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 Signs for Rosh Hashana

Jerusalem New Signs for Rosh Hashana

It was hard not to get whiplash in Jerusalem, Israel, this past week.

The extremes of the good news and bad were so sharp it was hard to keep up.

While the 4.5 million Israelis who usually go overseas for their summer holidays had to stay home because of the pandemic situation, Israel’s nature spots were fully booked. Now a holiday lockdown is predicted as the number of COVID-19 infections rises.

Schools opened. Schools closed. Classes were on Zoom. Students were home.

Oh, and there was a heatwave, making going outside unpleasant!

Light clouds in Jerusalem sky over Israel Museum at sunset

The humidity rose in the evening making the nights unusually uncomfortable. But over the Jerusalem streets, clouds produced lovely and colorful sunsets like this one over the Israel Museum, partially illuminated in the center of the photo.

Fixing street light over Jerusalem streets

The demand for electricity caused random power outages. However, these Jerusalem street lights did not go off in the morning light and needed professional attention.

Mask with Baltimore Orioles Baseball team

An unusual sports excitement, Dean Kremer, the first Israeli ever drafted by a US Major League Baseball team made his major league debut for the Baltimore Orioles. He pitched a great game, and even though they beat the Yankees, Israeli Yankee fans were impressed enough to take to social media.

Trying to get back to some sort of normal with coronavirus has been difficult for theaters, cultural festivals and events. The Film & Conversation group in Baka/Katamon is planning to move outside Beit Yehudit at night on 13 September.

Theater outside in Jerusalem Israel due to COVID-19

Signs were up for performances in theater courtyards.

"There are stars outside" Hebrew sign for theater in corona restrictions

The ‘Stars Outside’ signs were up again, trying to get audience to attend.

Jerusalem signs in Hebrew

The Hansen House announced a designer’s event.

Hebrew sign announcing community elections in Jerusalem Israel

And a new sign for new Jerusalem local elections in November.

Rosh Hashana begins on Friday night.

COVID-19 limited sellhot in Jerusalem Safra Square

After Shabbat, the Ashkenazim joined the Sefardim in Selichot,  who have already been saying them for a month. Due to COVID-19 regulations, this year there was a special prayer service with special seating in Kikar Safra, the Jerusalem Municipal plaza.

Yitzhak Meir leading a musical selhot in Kikar Safra

The late-night musical Selihot were led by Yizhak Meir and broadcast on YouTube and Facebook. An announcement was made at the end that people should not crowd, but leave in ‘capsules’ and small groups.

Screen shot of protesters in Jerusalem

Meanwhile, not far away, at the same time, the anti-Bibi protesters were back for the 12th week.

Sign in Hebrew for a successful year

The new Jerusalem street signs for a successful New Year,

Prosperous and happy new year sign in Jerusalem Israel

and a year of happiness.

Pomegranates growing in Jerusalem, Israel park area

Pomegranates are another sign of Rosh Hashana. 

Jerusalem street sign for Good New Year

Apples and honey and success are yet another New Year sign.

Avera Mengistu, Hadar Goldin, Oron Shaul captive in Gaza by Hamas

Reports that Egyptians are now trying to get Hamas to release the bodies of Hadar Goldin, and Oron Shaul.  Avera Mengistu has been held captive in Gaza for six years.

It’s time to bring the boys home.

Selihot last year, over 1,000 people attended the Jerusalem Great Synagogue.

It has been closed since the spring and will remain closed for the High Holy Days this year.

Kotel for COIVD-19 selihot

The Kotel, Western Wall, usually crowded with tens of thousands for Selihot, had a limited crowd, divided into ‘capsules,’ and only filled up well after midnight.

What a year 5780 has been!

So there you have some of the ups and downs, good and bad, certainly different, of the past week

Coming in so strongly, the Hebrew year 5780 Jerusalem hit record numbers in tourism. It was then hit with a pandemic and closed borders to overseas tourists.

Now with prospects of normalization with Gulf neighbors, there should be euphoria. But new closures dampen holiday planning. No one really knows what will be for the next day, next week, next month, certainly not next year.

