Stephen Horenstein
Music, Arts and Society

On the Street Where I Live

“Korei Ha Dorot” means “readers of the generations”, words which have given me great comfort in this age of hustle and bustle. Indeed, in the neighborhood where I live (Arnona), great writers, including Shai Agnon (Shmuel Yosef Agnon) and Joseph Klausner spun their words. The street is lined by huge majestic trees whose motions are like graceful dancers, and in the stormy months they heroically resist the winds through a combination of Tai Chi and patience.

Yesterday I reconnected with an old and dear friend, Rabbi Jeffery Saks, who among other things, is one of the world’s leading experts on Shai Agnon. Saks’ prolific writings have illuminated the life and works of Agnon. In a Facebook chat Jeffery shared with me a remarkable tidbit of information, after he had read my one of my last blogs complaining about Jerusalem’s growing decibel level.

Rabbi Saks wrote, “Hi old friend. I remember discussing some of these ideas with you 20+ years ago! How can that be? You know, nothing has much changed in Arnona. in the 50s and 60s Agnon complained it was too noisy there for him to work, so M. Ish-Shalom, then the mayor, had a sign put up on the street saying: “Sheket, author at work”.

This story moved me deeply. “I am not alone”, I thought.

Rabbi Saks has also taught me other things. This has been inĀ  the context of my own spiritual practice, or rather the search for some answers. Of late I have contemplated the spiritual dimension, asking the same questions I have always asked for years, but in a different dialect. In my heart of hearts I have been a “Litvak“, clinging to the more rational side of Judaism, but in my music I have considered myself (and still do) a mystic. How else could I think, when in countless times in concert, I felt that it was not me “playing”, but that I was a mere vessel for music emanating from a higher place?

Years ago, I recall asking Rabbi Saks, “Do you think that in some way G-d intervenes in our lives?” He said to me, (to paraphrase), “Steve, I always thought not so, but lately I have changed my opinion. I think from time to time Ha Shem may enter our realm. But let me say this: that I don’t think Ha Shem cares whether you choose the laffa or pita.” With this one comment my life changed inexorably.

Yes, living on Korei Ha Dorot gives me a feeling of being part of history, though, as I have alluded in previous blogs, the slow industrialization of our neighborhood discourages me. I imagine the spirits of Agnon and Klausner still sitting and writing with their earphones, while we, in the name of progress, build high-rise towers and in the name of new-speak and babbling, try aimlessly to touch the heavens.

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Photo by Warren Burstein

About the Author
Stephen Horenstein is a composer, researcher and hermit. His repertoire of musical works has been performed and recorded worldwide. He is Founder and Director of the Jerusalem Institute of Contemporary Music, established in 1988 to bring the music of our time to a wider audience.
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