Passover – This Year in Jerusalem

Passover or Pesach,

the holidays of Spring have passed.

The Jerusalem holiday crowds returned in the tens of thousands as many of the coronavirus restrictions were lifted. The Birkat Kohanim, Priestly Blessing, was extended to two days in order to accommodate more people at the Kotel, the Western Wall.

Watching the live service online, I was able to get a front-row seat on both days without leaving home. Plus the video is available for all to enjoy now.

Before the holiday began we had elections for the 24th Knesset. Notice the COVID-19 dividers and limited numbers allowed in the room.

Plenty of parties to pick from. But as of today, as the new Knesset is sworn in, the makeup of the new government is still very uncertain. President Rivlin has given the mandate to Benjamin Netanyahu who had the most recommendations, but not a majority of 61, so here we go again. Will have to wait and see what happens next. One difference this fourth time in under two years was the generous amount of hand sanitizer in the voting booth.

On my way home, people were out on the streets. There was a party atmosphere with a day off from work, and finally freed from apartments.

This was the scene in my kitchen when I returned after voting. Those eggs (and more) are long gone and the cucumber salad and pickles were finished off last week, but a few glutin-free cookies remain in the freezer.

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Last year we prepared for a seder with two people, and this year the seder had two tables. One table was preset on Friday to save time after Shabbat.

With the change of clocks and the holidays, time was a blur. It was a bit of a challenge to know what day it was, plus keeping track of who was to be at each meal, downsized from the old days to smaller family units.

For Passover, museums returned and were open with prior registration,

while some previously open food places closed for Passover.

Israeli nature spots and parks were filled with family reunions.

The new visitor center in Tel Lachish was not open, but the trail was ready for the stream of hikers.

New playgrounds in new neighborhoods sprung from the barren earth.

And oh, oh the traffic returning to the Jerusalem streets. Here are the blue lights of the Prime Minister’s motorcade weaving its way out of Jerusalem.

As one who remembers the old Route 1, I marvel each time we wind our way up the new roads to Jerusalem in multiple lanes packed with cars.

At Jaffa Gate, an oversized banner welcomed tens of thousands of visitors with “Happy Passover in Jerusalem” in bright spring colors.

Inside Jaffa Gate, signs showed the way to the Kotel, the Western Wall.

Security was out and visible, but relaxed for the holiday crowds.

A Happy Purim sign was up in the Rova, the Jewish Quarter. Purim was last month, but the crowds indeed seemed happy.

Happy to be out and back in the Old City, and to sit and eat kosher for Passover food they did not have to prepare or eat at home.

The Kotel Plaza was still divided to provide size-regulated services.

The size of holiday crowds was similar to the past years. I went in the afternoon after Birkat Kohanim to see what was happening.

The only quiet location I found on Passover was the usual one at the egalitarian section of the Western Wall. What was unusual was that security allowed a man dressed in his Haredi holiday attire to go down. In the past, I had seen religious-looking men were stopped and denied entrance.

Popup popcorn stands (for Sephardim only) were in multiple locations, wafting the familiar aroma to entice customers.

Young and old, they came, all day, well into the night on Passover walking to the Old City and the Kotel as on holidays past. So many baby strollers!

The clean-up crews were noticeable and are to be commended, as the sanitation workers labored overtime to keep the Jerusalem streets clean.

After an upside down year, it was good to be out, even wearing a mask.

Crowds filled Mamilla Mall, walking, shopping, and sitting to eat.

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The new art in Mamilla Mall was popular with visiting children.

This last sign of the protesters was removed immediately after Passover and the construction of France Square and Paris Fountain has begun.

The original dedication stone with the mayors of Jerusalem and Paris in 2008 could use a good clean-up and restoration.

The image of coming out of hibernation as lumbering bears was no longer appropriate. The lighter feeling on the Jerusalem streets was of millions of butterflies bursting out after a year in cocoons, filling the parks in the pleasant weather.

The fountain was not flowing in Teddy Park, but Israelis sat to enjoy the Jerusalem nature spot.

The Jerusalem cats were looking satisfied after finding full dumpsters.

Jerusalem filled with traffic, a sign of “normal” after a very difficult pandemic year with no international tourism.

