Being a Part of History in Jerusalem

Being a Part of History in Jerusalem

Jerusalem, Israel is preparing for Pesach, Passover, in a very different way than usual.

Our lives have changed drastically in a short time of a few weeks.

I decided to take time from my Pesach preparations to share some of the good things happening in Jerusalem and beyond.

The lime tree in the garden started blooming yesterday. In spite of Corona, the cycle of spring has officially begun.

First blossoms on lime tree in Jerusalem garden

In Israel starting on the first of the month of Nissan, on seeing the first blossoms on trees one should say the following blessing:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ אֱ-לֹקינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁלֹּא חִסַּר בְּעוֹלָמוֹ כְּלוּם וּבָרָא בוֹ בְּרִיּוֹת טוֹבוֹת וְאִילָנוֹת טוֹבוֹת לֵהָנוֹת בָּהֶם בְּנֵי אָדָם.

Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, Who has withheld nothing from His world, but has created in it beautiful creatures and trees for human beings to enjoy.

Israeli President Rivlin making blessing on trees in time of coronavirus at Beit Hanasi
Photo credit: Mark Neiman / GPO

President Rivlin went out to the garden at Beit Hanasi to make the blessing.

He and his staff were wearing masks at per official instructions.

President Rivlin selling chamezt in time of corona virus remotely
Photo credit: Mark Neiman / GPO

President Rivlin’s office also sent out this photo of him and Director-General of Beit HaNasi Harel Tubi selling Israel’s chametz in a video call to the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Shlomo Amar.

In Jerusalem, Municipality volunteers handed out over eleven thousand food packages to help the elderly and quarantined residents, three times last week. Thousands of people volunteered daily in Jerusalem delivering food, making phone calls, bringing medicines to the sick, doing good and feeling good, to 12,500 seniors alone at home. Other private volunteer groups have been formed in Jerusalem around the country to assist those in need.

Jerusalem, Israel During Corona Ramada Hotel closed and light shape of heart
Photo credit: Ramada Hotel

Similar to Tel Aviv municipality, the Jerusalem Ramada Hotel, and empty hotels across Israel lit their windows in the shape of a heart to send a message of solidarity and love to the people of Israel during this difficult time. More and more empty hotels are being converted to “melonit,” locations for those with mild cases of coronavirus to be quarantined.

Israeli child being tested for COVID-19 in a MDA emergency van
Photo credit: MDA spokesperson

MDA has set up more and more test sites for testing coronavirus.

A team of over 40 medical experts & engineers from Israel released blueprints for AmboVent, a low-cost, medically tested #COVIDー19 ventilator device, made from off-the-shelf components, to answer the worldwide need for emergency equipment. 

In a recent tweet, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh claimed that Israel and its policies thwart efforts to protect Palestinians from the spreading Coronavirus.

COGAT visual of materials going into Gaza March 22- 28 during corona virus

While around the world countries closed borders, Israel kept the border to Gaza open. COGAT published its information in an easy to read format. In case the small print is hard to read, 145 tons of medical supplies were sent into Gaza by way of Kerem Shalom Crossing last week. Yet Israel haters have not ceased their campaign of lies against Israel.  What they should be questioning is where all the tons and tonnes of materials go.

IDF Twitter image of Palestinian doctors training in Israel for coronavirus
Photo Credit: IDF

This photo of Palestinian Authority doctors training in Israel to learn how to treat COVID-19 did make some news sites.

It is interesting that it made the news because, for years, there have been medical training sessions for doctors from Gaza and Arab countries in Israel.

Australian doctor training medical specialists in Israeli hospital

In November 2017, four pediatric emergency room medical specialists from Sydney, Australia came to a Jerusalem hospital to train medical experts from Gaza, Iraq and other Middle East unmentionables.

Jerusalem hospital were Australian doctors are training in pediatric emergency room procedures.

I have over 500 photos of the Israeli and Arab doctors and nurses working together. The smiling group selfie images to home countries were my favorites. However, for privacy’s sake, I am only sharing this one group photograph.

A big van with loud music playing is making the rounds in Jerusalem as well as other Israeli cities. One day there was loud music coming from the direction of the Israel Museum over the Israeli Scouts base. I tried to get a video for you to hear, but it was difficult over the sounds of traffic and birds.

Truck spraying Jerusalem streets coronavirsu

No moving music truck was spotted on our little street. However, for a second time, the street was sprayed this morning by the municipality.

So I am off the streets for a while, with plenty of Zoom sessions to follow and connect.

GPO Zoom live with Rav Lau and Zvika Klein

Sunday evening Rav Yisrael Meir Lau was the first speaker for a Government Press Office Zoom session live with journalists and rabbis from around the world. Rav Lau stressed we have a common enemy, and with this new enemy the virus, there is no east or west. We have no choice, he said, but to be united. Peace. Friendship. Even love.

View of Nachlaot in Jerusalem Israel

At home with my zoom lens, I can get a decent image of Nahlaot.

