Sights and Sounds of Sukkot in Jerusalem

This time of year in Jerusalem, Israel, as the temperatures cool down and the Sukkot holiday season begins people come out of their homes, and the streets are filled with new strange sights and sounds.

In the Old City, in the Rova, the Jewish Quarter, there were many sukkot.

This large sukkah was at the Kotel, at the back of the Western Wall Plaza, and many more sukkot were visible above.

The festive Birkat Cohanim the holiday Priestly Blessing was scheduled for two days, not just one, to spread out the crowds and limit size and numbers attending this year for Sukkot.

Police and security were in place for the masses, but as you see on Wednesday, there were more security barriers than people at Jaffa Gate.

Inside Jaffa Gate, people went to pass through the Arab Shuk, as it was relatively quiet also.

Dignitaries were positioned to the left and up above the crowd at the Wall.

The whole service was broadcast live and available on YouTube both days.

I have come to Birkat Cohanim before, but certainly, on Wednesday, the scene was not like the usual as in 2012.

There was room for people to move freely, with the special security personnel wearing purple vests checking that everyone had a mask.

For the two minutes of the Birkat Cohanim, most people stood quietly. From this angle, the scene appeared similar to the past. It was so hot in the sun that my camera overheated, so I didn’t get a video.

But I did get a few minutes of the Musaf service to share with you. The choir added a more musical touch and length to the prayer service.

But Sukkot is about the sukkot, those “huts” or “illegal structures” that pop up and around the Jerusalem streets for this holiday week.

This one I had not noticed before and I’m not sure who built it.

I wondered how many others noticed it way up there over the Kotel Plaza?

Look up and you can see sukkot on porches, wooden ones and simple ones,

a sukkah on a Jerusalem porch with a wall of colorful fabric,

or made of wood with flower boxes.

The King David Hotel didn’t have the usual huge sukkah in their parking lot, but it looked like something was on the roof.

The Jerusalem Theater had a sukkah in front near the main entrance.

Some were placed on Jerusalem street corners.

This one was not new, but in a new location, off the new main sidewalk.

The giant sukkah in Kikar Safra was back. Who remembers that it was featured in one of the early RJS posts 11 years ago?

It is big, public, and with special times for the Jerusalem Mayor and his wife to greet the public.

Similar to old times, Mayor Moshe Lion and his wife, stood and posed for photo after photo. New, security checked for a green pass and mask to enter.

Across Jaffa Road from the Jerusalem Municipality is Shushan Street, dressed in new colors for the Sukkot holiday crowds to appreciate.

On Jaffa Road was a Chabad sukkah available for one to stop and make their holiday blessings.

But on the other side of the light rail tracks, Jaffa Road was lined with sukkot from the various food places for their customers to sit and eat.

Thursday evening families crowded around the various entertainers,

performers were every few meters, and other musicians were nearby.

Not sure what this was on Ben Yehudah Street, but it did get my attention.

One of several couples performing – more photos on Facebook – HERE

There were the traditional holiday sights in the Old City.

But this year for the first time there was a neighborhood street festival called The Heroines of the Palmach – for those interested, see more Here

Our sukkah was up and ready, and decorated in time for a photo, and happily withstood the wind and a little light rain.

Though we kept the meals much smaller than usual, it was good to have guests again after last year’s limitations.

We are only partway thru the holiday week, with Hashana Raba and Simhat Torah coming to make this another “short” week ahead. As we ask and try to remember each morning “what day is this”? More holiday events are planned, limited in scope, but at least happening much more than last year.

Shana Tova! In Jerusalem, signs are posted near major Jerusalem parks.

Here’s hoping this will be a healthy and good year for all!

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

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.