Special interview with Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion on the eve of Rosh Hashanah

"This year won't be like other years, but every synagogue has a solution in place."

Uzi Baruch ,

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion
Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion
Arutz Sheva

In a special interview with Arutz Sheva, Jerusalem mayor Moshe Lion talks about the unique challenges faced by the Jewish capital during the coronavirus crisis, and describes the preparations made in advance of the High Holiday period - now under a cloud of lockdown.

"We can't deny that there's been an increase in the number of coronavirus cases in recent days," Lion says. "I'm not talking about haredi or Arab neighborhoods," he clarifies. "I'm talking about the city as a whole. So it's vital that we adhere to the lockdown guidelines so that we can significantly reduce the number of carriers and have a peaceful winter."

The mayor pointed to the permission granted to Mahane Yehuda open-air market to continue operating during the lockdown period as a "victory of logic" in contrast to the previous lockdown, when supermarkets were allowed to remain open but the market was shut. He has been a strenuous promoter of businesses in the city, doing his utmost to protect storekeepers and ensure that cafes can continue to remain open without violating coronavirus regulations.

"We allowed cafe and restaurant owners to put their tables outside, on the sidewalks, allowing them to cater to more customers at a given time," he asserted. "In recent weeks Jerusalem felt a great sense of return to daily life, to routine. People visited the city, ate in the cafes and restaurants... It's going to be a hard three weeks now," he added, referring to the lockdown, "but there's no alternative at the moment."

What about the options for prayers during the High Holiday period, and the Sukkot festival, when Jerusalem is traditionally flooded with visitors from across the country and all over the world?

"It's not going to be like other years, but we've made every effort to minimize the damage to the holiday atmosphere," Lion says. "Around half a million people pray in Jerusalem's synagogues over the High Holidays, and we've made extensive preparations to ensure that they'll be divided into small groups, opening up schools and kindergartens to provide more space, and of course outdoor areas too, where there is a lower risk of getting infected. We're going into Rosh Hashanah with the knowledge that every single synagogue has a solution in place," he says proudly.

In conclusion, mayor Lion looks to the future of the city, and his hopes that it will be a destination for more Jews not just to visit, but settle on a permanent basis. "I see our most significant challenge as being negative immigration," he says. "What I want is positive immigration to Jerusalem and with God's help we will reach this goal - if not next year, then the year after. My sense is that we're already going in the right direction. This is what we so need," he added, "as well as, of course, a shanah tovah, a good new year, a year of health, and a ketivah va'chatimah tovah - may all Israeli citizens be inscribed for a wonderful new year."