Passover – This Year in Jerusalem

Passover or Pesach,

the holidays of Spring have passed.

The Jerusalem holiday crowds returned in the tens of thousands as many of the coronavirus restrictions were lifted. The Birkat Kohanim, Priestly Blessing, was extended to two days in order to accommodate more people at the Kotel, the Western Wall.

Watching the live service online, I was able to get a front-row seat on both days without leaving home. Plus the video is available for all to enjoy now.

Before the holiday began we had elections for the 24th Knesset. Notice the COVID-19 dividers and limited numbers allowed in the room.

Plenty of parties to pick from. But as of today, as the new Knesset is sworn in, the makeup of the new government is still very uncertain. President Rivlin has given the mandate to Benjamin Netanyahu who had the most recommendations, but not a majority of 61, so here we go again. Will have to wait and see what happens next. One difference this fourth time in under two years was the generous amount of hand sanitizer in the voting booth.

On my way home, people were out on the streets. There was a party atmosphere with a day off from work, and finally freed from apartments.

This was the scene in my kitchen when I returned after voting. Those eggs (and more) are long gone and the cucumber salad and pickles were finished off last week, but a few glutin-free cookies remain in the freezer.

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Last year we prepared for a seder with two people, and this year the seder had two tables. One table was preset on Friday to save time after Shabbat.

With the change of clocks and the holidays, time was a blur. It was a bit of a challenge to know what day it was, plus keeping track of who was to be at each meal, downsized from the old days to smaller family units.

For Passover, museums returned and were open with prior registration,

while some previously open food places closed for Passover.

Israeli nature spots and parks were filled with family reunions.

The new visitor center in Tel Lachish was not open, but the trail was ready for the stream of hikers.

New playgrounds in new neighborhoods sprung from the barren earth.

And oh, oh the traffic returning to the Jerusalem streets. Here are the blue lights of the Prime Minister’s motorcade weaving its way out of Jerusalem.

As one who remembers the old Route 1, I marvel each time we wind our way up the new roads to Jerusalem in multiple lanes packed with cars.

At Jaffa Gate, an oversized banner welcomed tens of thousands of visitors with “Happy Passover in Jerusalem” in bright spring colors.

Inside Jaffa Gate, signs showed the way to the Kotel, the Western Wall.

Security was out and visible, but relaxed for the holiday crowds.

A Happy Purim sign was up in the Rova, the Jewish Quarter. Purim was last month, but the crowds indeed seemed happy.

Happy to be out and back in the Old City, and to sit and eat kosher for Passover food they did not have to prepare or eat at home.

The Kotel Plaza was still divided to provide size-regulated services.

The size of holiday crowds was similar to the past years. I went in the afternoon after Birkat Kohanim to see what was happening.

The only quiet location I found on Passover was the usual one at the egalitarian section of the Western Wall. What was unusual was that security allowed a man dressed in his Haredi holiday attire to go down. In the past, I had seen religious-looking men were stopped and denied entrance.

Popup popcorn stands (for Sephardim only) were in multiple locations, wafting the familiar aroma to entice customers.

Young and old, they came, all day, well into the night on Passover walking to the Old City and the Kotel as on holidays past. So many baby strollers!

The clean-up crews were noticeable and are to be commended, as the sanitation workers labored overtime to keep the Jerusalem streets clean.

After an upside down year, it was good to be out, even wearing a mask.

Crowds filled Mamilla Mall, walking, shopping, and sitting to eat.

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The new art in Mamilla Mall was popular with visiting children.

This last sign of the protesters was removed immediately after Passover and the construction of France Square and Paris Fountain has begun.

The original dedication stone with the mayors of Jerusalem and Paris in 2008 could use a good clean-up and restoration.

The image of coming out of hibernation as lumbering bears was no longer appropriate. The lighter feeling on the Jerusalem streets was of millions of butterflies bursting out after a year in cocoons, filling the parks in the pleasant weather.

The fountain was not flowing in Teddy Park, but Israelis sat to enjoy the Jerusalem nature spot.

The Jerusalem cats were looking satisfied after finding full dumpsters.

Jerusalem filled with traffic, a sign of “normal” after a very difficult pandemic year with no international tourism.

This spring Israelis returned to Jerusalem. Here’s hoping as we say at the end of the seder, “Next Year in Jerusalem” will be for all.

But before we can relax and enjoy the flowers, it’s time for the Yoms!

Always something happening on the Jerusalem streets: at Yad Vashem Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes Remembrance Day, will be observed this year starting Wednesday evening, April 7, through Thursday, April 8, 2021, with live broadcast in English – HERE

How Many Jerusalem Sights Do You Recognize?

If you have not been to Jerusalem, Israel, for the past year, you are in for big surprises when you return to the Jerusalem streets!

Jerusalem on Rosh Chodesh Nisan 5781, is not as you remember it. You will not recognize many of the Jerusalem streets as they emerge from coronavirus lockdowns and closings

Today a new initiative was announced by the Mayor’s Office,  “ברוטינה” or ‘Be’rutina” as in return to routine. Hundreds of thousands of shekels will be invested to help revive the local cultural and creative scene and promote internal tourism by Israelis, as the airport is still closed to foreign nationals.

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It’s spring and feels like it today. Beginning on Rosh Chodesh Nisan there is a special blessing to say when seeing the budding fruit trees.

Last week, Jaffa Gate was open as COVID-19 restrictions lessened on Sunday.

People were at the Orient Hotel this week.

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The doorman was back at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. He would not let me inside, but was happy to pose for a photograph.

Banks are closing and moving online, and here on Palmach Street, a new supermarket is on its way. However, it remains to be see seen just how cheap it will be.

The carousel was turning again at Takhana Rishona, First Station.