Hebrew sign for a year of good health

But as we begin 5781, wishing all a year of good health!

Hope to see you all again soon on the Jerusalem streets.

How to Spend Time in Jerusalem in 2020

How to Spend Time in Jerusalem in 2020

Time.

Time in Jerusalem, Israel, as in much of the world during the corona pandemic, has become a blur. Days have become weeks, then months and a New Year is almost here.

Since March 2020, an 8:30 backyard minyan, morning prayer service, has been one constant. No need for a watch. I could set my clock to the minute when they start.

We live in a “mixed” Jerusalem neighborhood, and there is no synagogue on our street. But starting after Purim, I have woken up to the sounds of morning prayers. As  I brush my teeth or stand at the kitchen sink, I have been able to receive the Priestly Blessing from a distant voice.

Kotel during coronavirus for morning services

The Kotel, Western Wall, in the morning, was set up for bar mitzvah groups in keeping with the latest COVID-19 regulations. This time of year the area is often packed with thousands of people.

Kotel Plaza divided into sections for late night selihot during coronavirus pandemic limitations on size of gatherings

But this year at night, there are chairs set for Selihot placed “socially distant” from each other.

Chairs placed in Wilson Arch Kotel at night

The Kotel area inside Wilson’s Arch was set at night, ready for the next morning.

This screenshot of prepared prayer spots feels frozen in time.

Jerusalem path near the Israel Museum above the Valley of the Cross

In the past, I walked the Jerusalem streets for hours, looking for crowds, people, and interesting sites to share. Now going out means staying away from those crowds and avoiding people.

Recognizing friends at this time is not so simple. With hats, sunglasses, and masks, someone who you have not seen a few months can be difficult to recognize.

Sign for New Year gatherings in Jerusalem Plarks

Over the summer during this coronavirus time, Jerusalem began offering park camping opportunities. Families were encouraged to come to outside green areas. A sign in Nayot Park is encouraging families to spend their holiday time in nature areas.

Bunch of grapes growing on Jerusalem street

One image for the passing of time are grapes ripening on the vine.

Polce vehicle turning to exit park area

No, this police vehicle was not trying to block these people. The driver was on this part of the path–with no vehicular exit–for his first and last time.  He got stuck, and had to back up and try and turn around to get out of the area.

old Belarusian flag, now used as the opposition flag in the rallies against Lukashenko

There have been eleven weeks of loud protests near the Prime Minister’s Residence and the Knesset. However, this was the first time seeing a protester near the Knesset with a Belarus flag.  His aim, which is for Israelis to pay attention to the situation in Belarus, worked – the large red and white flag got me to notice.

Jerusalem Israel Hebrew signs posted on street corner

As summer ends, new signs were up and it is time to support the Jerusalem Symphony.

At the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem, there’s a  YEMEN Fest – מופע גרוב-ג’אז-פאנק

entrance of the Jerusalem Bible Lands Museum

There’s still time to book a tour in person or watch online at the Bible Lands Museum.

Jerusalem Yad Vashem exhibiit

After many months, Yad Vashem also announced it’s opening its doors at limited times.

Sacher Park new seating near the play equipment

The summertime weather was pleasant and  Jerusalem nights were cool. But now a heatwave has arrived.  It’s too hot for the play equipment or midday picnics in Gan Sacher. 

Jerusalem school year sign during coronavirus

School is to start on September 1, 2020. It’s going to be an interesting time for all.

The usual back to “Kita Aleph” – first-grade mega productions have been toned down. With COVID-19, it’s one parent, wearing a mask, holding the hand of a small child walking into the unknown new classroom. Capsules, masks, and moving online is the pandemic era new norm.

Wishing all students and teachers a good and healthy year!

Women soldiers in the Israel army

And now is the time for new Israeli recruits to the IDF to begin their army training.

Six years ago, Chazan Shai Abramson led the IDF Choir at the Jerusalem Great Synagogue.

As the Jewish holiday season with so many unknowns approaches is a good time to repeat the prayer for the Israel Defense Forces and all of Israel, and the world.

Stay safe. Stay well. Stay healthy.

Hope to see you sometime soon on the Jerusalem streets.