy with weddings. Mazel tov to Ilanit and Meir!

With new online participation, one can now dance at more than one wedding at a time.

Engagement setups are always fun to see in this popular area. I did not stop to watch if she said yes to the “Marry Me” at the end of the floral runway.

Who would have imagined the first night of selihot online from Bahrain!

Some old scenes never really get old. The Kotel Plaza, Western Wall, visible in the distance with dramatic lighting is one of my favorites.

Notice many men were distanced from one another, that was new this year.

This is my favorite location for photographs, but new this time, I had to show a green pass to gain access.

The selihot tours of the Old City annually draw large crowds. On Thursday night the crowds were so large that cars were gridlocked and parking was scarce in the surrounding area.

New this year, uniformed police on a walking tour with young boys.

Mamilla Mall was busy, busy, busy, you name the hour, Israelis came.

Amazing as soon as one store goes out, a new one comes in the rental spot.

The old Arab souk, however, depends on foreign tourism and was not busy.

For selihot this year, the old prayers have a new look. The Great Synagogue was open again to those with the green pass. The main musical event was held at Binyunei Hauma, the Jerusalem International Conference Center, with the Mayor and a long list of performers.

This year musical Selihot services moved outside in Yemin Moshe, with the walls of the Old City in the background.

The new sounds could be heard around the old neighborhood streets,

from multiple locations late into the night,

Selihot services were held inside synagogues and outside on porches.

This week the 38th international Jerusalem Film Festival was back.

The live audience gathered in the Sultan’s Pool amphitheater with the huge screen, not far from the Tower of David at sunset.

Former president Ruvi Rivlin came with his daughter Rivi and sat in specially reserved seats a few rows back.

The front row was not easy to photograph from the angle that President Herzog’s new security team demanded.

Herzog spoke, then when he announced that he was leaving, the audience responded with audible displeasure.

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion and others stayed to see the new animated feature film about Anne Frank.

Here is an old sight, the beigelah guy seated by the Cinematheque sign looking for hungry customers.

A week filled with new and old. New technology lets us participate in a Selihot program in Bahrain and witness weddings from afar.

And in the dentist’s office, this cube became a new tooth, in less than half an hour, to replace my broken molar.

As always there was more, but time now to wish you well and hope to see you soon on the (cooler) Jerusalem streets.

Next week is Rosh Hashana, a New Year.

Oh, where did the time go, the new gap year students are arriving?