Jerusalem Stone

The Hasidic rabbi from Vitebsk once said: “This thing I have learned in Jerusalem: when I see a stone in the street, and the stone sits across the street and not along the street, this is when I see the touch of the indwelling presence of God (Shekhinah).” Even a stone has the power to speak to the heart of humans, to teach us a mystical thing, as Buber said, about the relationship of I-Thou. (Bergman on Buber)

In these last months, so many people see each other only as Israelis, as Palestinians, as Terrorists or as Jewish Occupiers. It is so easy to fall into this trap. We often feel the need to categorize people in order to defend ourselves from the Occupation and from the knives. Today in Jerusalem every block of stone arouses suspicion. Is this stone thrown at Jews by a Palestinian? Or is it perhaps a broken stone of a Palestinian home, demolished by the Israeli army? But let us pray that the unique people of Jerusalem will keep learning from the more meaningful stones of the Rabbi from Vitebsk, and will start to see the beauty of the “other” side: the smile of the “other” children and the life-wisdom of the “other” elders.

Living among us in the streets of Jerusalem are the ghosts of generations of Jews who dreamt of visiting Jerusalem but could not do so, along with millions of Palestinians who wish to visit their home land and still cannot. According to the Jewish tradition, we walk each day with two angels beside us–they protect us and pray that we will be gentle to each other and to ourselves. I am sure that in Jerusalem, these two angels are also our ghosts–one Jewish and one Palestinian. Our angels pray that we can learn to live together, so that they can find peace in themselves and rest by becoming a part of Jerusalem’s holy stones.

About the Author
Dr. Yakir Englander is working to create Jewish and Israeli leadership in the US. Originally from the ultra-Orthodox community of Israel, the Viznitz Hasidic dynasty, Englander earned a Ph.D. from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in Jewish philosophy and gender studies. He is a Fulbright scholar and was a visiting professor of Religion at Northwestern and Rutgers universities and Harvard Divinity School. In addition, he was a Shalom Hartman scholar in Jerusalem. Englander served as the Jerusalem director of Kids4Peace and later as the vice president of the organization.
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