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Jeffrey Levine
CFO | Seeking a just world I Author

Next Year in Jerusalem

I am penning these words reflecting on the significance of Jerusalem Day, which is being celebrated this week. This event reminds us of Jerusalem’s unification during the miraculous Six-Day War, leading to a unified, free Jerusalem. In this blog, I explore Jerusalem’s significance and ponder the future of hope for peace.

Last Friday, I participated in Sovev Jerusalem, a remarkable bike ride around this ancient city, alongside thousands of other riders. This event, whose name translates to “Around Jerusalem,” begins near my home and weaves through the city’s storied streets, around the Old City walls, and up the surrounding hills. The scenery, the history, and the vitality of this ride are breathtaking, making me reflect deeply on what Jerusalem means to me and our people.

A Journey Through Time

As we pedalled through the city, I couldn’t help but marvel at the stones of Jerusalem, standing firm for thousands of years. What would our ancestors, 200 years ago, think if they saw this built-up city of Jerusalem today? I rode past the ancient graves on the Mount of Olives, a solemn reminder of our enduring presence here, and the rebuilt churches standing as testaments to the city’s diverse religious heritage.

One poignant moment was when a man handed out stickers in memory of his son, who gave his life for Israel during the last war. This personal gesture amidst a communal event brought home the reality of conflict and loss that still haunts Jerusalem. Riding through the eastern side of the city, an area I might usually avoid due to safety concerns, I felt a mix of trepidation and hope. It was a powerful reminder of the everyday courage required to live in this contested space.

The ANZAC Cemetery

Our route took us past the ANZAC Cemetery, where hundreds of soldiers from Australia lie buried, having sacrificed their lives during the First World War. Standing there, I pondered the futility of war and the profound question of what these young men died for. Their graves are a silent testament to the ongoing struggle for freedom and a better world.

A Day in the Life of Jerusalem

After the ride, I took my dog Daisy for a walk. We visited a local park where a young woman  in a hijab with her children smiled at Daisy and offered a warm “Shalom.” This simple exchange in a city often characterised by division filled me with hope for coexistence. Later, as Shabbat entered. I prayed in a synagogue housed in a former Arab-style home, a poignant symbol of the city’s complex history and the overlapping narratives of displacement and belonging.

A Vision for the Future

That evening, my four-year-old grandson Eitan, whose name means “the mighty one,” asked, “Sabah, can we go to the Kotel tomorrow?” His innocent request struck me deeply. The Kotel, the Western Wall, is not just a place of prayer; it represents the future. It symbolises our enduring connection to Jerusalem and our hope for a peaceful coexistence.

Three Journeys: The Jewish, Christian, and Arab Experience

Jerusalem is a city of multiple narratives. On one hand, it is the journey of the Jewish people from ancient exile to modern return. On the other hand, it is the journey of the Arab people, many of whom see Jerusalem as a symbol of their own historical and spiritual struggles. Additionally, it is the journey of Christians who revere Jerusalem as the site of pivotal events in the life of Jesus Christ. These journeys often overlap and contradict, creating a tapestry of conflict and coexistence.

As we look out over the Old City, the Dome of the Rock stands on the Temple Mount, built on the ruins of the ancient Jewish Temple. Nearby, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre marks the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. This imagery encapsulates the dichotomy of Jerusalem—a city sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, yet often a flashpoint for tension.

Reflecting on History

In our weekly Torah reading, we enter the book of Devarim (Deuteronomy), which recounts the Israelites’ journey through the desert to the Promised Land. This parallels our modern journey—from the horrors of the Holocaust and global diaspora to the establishment of the State of Israel. Like those chronicled in history, this journey is fraught with challenges and conflicts.

We must remember that journeys from oppression to freedom are rarely smooth. The Russian Revolution of 1917 aimed for utopia but led to immense suffering. Similarly, our journey from exile to statehood has been marred by ongoing conflict and struggle.

The Battle for Jerusalem

Jerusalem is at the heart of today’s global battle for identity and control. Extremist groups view the city as a symbol to be conquered, while we see it as a beacon of hope and tolerance. This struggle is a microcosm of the broader battle between forces of darkness and those striving for a better, more peaceful world.

 Next Year in Jerusalem: A Personal Journey of Longing, Conflict, and Hope

“Next Year in Jerusalem” is more than just a phrase; it represents centuries of Jewish hope, faith, and an enduring spiritual connection. For millennia, Jews worldwide have recited these words during Passover and Yom Kippur, encapsulating our longing for Jerusalem. As we approach Jerusalem Day, it’s essential to reflect on the city’s rich history, the impact of its reunification in 1967, and the ongoing complexities of coexistence and conflict.

My Personal Connection to Jerusalem

Living in Jerusalem for the past seven years has been a profound and transformative experience. This city, with its layers of history and spirituality, has become a part of me. Walking its streets, mingling with its diverse inhabitants, and experiencing its vibrant life, I have come to appreciate the unique tapestry that makes up Jerusalem.

In the parks, shops, and buses, I see Jews and Arabs sharing spaces and living their lives side by side. Despite the broader narratives of conflict, this daily coexistence often goes unnoticed. This gives me hope that peace and mutual respect can prevail.

