Jerusalem is finally open for business

This Sunday all roads led to Jerusalem, and not because it happened to be Rosh Hodesh Sivan.

A main road in Jerusalem is seen deserted in the morning of Passover amid coronavirus ( COVID-19) government restrictions April 9, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)
A main road in Jerusalem is seen deserted in the morning of Passover amid coronavirus ( COVID-19) government restrictions April 9, 2020
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)
■ AMONG THE first Jerusalem hotels to reopen for business was the Waldorf Astoria, which flung open its doors just in time for Shavuot. General manager Avner On conceded that it would not be easy to conform to all the guidelines of the Health Ministry, but insisted that, difficult though it might be, the hotel would make every effort in order to maintain the health of both staff and guests.
■ LAST SHABBAT many synagogues in Jerusalem joyfully reopened for services. Congregants in those synagogues that had previously held outdoor services in compliance with Health Ministry regulations were delighted to be inside again, especially in such cases in which the synagogues have air-conditioning. It was a pleasure to be out of the heat and free of flies.
Among those synagogues that did not reopen and will remain closed during Shavuot is the Great Synagogue, whose acting president, Zalli Jaffe, chairman of the board Daniel Palut, together with Shmuel Rosenblum, who is cochairman of the board, sent out a notice to members explaining that the building would remain closed until further notice, because premises the size of the Great Synagogue require preparations far in excess of those of smaller premises. It also requires additional staff to monitor everyone who enters the synagogue to ascertain as far as possible that such congregants are not in the at-risk age group, and that they have none of the symptoms linked to coronavirus.
Although there is a limit to the number of people permitted to congregate for a service, there is always the argument that in a facility the size of the Great Synagogue, there is plenty of room for more people to engage in social distancing. Then again, if an exception is made for one synagogue, there is no reason not to make an exception for another large synagogue.
Also, in the case of the Great Synagogue, the women’s gallery is two floors above the men’s section. Therefore, it could be argued that the same number of women should be permitted to pray as the number of men. Alternately, if no women show up for services, the male surplus could argue to be allowed to pray in the women’s section.
The problem is far too complex, and therefore rather than risk offense and danger to health, it is more advisable to keep the synagogue closed and thereby avoid needless friction.
■ THIS SUNDAY all roads led to Jerusalem, and not because it happened to be Rosh Hodesh Sivan.
The pro- and anti-Netanyahu demonstrators have been much more active and much more visible in recent weeks, congregating near the Prime Minister’s Residence, near his office, opposite the Knesset and, this week, of course, opposite the Jerusalem District Court.
Throughout his political career, Benjamin Netanyahu has been involved in several court cases, but nothing so serious as at the present time. Just as the media misreport the actual address of the residence (which, incidentally, is correctly listed by Wikipedia), they also misreport demonstrations near the residence as being opposite the residence.
There have been no demonstrations opposite the residence since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. The closest anyone came was when members of the family of hijacked soldier Gilad Schalit, chained themselves to the railing at the very end of Balfour Road, on the intersection leading to Aza Street, which is a corner away.
In Rabin’s time, there was a low fence and a swinging gate. Following his assassination, a pergola was erected, the fence was heightened, and a heavy metal door replaced the swinging gate. There are large mirrors and hidden cameras all over the place, and half of Balfour Road and half of Smolenskin Street have been cordoned off and closed to pedestrian traffic other than local residents. Vehicles not belonging to local residents are permitted to pass through, but not always. When residents are expecting guests, deliveries or maintenance personnel, they have to notify the security services.
■  JERUSALEM MAYOR Moshe Lion was interviewed by numerous media outlets in honor of Jerusalem Day, and the most common question he was asked was whether he thinks the Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Ministry is superfluous, in view of the inordinate size of the government. Lion replied that he would enjoy working with Minister Rafi Peretz, who has a great affection for Jerusalem and many fine achievements to his credit both in civilian life and while serving in the IDF.