Jerusalem Israel Knesset and Crown Plaza

The Knesset is quiet, as is the Crown Plaza Hotel behind it.

Sorry, still no new unity government to report.

President Reuven Rivlin has gone into a grandfatherly Saba Ruvi mode with another story time.

At least we can all learn the classic Israeli children’s stories and with the English translations, a bit of Hebrew too.

Photo Credit: Micha Mitch Danzig

These lights in Tel Aviv were of the Azrieli Tower windows illuminated with “Shema Yisrael HaShem Elokeynu HaShem Ahad – Listen Israel, the L-rd is Our G-d, the L-rd is One.”

Pesach this year coincides with Easter, and Ramadan begins right after.

Tens of thousands will be disappointed not to be on the Jerusalem streets for these religious holidays.

However, here’s hoping for a happy and healthy holiday to all, and one day we can retell the stories of the time of the historic pandemic.

 

Ray of Light from Jerusalem

Ray of Light from Jerusalem

Eggs. Eggs?

Yes, a rush on eggs has caused panic throughout the Jerusalem streets.

The rest of the world may have hoarded toilet paper but in Jerusalem, eggs were grabbed off the shelves and stashed away in large quantities. People might be in isolation for the Passover holiday, but they were not going to be caught short of eggs. Facebook friends were posting frantic messages.

Last week, before all the borders began to close, the Secretary-General of The Israel Farmer’s Federation said that in Israel there were 50 million eggs from Portugal ready for Passover.

I got the Sec-Gen’s phone number. In response to my message, he replied, “Tomorrow will be enough eggs in the supermarkets. People are in a little panic but I think that it’ll be stopped soon. Yours, Abu.”

So there you have it. But I still hear complaints about an egg shortage.

Wars. Bombs. Missiles. Stabbings. Coronavirus. Quarantine.

Eggs for Passover set off panic in the Jerusalem streets.

Meanwhile, Olim, new immigrants keep on arriving, knowing they will be sent into 14-day isolation because of COVID-19.

Having been off the streets this past week, I have been following Zoom sessions and webinars.

Jerusalem Israel closed for Corona image of Wilson's Arch Old City

I have also been following scenes from the Western Wall Heritage Center WebCam much more often. This view is of the locked Wilson’s Arch on the evening of Rosh Chodesh Nissan. They have since straightened up the chairs. However, that lone empty chair caught my eye.

Men at Kotel saying tehilim during Corovnavirus

For a mass prayer of tehilim, psalms for healing, there was a distanced crowd last week.

Rabbi speaking on Facebook live for mass prayer event at the Kotel

Facebook Live-streamed as the rabbi spoke and people watched around the world.

Western Wall Jerusalem Israel Old city web cam during COVID-19

On another coronavirus night, one lone man was seen near the Kotel.

Western Wall Cleaning
photo credit: The Western Wall Heritage Foundation

The notes were cleared out of the Kotel almost as usual before Passover.

There was a social distancing of workers and no holiday crowds this year.

More and more events have moved online for work and for conferences.

Benny Gantz speaker at Conference or Presidents with William Daroff and Malcolm Hoenlein

Hard to believe it was only last month that Benny Gantz spoke to the Conference of Presidents.

Benny Gantz and female admirers

And willingly posed for photos before running off to an election event.

I was hoping to say that the unity government was in place.

Maybe next week?

President Rivlin meeting with IDF on situation of Corona virus
Photo credit: Courtesy Beit HaNasi

President Reuven Rivlin met with the Head of the IDF Manpower Directorate, for a briefing on IDF efforts to halt the spread of the virus in light of the global pandemic. In light of the instructions, the meeting was held in the garden of Beit Hanasi, at the appropriate distance.

This current coronavirus operation has been named “Ray of Light” by the IDF.

No on-site visitors are allowed, but Beit Hanasi has posted its first virtual tour. I have shared many photos from these spots, but this video includes background information.

As Dr. Tzvi Sheleg said discussing the COVID-19 situation at the Galilee Medical Center, “Emergency preparedness is part of our DNA.”

The Defense Minister announced that hundreds of IDF teachers are helping the doctor’s children all over Israel as part of a project called “Educational Framework.” 

Magen David Adom (MDA) has begun collecting plasma units from those patients who recovered from Corona. Based on the assumption that those who have recovered from the disease have developed special anti-virus proteins (antibodies) in their plasma, these units could provide patients with a “passive vaccine” that may help them cope with the disease.

Magen David for MDA in Tel Aviv
Photo credit: Tel Aviv Jaffa municipality

The Tel Aviv municipal building was lit with the MDA symbol to show appreciation for the thousands of health care workers on the front lines in what has been described repeatedly as a war against the tiny microbe. Approximately 8,000 people were sampled yesterday by MDA teams, of whom 4,000 were in the “Drive-Thru” complexes across the country.

Deep Knowledge chart of safest countries with Corona virus

On the very good news front, the Deep Knowledge Group, a consortium of commercial and non-profit organizations active in the realm of DeepTech from scientific research, has ranked Israel above Singapore as the safest country to stay. Ok, for efficient treatment it is not rated so high.