This spring Israelis returned to Jerusalem. Here’s hoping as we say at the end of the seder, “Next Year in Jerusalem” will be for all.

But before we can relax and enjoy the flowers, it’s time for the Yoms!

Always something happening on the Jerusalem streets: at Yad Vashem Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes Remembrance Day, will be observed this year starting Wednesday evening, April 7, through Thursday, April 8, 2021, with live broadcast in English – HERE

New Signs of Spring in Israel

New Signs of Spring in Israel

Pesach, Passover,  the holiday of Freedom and the holiday of Spring,

begins two weeks into the Hebrew month of Nisan.

Spring flowers in Jerusalem, Israel in Beit Hanasi garden

In Israel, spring is a time of green and of spring blooms of all colors popping up in the warm sun after the winter rain.

Clouds in sky, power lines and green along road in southern Israel

On a recent trip south toward the Negev, clouds billowed over the power lines.

Negev green after winter rain as seen from highway

All along the highway, green was the predominate color.

Fields of green vegetables are ready to pick for the holiday tables.

Hasslat Gush Katif vegetable packing plant in southern Israel

Our trip was to see a new vegetable packing plant in the Negev called חסלט Hasalat.

The facility was impressive on many levels.

Trucks unloading vegetables at packing plant in southern Israel

The size and capacity are impressive. Those openings are for two large trucks filled with produce to be delivered.

Vegetables marked with red stickers were rejected by packing plant for kosher customers

Not all produce is accepted, and these crates with red stickers contained rejected produce.

Gush Katif packing plant water being checked for insects

Samples of deliveries are washed and rinsed and checked in the lab, through a series of fine filters.

Man inspects for tiny bugs in vegetables in southern Israel packing plant

The specially trained inspectors are looking for insects less than a millimeter in size.

Man uses magnifying glass to examine small bug found in vegetable rinse water in packing plant in southern Israel

They know how to tell tiny insects that are not easily washed away from those that are.

Packing Gush Katif vegetables in southern Israel

Once the produce has been checked and declared clean, it then to goes to the packers, who have to dress warmly, as the rooms are kept cool.

People inspecting cabbage in packing plant Israel Gush Katif

The cabbage checkers check and recheck for insects, before the cabbages are sent along to be put in plastic bags.

Work room in Hasslat packing plant for Gush Katif vegetables

This is a large plant, with multiple rooms that process a variety of vegetables.

With Passover approaching, the demand for romaine lettuce will surge.

Ready-cut carrots, parsley and cabbage for salads will also be in great demand.

Israel green from winter rain people working in fields

Along the road agricultural workers were working in the green fields.

Bomb shelter on farmers for safety from Gaza missiles in southern Israel

These bomb shelters for farmers were built for protection as the rockets rained in from Gaza.

Now they are being used for storage, but if an alarm sounds, in the Negev there is no time to head home. Some workers have less than fifteen seconds to run to shelter.

After 12 years, Gush Katif produce, though no longer from Gush Katif, stands for quality and bug-free vegetables with low pesticide use, and some are grown organically.

Cabbage growing in hot house in southern Israel

Farmers are growing in special green houses in the Negev, sending their produce to be packed at Hasalat and then sent to stores in Israel and around the world.

Not all the farmers who left Gush Katif have permanent homes yet, so many years after they were expelled.

Kfar Darom building sites ready, but still no homes built

These are the housing plots for the new Shavei Darom community.

Gush Katif Kfar Darom playground built though no homes yet

The JNF playground is built and ready, but there are no children yet to play there.

Kfar Darom mikvah built before any homes Gush Katif

The community mikvah is state-of the-art with access for those with disabilities.

Land for homes Kfar Darom Gush Katif to rebuild

The Shavei Darom infrastructure is ready, but there are no homes built yet.

12 years after the destruction of Gush Katif, those expelled are still living in temporary residences.

Southern Israel bomb shelter next to bus stop

Bomb shelters next to bus stops are real and ready.

Cabbage in hothouse in Southern Israel for Gush Katif vegetable

But it was good to see that greener days are ahead for some of the former residents of Gush Katif.

It’s also good to see the new signs over the Jerusalem streets for Passover.

Street sign Happy spring holiday

 Chag Aviv Sameach Be Yerushaliyim

Happy Holiday of Spring in Jerusalem.