10 Signs the Jerusalem Streets are Back

Oh, Jerusalem! Oh, Jerusalem!

Nahamu. Nachamu.

After the lows and mourning of Tisha B’Av, just a few days later and it’s party time – at least summer holiday time. People who might have traveled overseas in a normal year, are staying closer to home with the uncertainty of border closings and questions of the Delta and other variants.

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1. Gan Sacher, Sacher Park fills with large family gatherings in the evening as summer days cool off and they are able to share elaborate meals.

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2. Synagogues have reopened, with a mask requirement, however, those outdoor social distanced services continue in many locations.

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3. Midnight at the Kotel, Western Wall, the sight of hundreds of people coming and going, day and night is back.

Last year many “annual” events were not held or were extremely limited.

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4. At Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence, an annual event remembering deceased former Presidents and Prime Ministers was held.

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New President Isaac Herzog hosted, with his wife Michal and new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at his side. All present had to wear a mask inside.

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For the first time as Prime Minister, Bennett spoke at an event at Beit Hanasi and attracted a little media attention.

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Noticeably, he refrained from shaking hands. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert attended, the only former PM or President present.

The real streets paid little attention to the event.

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5. Crowds of people have returned, and are filling Mamilla Mall, day and night, passing thru or just strolling,

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shopping,

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and eating at old favorites or trying the new dairy restaurant that opened recently.

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On Mamilla Avenue, one store closes and another store opens.

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This Dior cafe on the roof is gone, after making a short appearance on social media, and creating a buzz for a few days.

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6. But the food trucks are back in the Hinnom Valley Park near the Cinematheque, bigger than ever, attracting nightly summer visitors.

While the Beer Festival music blasting from Gan Haatazmaut, Independence Park could be heard on distant Jerusalem streets,

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7. softer, free music was offered on the pathway thru the Artists Colony.

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On the cool Thursday evening, it attracted an appreciative audience.

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8. Nice to see artists back in their shops creating and working.

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Nothing seemed to reach the attention level of the ice-cream crisis, but

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9. Golda in Mamilla Mall was busy as usual selling ice cream. One of the sad sights of the corona lockdowns was the empty spaces outside stores forced to close.

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10. Back at night under the full Tu B’Av moon was the fountain at Teddy Park. Ah, the sounds of thrilled children playing in the water as hundreds of people watched from around the on a cool summer night.

The Jerusalem streets are back.

Let’s hope they stay open, filled with people enjoying the summer holidays.

Check out more on Jerusalem travel here.

L’Chaim!

To Life!

Jerusalem Comes Out from Lockdown

Jerusalem, Israel streets began to come alive. Slowly people came out from the latest coronavirus lockdown, as from the safety of a cave or like a butterfly from its cocoon.

Each day last week I walked a different route to see what was happening on the Jerusalem streets with the lessening of corona restrictions.

People returned to the Old City as soon as the gates were again reopened.

Yes, school? No school? No Red or Orange school. Yes, Green preschool?

Confused? Here was the start of the new answer to the constant question:

Question #1 from a 6-page official document:

Does the return outline apply to all schools and nurseries throughout the country?

Answer: The outline distinguishes between localities and authorities that are in green and yellow areas and those in orange traffic light areas where physical learning has been allowed, and between authorities that are orange and red according to the traffic light model.

So? Most schools were not open, especially in Jerusalem this past week.

Gan Sacher, Sacher Park, had a holiday appearance, and the sounds of laughter and smells of grilled food filled the air.

With spring-like winter weather, families flocked to green open spaces.

While many people drive south to see the flowers, I am happy to walk closer to home for those annual red anemones, the sign of spring.

Zion Square provided a place to sit, as Ben Yehudah and Jaffa Road eating places provided takeaway food. As I walked around I kept thinking of bears coming out of hibernation and hungrily looking for a first meal.

Stores were still closed on Mamilla Mall, and this was the last cyclist allowed to pass through, as people were slowly returning and walking on Mamilla Ave.

Not sure where these two women carrying bags made their purchases.

Rimon, the only cafe open, was back in business, with outside eating only.

I was disappointed to find not one hamentashen displayed in the window.

Purim is less than two weeks away, but the usual holiday excitement was not apparent this year as I walked around Jerusalem.

People were in line for eyeglasses, interesting as they were one of a few businesses allowed to be open throughout the strict corona lockdowns.

The hair salons were allowed to reopen and here a customer was having their hair done with the door open. However, next door the small clothing store was gone, out of business.

Too many small business owners forced to close for repeated corona lockdowns have given up and their vacated stores now display for rent signs.

This appeared at first to be a sorry sight on Ben Yehudah Street.

But when I looked up, new buildings towered above. Thousands of new hotel rooms should be ready when tourists come back to Jerusalem.

As for the new hotel going up on King George Street, I was wrong, it’s over 15 stories tall, not ten as I mentioned last week.

The renovation of the Knesset Museum on King George Street though is still in a very sorry state of disrepair.

The road work on Jerusalem streets continues, with closings to traffic and detours becoming the new normal.

As these new signs were going up, the street was closed briefly. There are so many new signs I may have to do a piece on some of the ones I collected.

I was relieved that these oversized signs were for phones. As the March election date approaches, we anticipate some politicians’ oversized faces will again appear here near the main entrance to Jerusalem.

King David Street is closed for repaving. However, a new sign for George Washington Street was up in time to share for the US Presidents’ Day on February 15th this year.

This Abraham Lincoln Street sign is next to the YMCA on King George Street.