But Singapore is a very different culture. There are cameras everywhere. Do NOT try spitting gum out on the street! People follow orders. They have smaller family units. In Israel, even with the President sitting away and outside with only one staff member, protests are still allowed. Dozens of people have assembled in Tel Aviv on the beach to drive to Jerusalem to protest at the Knesset.

Tel Aviv municipal building lit as US flag to show support in COVID-19
Photo credit: Tel Aviv Jaffa Municipality

Last night Tel Aviv municipal building was lit with the “US flag in solidarity with the American people and the residents of our partner cities…We hold you close to our hearts,” tweeted the Mayor of Tel Aviv.

Also, it was done as a sign of gratitude to supporters and friends of Tel Aviv around the US who have shown their support by making significant contributions to the individuals and communities most affected by the coronavirus in Tel Aviv.

Where ever you are, stay safe and healthy.

Hope to see you back soon for more from the Jerusalem streets.

Jerusalem Living with COVID-19

Jerusalem Living with COVID-19

In Jerusalem, Israel, during this time of isolation from COVID-19, as the novel coronavirus spreads around the world, it is not business as usual.

Jerusalem Israel view with chair outside COVID-19

Now that the sun has finally come out and the rain stopped I have moved my office outside.

Cafes are shut. Malls are basically shut. Food shopping is allowed.

The Machane Yehuda Market shuk with its open markets is closed.

However, as the coronavirus continues to spread and despite the difficulties, Israeli farmers produced 90 million pounds of fruits and vegetables, last week.

Avshalom Vilan, Secretary-General of The Israel Farmer’s Federation, spoke to journalists on a conference phone call about the successes and challenges of work amidst the pandemic, plans for the coming months and  cooperation with Palestinian farmers.

Vilan assured food for Passover will not be a problem. The 50 million eggs for Passover already arrived from Portugal!

Yoel Zilberman is the Founder and CEO of HaShomer HaChadashan and Chairman of SunDo, a start-up that connects farmers with volunteers.

For those wanting to do something in this time of increasing shutdown, SunDo is an App to volunteer to work in agriculture.

The museums are closed. However, the Israel Museum has had virtual tours available with a phone app for several years. Now those guided tours are being offered to people on the other side of the world, not just those wandering the vast galleries. The Tower of David Museum was to show off its latest virtual reality offering yesterday. Now it will really be just virtual for some time.

It is a time when apps and online classes and webinars can keep us busy 24/7.  ZOOM, and Facebook Live, and Netflix offerings seem endless.

I have not left the house, but keep up to date through Whatsapp groups, from MDA and United Hatzalah.

MDA has opened four drive-thru coronavirus test centers, with the first test site in Tel Aviv.

Jerusalem Israel Corona test center drive thru in Arena Parking lot
MDA image

All sports events have been canceled. Near Teddy Stadium, on Monday night, March 22, the parking lot of Jerusalem’s Pais Arena a drive-thru COVID-19 test center for the Jerusalem area was opened. Hundreds of families may be in for a pleasant surprise to receive at Magen David Adom’s and Health Ministry’s “Drive and Test” compounds – a gift set, donated by Intel, in order to ease the isolation period.

These are family quality time game sets, to raise morale and relieve boredom. The gifts set produced by “Tsumi – The Israeli Center for Attention,” and donated by Intel; include variety of table – box games.

Jerusalem during coronavirus working at home outside on porch

My neighbor took advantage of the improved weather to work outside.   I decided not to share the image of other neighbors exercising on the roof.

Jerusalem street during Corona

Cars are out. Jerusalem is not yet on shutdown. Jerusalem has a large part of its economy based on tourism. With no tourists, the businesses that work with them and hotels suffer which exasperates the problem of families on poverty levels in serious ways. Deputy Mayor Fleur Nassan-Hahoum said retraining unemployed workers for positions in demand, like work in a mask factory in Talpiot is a priority.

Jerusalem Passover signs for street pickup of large items

Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Municipality posted signs to clean up for picking up large items before Passover. I admit the sounds of the sanitation workers are comforting.

Israel Knesset view with Crown Plaza in background

What’s happening (or not happening) in the Knesset is a whole other story, not for now.

I have a list of topics I had wanted to share, but there was no time. I hope to keep these posts coming of what is really happening on and off the Jerusalem streets during COVID-19 isolation time.

In the ‘you can learn something new everyday’ department, from friends I learned of Beer Bread.

Picture of Corona Bread

So I made Corona Bread.

Mix – 3 cups of flour, 1/4 cup sugar and one bottle of warm Corona Beer.

Bake in a moderate oven, 350 F – 175 C degrees for almost an hour.

Best warm from the oven, but not so bad the next day either.

Something pre-Passover to do, easy, tasty and makes the houses smell good.

Smell is a powerful trigger for memory – may your memories of these crazy days be good ones.