The kiddie train was on the track with people and bikers on the path.

Sports and Culture Minister Chili Tropper spoke at the Run 4 Afikim start before runners left from First Station on the charity run to Eilat.

Benjamin Netanyahu hosted Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Czech Republic Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. The Czech Embassy opened an office in Jerusalem and they discussed vaccine distribution.

The Ivory Coast property is still available if any country is interested.

Cafes in Mamilla Mall had lines of customers again on Monday.

Even the tourist train was running again as the Old City opened up.

School groups were touring and learning about the Jewish Quarter.

By the Kotel, Western Wall, dividers kept the still-limited numbers of worshippers allowed for prayer services apart. Thousands were coming during the whole day on Monday.

This is one of the new water fountains for washing hands. There was also a new row of taps for drinking water installed near the restrooms,

Restoration work on the stones of the Western Wall is still underway. I keep watching that scaffolding as it moves from one location to another.

On Monday, there was one bar mitzvah celebration after another, all day long with music and balloons and festivities. It felt like the good ol’ days.

Workers on the major building project in the Armenian Quarter should send more customers to this small shop nearby. The Old City shops were shuttered for so long, it will take time to recover.

Jaffa Road cafes were busy, with chairs lining the Light Rail tracks.

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The Light Rail stops were filled with passengers waiting for the next train, as people converged upon Jerusalem’s central shopping area.

When tourists return to Jaffa Road they will not recognize the area. Look up, and tall buildings tower over the Machane Yehuda Market , the shuk.

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At least the piles of ripe strawberries look familiar in the shuk.

It was announced that Paris Fountain in France Square is getting a major makeover.

This is the simulation published by the Mayor’s Office last week.

Near the Jerusalem Theater, Chopin Street is open to traffic at last. It will take a while for drivers to get used to the major changes.

And after all these years, the Ohel Nechama synagogue on Chopin Street finally got an elevator up in time for Disability Month in March.

The Hansen House has reopened with signs for ‘Spring in Jerusalem’. The gardens inside the gates welcome visitors, with masks and social distance.

More signs for the outdoor nature event are along the Jerusalem streets.

Multiple new children playgrounds have been developed over lockdowns.

Building and construction continued over the past year.

For the first time in a very long time, someone I did not know on a Jerusalem street asked me to take a photo.

It’s been quite an unusual year for sure!

Too many have been sick and died.

Certainly, not everyone is happy with the construction, as building new projects often involves the loss of smaller older buildings, like this Sephardi synagogue.

There was a lot happening on the Jerusalem streets and though some are getting a slow start preparing, excitement is building with anticipation of families together this year for Passover.

And oh yes, another election! Number four in two years on March 23rd.

Outside the Knesset Building they are preparing to count votes – again.

it would be nice if the next Knesset would finally pass a budget.

That’s it for now, though more was happening on Jerusalem streets.

Book a zoom photo tour for your group or a Jerusalem photo walk.

Snow and Light in Jerusalem

Snow!

Snow in Jerusalem, Israel.

What is it about snow in Jerusalem that gets the world’s attention?

Wednesday night a blanket of white covered the Jerusalem streets.

After flurries during the day, the snow came down rapidly after dark.

Palm trees sagged under the weight of inches of snow.

I gave up trying to get clear images of people who were out walking.

The streets were full of sounds of excited children, many seeing snow for the first time, who ran out to play in the streets.

Thursday morning a significant amount remained, though not like my memories of snow storms in the northeastern US, and not as much as in Jerusalem in 2013.

But more than enough snow for the Middle East, and the cactus plant.

Friday piles of snow remained, this one in the park much to the delight of two little boys, was much prettier than the grey stuff left behind along the major streets.

What an upside-down week of weather in Jerusalem!

The beginning of the week it was warm enough to walk barefoot.

Young families still with no school could hike in the sunshine.

Spring flowers were popping up in nature areas.

The almond blossoms were out and already beginning to fall off the trees.

Work was proceeding on the roof of the new National Library.

It was a great time for letting the dogs out for a walk.

On the Knesset snow photo taken as the fog cleared, I noticed strange black things on top on the roof?

And along Hazaz Street, more lighting equipment was set up last week.

It’s for “Follow the Lights!” – February 21- March 3rd.

Special illuminated Jerusalem sites are planned to be viewed from moving vehicles. The huge projectors were placed along the road last week in preparation and I was told not damaged by the snow.

Get ready to follow the lights!

Will have to go and see if this is how it really will look tonight.

Most of the lighted sites are located where I usually walk.

The setup at the Israel Museum today was extensive.

Large structures are in place to be viewed from private cars.

Will see if everyone driving the route thru the Israel Museum parking lot really stays in their cars as instructed?

Near the Israel Museum, these bicycles line the bike path off the road across from the Knesset. Now they should be interesting lit up at night.

The snow was pretty while it lasted. But now it has melted.

Schools and malls and businesses are reopening. President Rivlin is to attend the Kahn Theater tonight to mark its reopening. The Prime Minister is headed to Eliat where hotels are to open.

The poppies were out again in Jerusalem in the sunlight.

Hopefully signs of spring and hope for a better year ahead.

Purim starts on Thursday, February 25th this year.

For one way to get into the Purim mode and mood, Tower of David has a program on Wednesday night.

Jerusalem Municipality neighborhood events are from February 22-28, not only Triple Purim – but a week, even though some coronavirus restrictions are still in place.

Dozens of Megilat Esther readings sponsored by various groups will be held. Already last year I avoided the large synagogue megillah reading for a small one, and downsized the holiday.

Hopefully next Purim we will all be back joyfully celebrating on the Jerusalem streets. But for now, you can come and enjoy the light shows.