Jerusalem Moving Forward: The Hope for Future

If last week was a week of transitions, this one is set to be even greater.

Not only because we had the whole family together for the first time in years for a photo and it’s my birthday. The final countdown has started for a new Israeli government after 12 years under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Jerusalem tourism is looking to improve with an announcement that on July 1st tourists are to be allowed into Israel. People have already started traveling again, as much as possible.

Photo credit: Mark Neyman GPO

Reuven Rivlin, in his last month as president, flew to Romania on an official visit this past week. An important stop was to speak at a joint session of the Romanian parliament before some 350 members of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies.

Last week, a corona is over celebration was held at the Jerusalem Theater.

Outside, security told me “no photos,” so this was as close to the white security tent at the entrance I could get. Most people didn’t know what was going on inside, and traffic was not blocked.

An award ceremony was held at the Jerusalem Theater to show appreciation for the Israeli health institutions and their contributions to successful efforts during the pandemic.

Real food – a sign of back to what was before corona, plus this event included healthy food options.

Hospital heads were present plus, police, military and emergency services.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein entered the theater wearing a mask.

A moment of silence for those who died and Hatikvah began the program.

A video with milestone days, ended with 461, and together we won.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke proudly of his accomplishment.

Ironic. Corona-over-celebration. However, the former Health Minister was one of few not wearing a mask in the packed auditorium. It was in his speech that Edelstein announced that the mask law was to be lifted.

However, as the certificates were presented, masks were off. It seems handshaking and hugging are back,

and smiling,

as the dozens of certificates were presented at the big feel good party.

One would never have imagined all that was happening outside.

Fires. Low flying planes circled around the entrance of Jerusalem. Dry and hot, too many large forest fires close to Jerusalem for one week.

After a year of no live events, two nights in a row felt like setting a milestone. The next night at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, there was a preview of a new documentary on Begin’s life, titled “Upheaval.” I highly recommend it – you can check it out HERE

Of course, seeing a movie in a real theater, and with Menachem Begin’s son and secretary, along with many others featured in the film, and a few Ambassadors was a really nice bonus. And, also food and wine were served before the film was shown in the renovated auditorium.

Not everything was live, Israel hosted over 400 participants from 58 countries virtually to discuss cutting-edge issues such as the security of the Internet at OECD Global Forum on Digital Security. Next year Japan is host.

The ever popular Shavuah HaSefer, Hebrew Book Week is back – live.

I was not the only one who was disappointed going on Friday to find it wasn’t open. The event is only on nights, from 6-8:30 pm until June 19, 2021.

According to the Israel National Library, in 2020, there was a decrease of 2,000 books published in comparison with 2019. But the Hebrew Book Week sales attract crowds of all ages, the full library report – HERE.

However, even without the books, Takhana Rishona, First Station was busy.

A Latin American Festival with booths and dancing got people’s attention.

A Brazilian singer entertained from the center stage. The Brazilian Ambassador was also in the crowd. Was it the food, Latin music, no masks outside, or the weather that put so many people in a festive mood?

Live performances are again being promoted along the Jerusalem streets.

New parks are popping up around Jerusalem, Israel.

It’s been a difficult time period going from a long pandemic, to Meron tragedy, to Operation Guardians of the Walls with thousands of rockets fired at Israel, fires surrounding Jerusalem, and all in the shadow of election dramas.

Who would have ever imagined all that has happened since Tu Bishvat 2020 at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence?

Hatikvah, The Hope – Israel’s anthem, no matter how you sing it,

or where – the hope for the future is a constant theme throughout the years.

Hope to see you soon on the Jerusalem streets.

Week Filled with Ups and Downs in Jerusalem

Oh what a week this was!

I had to do this post over and over again.

A week of extreme ups and downs, more than the usual rollercoaster.

The flags were flying high as the last week in April began.

Israeli flags draped down on the Israel Museum.

The wind was blowing so hard, the canvas police post had to be held down.

Every day I walked a different route so I could share the news. One scene was this building rising and changing the Jerusalem skyline over Jaffa Road.

The winter igloo capsules at First Station were being removed and simple shades were taking their place as the summer weather arrived.

The new National Library building exterior is nearing completion.

The new Knesset Museum interior is finally beginning renovations.

The new municipal bike stations are being prepared in popular locations.

The week also began in Gan Haatzmaut, Independence Park with a ‘Justice for Sarah Halimi’ rally. When I tried to give directions to a couple in French, only a fractured Hebrew phrase came out of my mouth. Around the world, protests were held after the French court let her murderer go free.

