I am not a foreigner in Jerusalem.
And neither are you.
I had that epiphany a few months ago while I was walking down Keren Hayesod. I realised I knew the streets of Jerusalem and how to navigate around the city. I recognised the bus routes and from experience figured out that the light rail is always faster. I had loyalty cards at my favourite cafes and preferred to stay away from Ben Yehuda – it’s such a “scene”. I bought my fruits and vegetables every week at the shuk, spoke to strangers on the bus in Hebrew, turned down Shidduch opportunities from random bus drivers, and even had a Rav Kav with my name and picture on it.
But those aren’t the reasons that I’m not a foreigner.
I feel like a citizen of Jerusalem because the culture of Yerushalayim is mine. The buses that wish you Chag Sameach are more familiar than Waltzing Matilda. The kippot that surround you in the streets are more comforting than ugg boots and a Kathmandu jacket. The Judaism that permeates the city is more heartening than any beaches or footy teams that Australia can offer.
We are citizens of Jerusalem because the Torah declared that Yerushalyim is Hamakom Asher Yivchar Hashem – the place that God will choose and we said Na’aseh V’Nishma – we will do and we will hear. We are the people of Tzion because we’ve had a presence in this city since the days of Yehoshua. Because we refused to abandon her when the Babylonians exiled us, or when the Romans did, or when the Christians conquered her, or when the Muslims or the British did. Instead we mourned her, singing Al Naharot Bavel Sham Yashavnu V’Gam Bachinu B’zachreinu Et Zion – by the rivers of Babylon there we sat and wept as we remembered Zion.
We mourned for 1,897 years until finally in 1967, after six days of fierce fighting we managed to reunite the two sides of our eternal, capital. Since then, we’ve returned to the Old City, to the Kotel and rebuilt the Churva synagogue. We brought life back to the her ancient stones and fulfill the prophecies of Geulah every day. Once again the “city is full of boys and girls playing in her streets”, and “old men and women sit in her courtyards, each man with a staff in his hand due to his old age”.
Yerushalayim is contraction of the words Yeiraeh Shalem meaning completeness will be seen. It only when we have a complete Yerushalyim, an Ir Shechubrah La Yachdav, that we as a nation are complete. As I walk through the streets of modern Jerusalem and see her sparkling stones create a Yerushalayim Shel Zahav – a Jerusalem of Gold, I feel at one with my people.
I know I am part of Jerusalem.