I have grown old while you glow with the blush of a bride, with your antiquity blending with the rush of newness. Just today we explored a recently discovered ancient aqueduct right across the street from this building in Arnona HaChadasha, the new Arnona. The water flowed from Bethlehem to Jaffa Gate, an incredible feat of engineering for the builders at the beginning of the Common Era, over 2,000 years ago, a distance of over ten kilometers. And now your ancient stones are burnished by the footsteps of millions who have come to pay you homage, throughout the centuries, until this very moment. You are adored.
We have shared so much with you, and you have given us confident love, and endearing and enduring vitality in return. You are vibrant and, above all, you are resilient. Now, as our beloved nation is once again tarnished by terrorists whose goal is to shed our blood, our people, your citizens, Jewish or not, carry on with brazen bravery.
Dear Jerusalem, you are a skilled surgeon, slicing away evil acts and evil people from those who live together in peace, stitched with no scars, sharing a city and a land. There are places of remarkable community, of being together. Perhaps the taxi driver, in whom we trust our very lives, is not a Jew, as is the orthopedist, the patient in the next hospital bed, and the young parents pushing a baby carriage in the mall. From abroad it all sounds so threatening, this proximity, this building together. Thus, when the world accuses our people of apartheid, the world must visit our malls and hospitals. And universities. And witness who is painting the living room or is the art professor, or who is serving at a favorite dining spot, or serving in the government, or repairing the emergency plumbing leak, or repairing the patient’s damaged heart at Hadassah Hospital. Our lives are often parallel as each element of our society seeks to make them as meaningful as they can be. Without strife. In many ways we truly are two peoples sharing the same land. In many ways it works very well!
I have innumerable fond memories of you Dear Jerusalem, and then there were others.
I remember vividly the startling war that began on Yom Kippur 1973. It was a bolt of lightning crushing our prayers as they ascended to the heavens. Your citizens suddenly left their shuls and ran to the bastions. This was a Day of Atonement like no other. Butchers and barbers and doctors and nurses and bakers and storekeepers were once again treading on their paths as warriors. Many of them never returned, but you Dear Jerusalem, your stoicism never left you and the very next day after the war had begun, your rooftops and gardens were dense with Sukkot, their inherent fragility bolstered by your strength. How did such a miracle happen?
A triumphant victory could never overcome the loss of precious lives but this holy place could choose no other way. The war had to be fought and the chagim had to continue, a powerful lesson for your children.
And I learned, as a young mother of four children, never to procrastinate. When I finally went to refill the bare shelves in our kitchen I was met with bare shelves in the market. Somehow we survived.
Jerusalem, you are now fighting on different fronts, fighting with covid19, a wily enemy who has challenged the city’s patience. Hotels and restaurants are once again open. Masks are being worn on necks, if at all. Stores are busy. People are going to work in offices and factories. Life is resuming as if there never was a virus, as if the threat has evaporated. I fear we celebrate too soon. I fear the virus will have the last evil laugh, and maybe even then it won’t actually be the finale.
But you, the people of Jerusalem, have declared a victory. Your restaurants are packed with people willing to part with enormous amounts of shekels, dollars, or pesos, dinars or francs. Recently I read a restaurant review about a place in a hotel tower where each lamb chop cost $30. Such articles always conclude with a note that the reviewer was a guest of the restaurant. I’ll bet! But this urge to ose chaim, to live life, is what Jerusalem is about, a city of fierce lovers of living, a city that never
quits, even when the price is high.
So today we wandered the streets of Downtown, to see if there were people hovering behind locked gates, fearful of yet another unprovoked attack, more murders directed at innocents. Today there is new resonance in my heart, and soul. Now our grandson Aaron is one of the defenders of Israel, Aaron, sweet, kind, loving, non-violent young man that he is. His next homecoming to the Jerusalem skyscraper where I now sit, will be his first with a weapon. The prime minister has suggested that all those trained to use their legally obtained weapons should carry them with them when they leave their homes, in effect creating a citizens’ army. One terror attack has already been averted by this recommendation. There will be more. And I, an enemy of the NRA, will cheer them on.
But did I see any sign in the streets that dangers were lurking? Did I see signs that people were walking more hesitatingly, that they were looking behind, that fear was accompanying tentative steps? No. Not at all. All was normal. The streets were busy with shoppers, tourists,and with the slick new light rail zipping by. The hair salon I chose, without an appointment, could not find time today to give me a quick haircut at $75. Call first I was admonished. Panic was not in the air. These people of Jerusalem are tough!
So while friends and family in chutz l’aretz, outside of Israel, are sharing support and love, it is the people here in Jerusalem who are heroes to us all. They are the Jewish nobility and we are their fan club. Come and join them.