Jerusalem Week of Contrasts

In Jerusalem, Israel it was another week of extremes and contrasts.

Jaffa Gate was still closed and the plaza was empty outside and inside. As the world turned and the sun rose and set, the Old City was shut down.

Warms days followed by heavy winter rains filled Mamilla Pool. By Friday, people had ventured down to check out the winter wonder.

A view of the new of the Museum of Tolerance from old Mamilla cemetery .

Businesses are struggling to survive near Mamilla Mall during lockdown.

Two (even one) wheelers are in the still closed Mamilla Mall, where only a liquor store was open this past week.

The Arab shuk near Jaffa Gate was shuttered tight on Friday.

The only two people on the street Friday afternoon were police officers. The souvenir store vendor who earlier in the week tried to get me to buy something, anything, was not around and his store was shuttered down.

The infrastructure work near the Kotel, Western Wall, was completed by Friday and all was quiet. Guards were carefully watching who could enter.

I was instructed “No praying allowed” this past week.

On Monday, construction work was going full steam on the Kotel Plaza.

Interesting how fast work can proceed in Jerusalem- or how slowly.

Maybe one day the abandoned Pearl hotel will be fixed up for guests, at least no one sleeps on the streets outside now.

Parts of the old President’s Hotel were reduced to rubble last week.

Building on King George Street which was torn down to build hotel

Remember this derelict building on Jerusalem’s King George Street?

Two 10-story towers are rising in its place on the street near the Plaza Hotel.

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Even the old police station on Jaffa Road was getting a new paint job.

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Look what is rising over Jaffa Road next to the Machane Yehudah Market!

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Contrast this lockdown scene in the shuk – at the same time as the Old City was closed and empty.

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A favorite winter sight, not masks, but piles of those ripe red strawberries.

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Walking home I noticed new bright graffiti covering old walls in Nahlaot.

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The old synagogue was shut tight, with no prayers allowed inside.

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But the light shining through its stained glass window was colorful and bright and could be seen from the street.

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One more bit of new graffiti on a wall and the mess of a contrast next to it.

Jerusalem streets may have light traffic, but the sidewalks have been busy!

Besides people out walking more during the limited distance restriction,

there have been plenty of two wheelers of many types and kinds and skills.

I will spare you all the photos this week of bikers who nearly ran me over.

We continue to have to deal with noisy protesters day after day after night.

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Ah, but Jerusalem the center of the world, is quieter than usual.

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However wandering the Jerusalem streets there was still music to be heard.

And signs of spring to see in nature, even in this locked down week.

Hard to believe this was Tu Bishvat last year, remembering a favorite and beautiful moment, Hatikvah – the hope at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence – BCE – Before Corona Era.

What a contrast to this year! And next year?

No one knows what will be or even who will be the next Israeli President?

Hope and flowers and continued vaccination campaign…and partial lifting of restrictions to begin this week.

Hope to see you soon on the Jerusalem streets. Take care and stay well out there.

Rain or Shine All You Need in Jerusalem is Love

In Jerusalem, at the beginning of January, the weather was so warm, it was hard to remember previous years with snow and more snow.

But taking advantage of the sunshine and wandering a different route each day I was able to find something new.

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First I will start with a new photo of Martin Luther King Junior Street.

One of the RJS’s early posts – In Memory of MLK commemorated the US holiday which is celebrated on January 18 this year.

There is a lovely new park called Detroit Garden on Rachel Imenu Street.

The last time I was by, the park was surrounded by a construction fence of an archeological dig. The idea to have hundreds of tourists in this neighborhood and to go underground in limited numbers seems to have been nixed and a new outdoor area has been prepared instead.

The Light Rail Trains have been running through the COVID-19 lockdowns but on a reduced schedule. Posters have been added at stations with suggestions of games parents can play with their children to fill the time.

Having passed too many people walking with their heads down while looking at their phones, I hope this initiative gets people thinking and interacting.

Oh, the road work still seems to be everywhere. But here new street signs were going up off of Jaffa Road for Shaare Zedek Street.

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The original Shaare Zedek Hospital was recently the home for the Israel Broadcast Authority and now for building developers in the area.

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This “Coation Trucks Crossing” sign is in the midst of the major construction works of the Jerusalem International Convention Center and Gateway projects.

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Multiple huge cranes line the city skyline.

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But after months, or is it years already, work above ground is finally visible.

As mentioned before, building construction and road work have been allowed throughout corona lockdowns.

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However, travel for most people is limited in the new lockdown. Random police stops popped up in multiple locations, especially at entrances to city.

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This security stop on Derech Hevron was under a new sign to register for the new school year of 2021/2022. Planning for education continues even in a pandemic with students at home.

New signs went up by the Prime Minister’s Residence. Now it’s officially, France Square (not Paris Square) at Azza Street. Previously this small section of the street was called Ben Maimon Street, not Azza Street as would be assumed.

By whatever name, the fountain was being cleaned on Sunday morning, after another Saturday night of protesters partying around the fountain.

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Protesters set up shop one day this week on Balfour and Brenner Streets.

Plus their usual – every day – and not just Saturday night main location.

One thing they are is persistent, a new day and a new corner, and now in the colder and wet and windy weather.

For the first time, I saw this protest encampment being inspected today. Not what one would expect to see in Gan Ha’atzmaut, Independence Park, across from the United State Embassy building. Oh, well at least for this week it is called the US Embassy.

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After the rain, when the sky clears you can see the mountains of Jordan in the distance. The usually busy road filled with tour buses has been too empty too long.

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Takhana Rishona, First Station, had a few food places try to open, but new stricter regulations closed most of them down. Police were checking businesses as I walked through the sad scene.

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Oh but when those tourists come back, not only will they be surprised by the new skyline and roads, but also the new spots like this one near First Station.

After weeks of sun, the sky was grey on Friday over Har Hazeitim, the Mount of Olives.

As I approached the Old City, across the way on Har Hazeitim, I saw the funeral for Sheldon Adelson z”l. At the private ceremony, cars and motorcycles were parked well above the gravesite. Those specks of black in the middle are the photographers trying to get a glimpse of the funeral.

Trying to get a view of the burial site, one of the closest to the Old City walls.

It is not the big tent, but the small one on the left with men dressed in black and one in an orange United Hatzalah jacket.

In the Old City, security outnumbered the number of people allowed to pray at the Kotel, Western Wall.

Guards were at gates to exclude those who are more than one kilometer from home. More Facebook photos of Friday in Old City can be seen HERE

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While numbers of coronavirus patients are high, small businesses are shut.

But the vaccine program is racing along to over 2,000,000 inoculations. There are increased feelings of hope for the future, even as the number of coronavirus patients rises.

Even under grey clouds, windy and cold, with empty streets, there is always something new to see on the Jerusalem streets.

With a bit of music from Shalva, all we need is love and good health, and I will end with one of my favorite scenes of many this week.

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Friends of a groom were picking him up on the way to his wedding.

They saw my camera and smiling posed with a thumbs up.

I shouted “Mazel tov” to wish him well.

I love Jerusalem

All you need is love to brighten a grey day.

Take care and stay well.

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.