Jerusalem: A Week of Transitions

After over a year filled with uncertainty and pandemic isolation, followed by rockets and 11 days of the war, we had a week filled with transitions in Jerusalem, Israel.

Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s residence, has been getting ready for the change of residents for many weeks.

The term of Reuven Rivlin, the tenth President of Israel, is coming to an end. His position of honor in the garden was being prepared months ago.

President-elect Isaac Herzog spoke as head of the Jewish Agency at the last major event before corona that I attended at Beit Hanasi.

However, it was at a bar mitzvah event in a Jerusalem synagogue, where Herzog was impressive. The deaf youngsters had a father or older male standing next to them, except for one 13-year-old in the front row, who stood – alone. Herzog noticed and came over immediately to the help the boy put on tefillin for the first time.

Will there be a transition to a new Prime Minister also this week?

The Netanyahu House gate was open a bit this week. Passing cars slowed to get a glimpse at what is happening behind the new security wall. Will this Jerusalem neighborhood get new full time residents? Stay tuned.

New signs were up for the transition to summer in Jerusalem parks, which include new Shabbat activities for children.

The Israel Festival as I mentioned is underway now and with live events.

New Jerusalem playgrounds have popped up like colorful mushrooms,

and everyday more blue historical information signs,

as the skyline is rising rapidly higher at the entrance to Jerusalem.

The new school for music and the arts is ready for the next school year. This 2021 year, Jerusalem high schoolers had so few days in schools.

The construction work continues to go down as well as up, these pipes were ready to be used under King David Street.

The first section resurfacing between the King David Hotel and YMCA has been showing signs of progress.

Walking around this past week to see what was happening, things felt different. The transition from corona-closed to coming back to life could be felt. The weather was great for walking. Seeing friends after over a year and recognizing them was marvelous.

One visitor to Jerusalem I recognized leaving the Citadel Hotel. Senator Ted Cruz was here on a support mission, as was a group of US rabbis.

People travelled, with lots of paper work and tests, from around the world to attend weddings and family celebrations held in Jerusalem.

A wedding on the Tayelet with the Old City in the background – always a favorite and not to be missed, especially when you have connections to the families for many years.

The umbrellas were back over Yoel Salomon Street for summer fun.

The shops on the street were lit and open again, transitioning back to life.

This one of Jerusalem’s less ‘proper’ streets, is slowly transitioning away from sleazy bars. Walking on the street was an English-speaking couple I guessed were looking for a restaurant one street over.

Yes, lights were up again at night to welcome the visitors downtown.

Ben Yehudah Street store fronts were bright and ready for business again.

While uncertainty and transition surround us daily,

in nature, we see a continuity of transition, pomegranates forming from the blossoms on the trees lining the paths along the Jerusalem streets,

and the wonderful vivid colors of the flowers along those streets.

Hoping to see you all here again soon on the Jerusalem streets.

Rosh Hashana 5781

This year in Jerusalem, Rosh Hashana was not like in previous years. As with most of the world, the Jewish New Year was spent alone at home or in small gatherings rather than in crowded synagogues and overflow services. 

At the Kotel, the Western Wall, the usual huge crowds were missing.

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Sections were divided into small prayer groups before Rosh Hashana for late-night Selihot.

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Those smaller groups filled some of the plaza areas this year.

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And then at night after Rosh Hashana, even those small groups were gone.

Such a sorry sight, at a time usually filled with tourists and visitors. 

The Jerusalem Great Synagogue was empty for the first time in its history.

The green spaces of Jerusalem, all of its parks, were called into use.

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These signs were posted wishing park visitors’ good health and a good year.

Jerusalem Gazelle Valley opening day

A special announcement was made that the Gazelle Park would be open during the lockdown, with everyone required to wear a mask.

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Hope they turned off the water sprinklers on the holiday for Gan Sacher, Sacher Park. Extra bins for holiday trash were available. 

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The ads for juice near Gan Sacher had a happy holiday greeting.

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Almonds were ripe on the tree and falling to the ground. Only they were so hard I could not crack the ones I brought home with a hammer.

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Machane Yehuda Market, the shuk, was busy the week before the impending holiday shutdown. Shoppers were rushing to stock up with food and supplies. Supermarkets were filled to overflowing capacity. 

Display of unusual fruits for Rosh Hashana in shuk, Mahane Yehuda market

Fresh new fruits for the second night of Rosh Hashana are especially popular this time of year.

pomegrante seeds

A long time favorite, yummy pomegranate pie for the holiday. 

Family of beekeeper at Beit Hanasi before the New Year.

No little bees photo ops this year, and a very much smaller reception for beekeepers was held at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence. 

Tzipi Hotovely taking a photo of the food at Beit Hanasi

No big New Year event for foreign diplomats at Beit Hanasi as in the past.

Photo credit: Mark Neyman GPO

This year President Rivlin hosted a socially distanced private reception for diplomats who were seated apart and all wearing masks.

The Selihot in the Beit Hanasi Synagogue was an annual event during Rivlin’s tenure. This was the last chance as his 7-year term is up in July.

However, this year due to religious service size restrictions these will not be held during this three-week lockdown period.

For a lockdown, this new Jerusalem project in the Schneller Compound is the place to live, to enjoy parks and open spaces. It is a magazine perfect neighborhood.