The Universal Significance of Jerusalem

Jerusalem is central to Jewish identity and is mentioned over 800 times in the Tanakh. It symbolizes our historical and spiritual homeland. For Christians, it is the site of pivotal events in Jesus’s life. For Muslims, despite not being mentioned in the Quran, it is revered due to its association with the Prophet Muhammad’s Night Journey.

Rabbi Doron Peretz, in his article “Hamas Battle for Jerusalem” in the  HaMizrachi Magazine, highlights the contrast between these universal aspirations and the extremist views of groups like Hamas. He marvels at the fact that all three religions hold Jerusalem as a holy city, yet the interpretations and intentions behind this reverence can vary drastically.

Contrasting Visions of Jerusalem

Let us recall the words of Esther Horgen, who was killed in cold blood in December 2020 in pure evil.

A City of Peace and Spirituality

For Jews, Jerusalem represents a universal centre of spirituality and peace. The ancient Temples were envisioned as a “house of prayer for all nations,” symbolising inclusivity and divine connection. This vision contrasts sharply with the extremist views that seek control and domination.

The Extremist Perspective

Hamas, as highlighted by Rabbi Peretz, uses Jerusalem symbolically in its quest for control. Their ideology frames the city as a prize to be conquered, reflecting a narrative of intolerance and violence. The imagery of Jerusalem used by Hamas, such as pictures of the Dome of the Rock and the emblem of swords, underscores their narrative of conflict and martyrdom.

 

My Longing for Jerusalem

Jerusalem’s history and significance deeply moves me. My longing for this city is intertwined with my daily experiences and the stories I hear from fellow residents. I hope that when we sing “Next year in Jerusalem” this translates to a mass Aliyah of Jews and the ushering in the messianic vision of  a unified Jerusalem rebuilt—a city of peace, unity, and spiritual richness recognised by the world as a beacon of hope and better future for mankind.

Reflecting on Current Realities

Reflecting on the tragic events of October 7th, this year’s Jerusalem Day is particularly poignant. The need for unity and social reform, echoing the messages delivered by the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, feels more urgent than ever.

Jerusalem stands at a crossroads, embodying the hope for peace and the reality of ongoing conflict. The phrase “Next Year in Jerusalem” remains a powerful expression of hope for the future. As we look forward, let us continue to cherish and preserve Jerusalem’s unique heritage, ensuring that it remains a city of peace, unity, and spiritual significance for future generations.

A Vision for the Future

Rebuilding Jerusalem

I envision Jerusalem as a beacon of tolerance and spirituality, where people of all faiths can unite in peace. This aligns with the prophetic hope that “out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3).

Unity in Diversity

Jerusalem’s diverse history and its various quarters—Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and others—highlight its potential as a centre for interfaith dialogue and unity. The city’s rich tapestry of history and belief presents an opportunity for it to become a symbol of global unity, where differences are set aside in favour of mutual respect and shared spiritual aspirations.

Social Justice and Democracy

Jerusalem has historically been a source of social justice and democratic ideals. The teachings of the prophets advocated for the rights of the poor, the stranger, and the oppressed. This legacy continues to inspire modern movements for social reform and human rights.

The Messianic Vision and Current Realities

The Messianic Age is characterised by peace, justice, and the rebuilding of the Temple. In practical terms, it is a time when Israel exemplifies the values of tikkun olam (repairing the world) and fosters a better society. However, current realities show a stark contrast, with rising religious anti-Semitism, irrational hatred, and conflict. This dissonance between the ideal and the actual challenges us to reflect on our actions and their alignment with divine principles.

A Sanctuary in Place

Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach beautifully encapsulated the essence of Jerusalem and Shabbat, describing them as sanctuaries in place and time. Shabbat offers a sanctuary in time, allowing individuals to connect with themselves, their families, and God, free from the distractions of daily life. Similarly, Jerusalem serves as a sanctuary in place, a city that embodies spiritual connection and divine presence.

 

A Call for Reflection and Action

As we celebrate Jerusalem Day, let us heed the lessons of history and the prophets’ messages. The need for social reform, unity, and a deeper connection with God remains as relevant today as it was in ancient times. Let us strive to make Jerusalem not just a city of contention but a symbol of unity and peace for all nations.

Conclusion

“Next Year in Jerusalem” is a phrase that embodies our enduring hope for peace, unity, and spiritual fulfilment. As we navigate our personal and collective journeys, we must strive to transform Jerusalem from a city of conflict to one of coexistence. My bike ride around this ancient city reminded me of its timeless beauty and the possibility of a future where all its inhabitants live in harmony.

As we look towards the future, let us cherish Jerusalem’s rich heritage and work tirelessly for a world where our grandchildren can pray on the Temple Mount without intimidation or fear and where the city’s diverse communities can share its streets, parks, and holy sites in peace.

May Jerusalem inspire us to build a better world grounded in mutual respect and understanding.

 

Photos/Images sourced on social media or taken by myself.

 

 

 

 

About the Author
Jeffrey is a CFO | Seeking a just world I Author -living in Jerusalem. He is a young grandfather who has five kids and seven grandchildren. Jeffrey is promoting a vision for a better and fairer world through https://upgradingesg.com and is the author of Upgrading ESG - How Business can thrive in the age of Sustainability
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