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:
- 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.
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,
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.
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.