From Jerusalem this past week, all eyes were watching the signing of treaties with UAE and Bahrain. Only later I noticed on the left side for Israelis, a man in the front rows got up to take a photo on his phone, as the US side sat politely.

The Old City Walls that night were illuminated with flags of Israel, the US, UAE, and Bahrain in honor of the historic occasion.

Already numerous interactions have taken place. The webinar on health and technology I listened to is worthy of sharing with you soon, it was so impressive what they have done in Abu Dhabi in the last few years.

Photo credit: Shifra

However, also on the Jerusalem streets near the Prime Minister’s Residence, the protests continue. Though there was a supposed lockdown, a large table was set for 120 people, with no distancing, no masks, and lots of noise for Rosh Hashana on the first night. Protests in democratic Israel are legal.

Sorry, but I find their behavior UNEXCEPTIBLE.

New security cameras are being installed in the area, and new security is reinforcing the regular police and border police who have had to deal with these loud mob scenes week after week.

Sweet New Year poster for Rosh Hashanah

But for now, hoping all have a sweet and healthy year.

President Reuven Rivlin gave New Year greetings in English this year.

Next year in Jerusalem!

Meanwhile, preparing for Sukkot holiday to start October 2, 2020,

We spotted the first sukka of the season!

What’s New in Jerusalem After Holidays?

What’s New in Jerusalem After Holidays?

The holidays are over.

It is time to get “back to normal.”

The Knesset winter season has opened, and universities are back in session.

A rocket from Gaza destroyed a home in Beer Sheva overnight.

Thankfully the mother was able to run with her 3 sleeping children to a safe room.

In Beer Sheva schools are closed, as students are home for a “rocket day.”

Happy New Year sign up way after new year in Jerusalem Israel

On one Jerusalem, Israel, street, the Happy New Year signs were still up.

Jerusalem Israel building cranes

And building cranes were also up, way up, and back to the business of building.

Jerusalem Israel Montefiore Windmill shield of arms over door

The Montefiore Windmill is now open as a winery and tourist spot.

The missing Monefiore coat of arms seems to be back over the door.

Bride and groom in Inbal lobby Jerusalem Israel

After the holidays, weddings galore filled the days and nights.

Ben Gurion actor in Jerusalem Israel at Christian Media Summit

Conferences and Israel 70-year missions are too many to list, enough to surprise Ben Gurion.

Jerusalem Israel conference with US Ambassador Friedman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netnayahu on stage

Two hundred international Christian media professionals came for a media summit.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and US Ambassador Friedman were featured at the opening event.

I met a woman from Canada, a radio team from Estonia, and sat next to a working couple from The Hague, all supporters of Israel.

These visitors were all excited and happy to be here.

Security at First Station at end of day

Check out the security, still partially visible as I left the event at First Station.

Har Hazaytim tour buses in Jerusalem Israel

After the holidays tourist buses were still lining the road on Har Hazeitim, the Mount of Olives.

Record numbers of tourists arrived this past year in Israel.

Ido Aharoni diagram at ITSS

Ido Aharoni told the International Tourism Security Summit (ITSS) that Israel’s Main Value is its creativity. He used as an example actors in a theater group who bake bread on stage as part of the show. All the actors are blind and deaf, and use 1500 physical cues to perform perfectly every night in the theater.

which kills more people sharks or coconuts?

Summit seems to be the new term for conference. Some of the slides at the ITSS were great.

This one I really appreciated. Who knew how many people are killed by falling coconuts a year?

Night on porch of Inbal Hotel Jerusalem Israel

The Inbal has been renovating, and the patio was lovely at night,

View from Inbal balcony at night Jerusalem

as was the view over the Liberty Bell Park with the Dan Boutique Hotel lit up in the distance.

German Chancellor and Israeli President in Jerusalem Israel

As soon as the holidays were over, Angela Merkel arrived in Israel.

Israeli President House lunch for German delegation in Jerusalem Israel

The German Chancellor, her delegation, and Israeli guests were served lunch at Beit Hanasi.

Prof Aumann talks with Andrea Merkel at Beit Hanasi lunch

I wondered what Nobel Prize Winner Prof. Aumann said to Merkel as she entered the room with the Israeli President.

Jerusalem Israeli President House reception for Andrea Merkel and delegates

Other Nobel Prize winners were invited, and the only female Israeli winner sat next to Merkel.

Jerusalem street blocked to traffic during visit of German chancellor

Most people only paid attention to the German delegation in Jerusalem when streets were closed.

After the holidays, and traffic was back to normal, filling the streets.

Rabbinic Judges Swearing in at Israeli President House

Twenty-four new rabbinical court judges were sworn in this week at Beit Hanasi.

New Rabbinical judges with Israeli President

This photo of the President, Chief Rabbis and the head of selection committee has received attention for being all male.

Rabbi Amar and Rabbi Yosef at Israeli President House

But have you seen this photo? I am looking for good caption, open to suggestions.

This is only a fraction of what has been happening, and so much more is scheduled for after the holidays.

A Jerusalem favorite starts tomorrow.

Over 120 varied locations are open for free in the annual  100 Houses from Within 

Jerusalem Israel Zeev Elkin office

Municipal elections are at the end of October.

Signs were popping up everywhere.

This pop-up store front became a campaign location.

Holidays may be over, but much is still happening on the Jerusalem streets.