But where the two US presidents’ streets meet there are no signs to share.

The YMCA will be difficult to access when it is allowed to reopen, my shortcut using this side entrance on Lincoln Street will become popular.

Lovely days and golden sunsets, and talk of possible snow by Wednesday?

Credit Photo: Haim Zach / GPO

President Rivlin took a trip to Mount Hermon this week to the snow.

When will we get back to “normal” is the big question, not if it will snow.

On Friday, my son was sitting on our porch. He looked out and said, “What’s that building? It wasn’t there last time I was here.” Not the Knesset, it has been there over 50 years, but the construction near Cinema City has mushroomed up during the past year.

Parents with young children were relieved to get out for some fun days this past week with travel in Israel less limited. But families really want to go back to school in real classrooms or even outdoors, and not at home forever zooming. There are Israeli students who have been in classrooms for only one day, though I saw a sign this week wishing students good luck on their final high school exams.

In Bnei Brak on Thursday night, free chulent was offered to people getting vaccinated. Hikers were vaccinated in an MDA Corona vaccine trailer in the Shokeda Forest.

The sun was shining and it was warm last week, what will happen next?

You never know what will happen in the Jerusalem streets!

Check back next week to find out and stay well out there.

Jerusalem 2021 New Year, New Beginnings

As 2021 begins, Israel has a population of 9.3 million. Already over one million Israelis have received vaccinations, while the number of those ill with COVID-19 keeps rising over 6,000 daily.

Sun set in Jerusalem Tower of David viewed from Jaffa Gate

For the third corona lockdown, traffic was heavy as the sun was setting.

Mamilla Mall was closing down with people doing last-minute errands.

The full moon was bright over the plaza inside Jaffa Gate.

Main streets usually filled with vehicles were quieting down.

Lights and holiday decorations were shown brightly at Kikar Safra, Jerusalem’s Municipal City Hall.

However, only blue decorative lights were on over Yoel Salomon Street.

The popular tourist areas again, or still, were closed to the public.

Jaffa Gate was shut again as in the previous coronavirus lockdowns.

Jerusalem’s Old City was one area where the lockdown was visibly enforced. IDs were checked, movement of more than half a mile from home was not allowed. Over 9,000 fines have been issued by Israeli police.

Inside Jaffa Gate, businesses were shuttered. The Post Office was open, but for a change, there was no line of people outside waiting to enter.

Construction work has proceeded apace during the entire time of the coronavirus restrictions. This man would not let me take his photo, but I was more interested in showing how those safety surfaces are crafted.

The Kotel, Western Wall Plaza, had more birds than people.

The divisions for limited prayer groups were intact, but there were no worshipers to be found in most of the sections.

Ah, but even on the most limited days, there was at least one selfie taken.

From the Old City, I decided to walk home by way of Jaffa Road.

The few shops that had been open the night before were now closed.

Street decorations were colorful, but with no one to appreciate them.

Finally, I got a photo of the large duck on Ben Yehudah Street without people in my way. Sadly the businesses in this popular tourist area was hit again hard by the lockdown.

I was not the only photographer out looking for lockdown scenes.

A woman was dropping off items for someone in one of the Jerusalem quarantine hotels where returning Israelis were required to stay.

It was reported 8,000 Israelis traveled to Dubai for the holiday weekend, escaping Israeli lockdown limitations.

Last week UAE guests were at the King David Hotel, and this week United States flags flew over as the Moroccan normalization negotiations proceeded.

At times it seemed as if there was no lockdown, traffic was moving along.

But at Takhana HaRishona, First Station, those clever plastic igloos were mostly empty, as take out food service is not allowed and restaurants closed.

One man found a warm and quiet location for his standing computer work desk at First Station in the midday sun.

With home food delivery allowed, motorcycles have been zooming around the Jerusalem streets, much more than in the past.

Small business owners had time to take end of year inventory, with no customers allowed, uninterrupted once again.

There was a big open sign, but even Aroma Express in Mamilla Mall was closed. No people. No reason to open.

The Teddy Park across from Mamilla has also been empty for days.

But, Thursday afternoon, Machane Yehudah Market, the shuk, looked alive.

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Returning to the Old City on Friday, one could see and feel the lockdown.

Imagine having the opportunity to power wash the steps normally filled with people on Fridays.

Here is the food court in the Jewish Quarter without customers,

the entrance to the Kotel, without a line waiting to go thru security,

and no traffic at Sha’ar Ashpot, Dung Gate, near the Kotel entrance.

Photo credit: ADI

Vaccinations have been going at a rapid pace. ADI, formerly ALEH, inoculated 1,500 people in two days, and in a party atmosphere. Their residential students with severe challenges were some of the most vulnerable in the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Taking your dog for a walk has been allowed in all the lockdowns.

More and more people are out enjoying the pleasant weather and walking in the sunshine, with and without masks.

The signs above the Jerusalem streets advise for safety at home.

The Jerusalem streets give safety and health advice.

However, in many families there is still a revolving door situation with one family member or another in bidud, isolation.

Not just Bubby and Zayde (grandparents) in bidud.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, MDA teams have sampled more than 3,500,000 people.

Photo credit: A Y Altshul

With efficient testing and vaccinations, most Israelis are anxiously waiting for the revolving door situation to end.

The hope is in 2021, the beginning of the end of the coronavirus is in sight, this the last lockdown, and new light at the end of a year-long dark tunnel.

Take care and stay well, hope to see you soon on the Jerusalem streets.