Call it French Square or Paris Square, it’s been dug up and work has begun.

Then the Mayor’s Office announced a long list of planned new road work.

I lost count of how many times these have been knocked down replaced on the newly redone street by Paris Fountain.

Finally, there are signs up directing the way to the Kotel, Western Wall.

The week started with bagpipers out in their tartans for Palm Sunday.

Women in the Old City walked carrying a palm. Yesterday was the ‘Holy Fire’ and today is Orthodox Easter Sunday and holiday crowds are returning.

On Mondays, the bar mitzvahs go all day long, with songs and prayers.

I think it went a bit too long for one young fellow. I assume the corona dividers going back up was not his issue, more the long day and afternoon sun that got him down.

New welcome signs have been put up with corona regulations.

Progress finally is visible on the elevator up to the Old City from the Kotel.

Flags and flowers were up in the Armenian Quarter and looking good.

Floral wreaths were placed down along the wall for the April 25th Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day commemoration.

Then a few days later, the dedication of a new 180 car parking lot was held.

This was the site as archeologists went down below street level last month. It seems a major hotel will not arise any time soon in the Armenian Quarter.

But I predict traffic will increase greatly here as soon as the news of newly available convenient parking spreads.

New signs for the May 5th Jerusalem challenge race,

and May 14th special cycling event in Jerusalem went up near Jaffa Gate.

Ramadan continues another two weeks with signs posted each week for street closings around the Old City as tens of thousands of Muslims arrive to pray.

Shopping during the days of Ramadan is allowed, eating begins at sundown.

It was also Pesach Sheni, a month after Passover, and I found one man dressed for the occasion walking from the Old City to the light rail train.

Oh how nice, “return to routine” signs were up.

Also ‘Jerusalem is proud of you’ signs were posted over the streets.

New blue information signs are now on historical buildings of interest and popped up in many neighborhoods and popular Jerusalem streets.

And colorful flowers line many Jerusalem streets, I put more HERE.

By Thursday afternoon Lag B’Omer preparations were well underway,

Last year during the pandemic, Lag B’Omer was broadcast live from Meron.

Traditionally Mt. Meron, not Jerusalem, is the place to be on Lag B’Omer.

But large bonfires were prepared ready for the night long celebrations.

Fires were to be limited this year to only designated areas in Jerusalem. There were fewer than in past years, the smoke was not as strong, but we closed our windows anyway as night fell.

As I have written before Lag B’Omer is not my favorite holiday. Two years ago, for Lag B’Omer, I shared my photos of Meron on a quiet day.

This year, I was watching again on YouTube Live stream as the huge crowd was singing, responding loudly to the declarations recited at the end of the Yom Kippur service, and dancing…and singing in unison – Ani Ma’amin, I believe…

Then, in what seemed like a blink of an eye, the joy turned to tragedy.

What a night!

What a week of extreme highs and lows.

Sunday was declared a national day of mourning. The flags have been lowered to half-mast. However, there’s no wind to blow the flag over the Knesset. Today only rising temperatures.

Photo credit: Mark Neyman GPO

On Friday, President Rivlin lit 45 memorial candles, one for each life lost.

The greatest civilian disaster in Israel’s history reaches and touches everyone. This was a week of so many ups and downs

Photo credit: Mark Neyman GPO

Today President Rivlin visited the L. Greenberg National Institute of Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir to thank the staff for their tireless work in identifying the victims of the Har Meron tragedy.

And as President Rivlin said to the families of the victims: “It is hard to grasp the pain of the families who saw in Shabbat not knowing the fate of their loved ones and came from Shabbat to the cemeteries. I am with you in your pain; all Israelis are with you in your pain.”

When it is hard to find the right words, I will end with the traditional text appropriate to comfort mourners:

המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים

18 Good Things in Jerusalem: From Yom Kippur to Sukkot

Oh what a different year this is in Jerusalem!

Jerusalem, Israel was the destination for millions of visitors for the autumn holiday season. The streets were filled with rental cars and excited tourists.

This year due to the coronavirus restrictions, the Kotel, Western Wall Plaza is mostly deserted, day and night time.

The area inside the Wilson’s Arch is closed again.

For Yom Kippur most synagogues were closed.

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Some synagogues made use of their outdoor spaces with tents.

Pop-up street services were held by small groups of neighbors coming together. Doing the best they could manage with cars, cyclists, children on noisy scooters, and dog walkers coming through the random plastic chairs spread around.

