Also broadcast live on social media channels was the Selihot from the Synagogue at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence on Tuesday night. Rav Benny Lau’s Bible study program 929 again coordinated with President Isaac Herzog’s staff to combine Ashkenazi and Sefardi tunes in one program.
The Yagel Harousch Ensemble was so impressive, here is a longer version, 20 minutes of music for Erev Yom Kippur. Photos are HERE.
Over 2 million people participated in Selihot at the Kotel, Western Wall during the month of Elul and the Ten Days of Repentance. The Kotel had Selihot for 18 nights this year to try and accommodate the people who wanted to come to Jerusalem for the special prayers.
At midnight Erev Yom Kippur, at the Kotel beginning with Hatarat Nedarim, the annulment of vows, followed by the recitation of the traditional Selihot led by Cantor Moshe Havusha, with Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion, and also the Chief Rabbis of Israel. Tens of thousands more filled the entire Plaza area and Old City, plus thousands more watched the live broadcast.
Driving in some areas of Jerusalem, such as near the Kotel is impossible on these nights, and difficult on a good day. It’s amazing to see the crowds returning to the Jerusalem streets.
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.
When I lead photo walks, I try to arrive across from Jaffa Gate as the sun is setting to show off the Jerusalem of Gold. The sun reflected off the stones, depending on conditions, appears either golden or pink on cloudy days.
On Friday afternoon, before Shabbat, the Kotel, Western Wall, stones were pure golden hues, However, there was no one there to appreciate the moment. No crowds to pray afternoon or evening prayers.
At 2:00 pm on Friday, September 25, 2020, a lockdown was to begin, after a sharp rise in COVID-19, people are not to go more than 1 kilometer from home.
The Israel Museum and all others are again closed, this time until at least October 11, after the Sukkot holidays.
Most people, like the ants, were out busily preparing for whatever might be needed for holidays and the unknown weather- and whatever is to happen next.
Even before the lockdown announcement, for the solemn day of Yom Kippur, 61% of Jewish Israelis said that they do not intend to attend synagogue at all this year, and only 34% planned on coming to some or all of the services. In the past those numbers were much higher.
Now, like Rosh Hashana, we plan to be home and alone.
Yom Kippur services with reduced numbers of 20 are planned for outside. This is to be a holiday season like none other.
Bar Ilan University posted a day of Zoom live courses on Facebook on Wednesday for the public on various related holiday topics. The list of lectures, classes, and changing regulations seems endless.
People were out on paths getting in their 1 kilometer from home walks.
I hope my less known route does not become as popular.
The Jerusalem Municipality sponsored programs and selihot for the week before Yom Kippur, with singer Moshe Louk scheduled for Wednesday night leading Piyutim.
Two years ago Louk led Selihot at Beit Hanasi, in the Israeli President’s Residence Synagogue. Sadly there will be none there this year.
Stores were closed and locked up on Friday afternoon.
I wonder how many businesses will never open up again.
The Jerusalem cats were out in full force on the streets Friday afternoon.
Major intersections were quieter, much quieter than a regular Friday.
Even the cats seemed quieter, waiting, not sure what would be next.
A sharp increase in the number of corona patients in the Arab sector was of concern. Large weddings were held in the afternoon to get around curfews.
Jerusalem Municipality and United Hatzalah of Israel, with more than 20 EMS volunteers driving ambucycles, an ambulance, fly cars, and an ATV, drove through neighborhoods in order to spread awareness of the dangers of COVID-19 to the residents.
Mayor Moshe Lion also joined the procession in order to strengthen the efforts of the volunteers and encourage the residents to stay home and safe.
At the same time, nature seems normal, with shorter days, fall colors, and a new season.
President Rivlin’s term is up in July 2021. There will be no next year Selihot for him to host at Beit Hanasi.
This year with very limited numbers and restrictions on religious services.
The main Selihoterev Yom Kippur were very different.
The Kotel, Western Wall plaza was mostly empty during a live broadcast.
Meanwhile, thousands arrived by car to Jerusalem on Shabbat, and for two hours after, heading to Paris Square to protest against the government.
New bright lights lined Ruppin Street outside the Knesset as they met to work out the latest coronavirus regulations.
As Israel goes into the Yom Kippur holiday, with people alone at home, or on the streets fasting and praying, pray for wisdom and unity as well as health this year.
At the very first of many webinars on COVID-19, way back in March, the expert from South Korea stated the number one factor in controlling the virus was trust in the government.