  1. The sounds of prayers filled the Jerusalem streets.

In spite of COVID-19 restrictions, hundreds of cars noisily made their way to Jerusalem and to the Knesset after Yom Kippur.

After months of loud late night disturbances in Jerusalem, the black shirts were again on their way in the morning to the Knesset.

Loud, some profane, some with young children, they paraded and screamed in the midday sun. The over the top display could still be heard when after midnight the Knesset voted to limit the protesters numbers and locations to one kilometer from home. Rules the rest of the country we’re supposed to follow.

The protesters are getting more than their share of headlines and filling news feeds. COVID-19 pandemic is a global problem, the deaths tragic.

I have decided to share good things happening you might have missed.

2. The weather has cooled, colorful clouds cover the Knesset at sunset.

That bit of red is a postal truck, nice to know the mail has not stopped moving during the latest set of lockdown restrictions.

The big crane on the left is for the new National Library under construction.

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3. Building has continued all these months of pandemic.

I am fascinated by the work on the library roof structure. One day in the future I will share the progress with you.

4. The Harvest Moon was shining bright.

Mars was too far away to get a good photo of both together. However, a Blue Moon is due to appear the end of the month. Another chance.

Photo credit: GIRO PR

5. Israeli Start-Up Nation was on the front line of the Giro d’Italia.

In the international bike race, Maglia Azzurra, King of the Mountains, was Rick Zabel representing Israel in the blue uniform.

6. There are quiet spots to meet and keep your distance in Jerusalem.

Hotels are closed again with the new COVID-19 restrictions. A few had opened partially over the summer for Israeli guests.

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Photo credit: United Hatzalah spokesperson

7. Lights were visible at night at the Crowne Plaza.

The hotel had been dark every night, closed since March. Presently, United Hatzalah workers are based in the conveniently located hotel.

8. Mayor Moshe Lion said keeping Jerusalem clean is a priority.

The Jerusalem Municipality clean up trucks have become a regular sight on the Jerusalem streets. The days of furnishing your apartment with cast-offs off the street are over unless you are very quick before a truck arrives.

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Photo Credit: Jerusalem Mayor Spokesperson

9. Three Machane Yehudah Market, shuk, streets got names and signs,Ha-Tut” or “Strawberry” Street was one.

Photo credit: Jerusalem Mayor Spokesperson

Another was “Arbaat Haminim” or “Four Species” Street. The sign over a nearly deserted street which would have been packed with shoppers any other year before the Sukkot holiday.

Men looking at etrogim

Thousands of careful shoppers would have come to select their etrog and luluv and greens for their four-holiday species as in this old photo. This year the small kiosks on Jerusalem streets in various neighborhoods filled the void.

lulav sukkot

The Kotel, Western Wall would be packed with tens of thousands of people for the Sukkot holiday in the past.

Not this year. Numbers are extremely limited and distanced.

The huge Birkat Kohanim – Priestly Blessing did not happen this year.

A lone kohen did the blessing on the second day of Sukkot.

On Monday, October 5, the corona style Birkat Kohanim was recorded and put on YouTube for all to have a front-row view. HERE

10. With the impending corona restrictions, many sukkot were put up early, before Yom Kippur instead of after or last minute.

On roof tops,

and on porches,

and even our open-air sukkah for two instead of twenty was ready early.

11. Imagine, a sukkah in Dubai ready for kosher meals!

12. A sign of normal in crazy times! Cut palm branches tied to top of a car to take home for the sukkah.

This will be the year a small porch sukkah is “in” in Jerusalem.

With fabric walls up on a porch,

or tucked away in the garden.

Reuven Rivlin greets public at open house on Succos

Last year President Rivlin was surrounded by crowds of visitors for the annual Open Sukkah at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence.

Two years ago he invited the public to the presidential sukkah that had a health theme at a press conference before Sukkot.

13. President Rivlin’s last open house as President will be virtual.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020, between 10:00 and 12:30 Israeli time – join in www.sukkot-president-science.co.il 

The broadcast will be available on Beit HaNasi’s Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube channels.

No need to put on shoes, stand in a long line in the hot sun to enter, or even leave your house to attend this year.

Sukka photo, Image unusual sukkah

No big public Sukkot public events in parks are to be held this year.

15. However, this mobile sukkah is to be out on our Jerusalem street.

The sound and light shows will not have hundreds of people each night.

I couldn’t decide which to share, so here are two segments from shows:

16. City of David Sound and Light Show Finale

17. Tower of David Museum Night Show on King David

18. Such clever work by talented friends Jessica and Yael!

Moadim l’simcha.