Thursday, May 25, 2017

The History of Earth and of Heaven

The view of Jerusalem is the history of the world; it is more, it is the history of earth and of heaven.
-Benjamin Disraeli

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; may they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls, and prosperity within your palaces.
For my brethren and companions' sakes, I will now say: 'Peace be within you.'
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God I will seek your good.

- Psalms 122:5-9

Back in the Old Country, it was the Grade 11 class of my High School that was responsible for the publication of the school's yearbook. I attended a small school, with only about 200-300 kids in six grades, and, therefore, the yearbook wasn't very big.  My friend A and I took over the 'layout' of the book, which is, of course, the bulk of the job. Raising money for the book was the other big part, but raising money was never my thing.  A and I spent hours and hours and hours laying out the pages of the yearbook. This was not because we were so dedicated to the task, but rather because the 'yearbook room' - a space the size of a hotel bathroom - was down in the basement of the school and was a great place to go when you didn't feel like going to class, but it was too cold to go outside (just about every day). I don't think the teachers even knew that the yearbook room existed. It seemed originally to be a broom closet, and its entrance was actually inside a classroom. I don't know why there was a classroom in the basement, and it was seldom used. Every once in a while though, A and I would be stuck in the yearbook room while there was a class in progress. We couldn't leave without giving notice to whatever teacher was there that there was a secret room where kids cut class. If any teacher queried where we had been and why didn't we come to class, A and I always answered innocently that we had been in the yearbook room and didn't hear the bell. (This was an out and out lie - we could hear the bell very clearly - but as the teachers had no idea where the yearbook room was, we were never caught out.)

High School
As I said, A and I spent HOURS down in that room. I can still see it in my head when I close my eyes and think about it. We  did move pictures around the layout pages, but mostly we just sat and gabbed. We talked about life, boys, teachers, the future, and, surprisingly, Israel—when we planned on visiting, should we live there, could we live there, how good the ice cream was, and what Israeli boys were like. I say surprisingly but, looking back on it, it wasn't really a surprise.
We were in a Jewish school; we had Israeli teachers; we learned to read and write Hebrew at the same time as English (today, I can read and write Hebrew just fine - it's the understanding what I'm reading that's a problem); we learned Israeli history and geography, Hebrew literature, and Hebrew grammar (which was really my downfall....). We were all Zionists, we marched in the Israel parade every year, and we knew the words to HaTikva. But it was surprising, because at 16, I still considered myself a staunch citizen of the Old Country, and I didn't yet envision myself living in Israel—
not genuinely. That would only come a few years later.

The yearbook was called the Legacy, which was apt.

The year I was in Grade 11, Jerusalem celebrated its 10th anniversary since reunification (stop counting on your fingers how old I am...), and A and I dedicated a whole page to that event. This was still before the days of the Internet and Instagram so we found some picture in a magazine of the Kotel on the Shavuot immediately after the Six Day War, when thousands of Israelis had thronged to the site. We wish a 'happy birthday' to Jerusalem and 'may it live for an eternity'. Though most of our efforts on that yearbook were directed at embarrassing the teachers, and though very few kids from our class or school had as yet been there, it never occurred to us not to dedicate a whole page to Jerusalem, and the miracles it represented.

If I had been in Grade 11 for the 10th anniversary of the liberation of Jerusalem, that means - counting on my fingers - that I was in Grade One during the war itself. I remember it vaguely. I certainly don't remember the tension and anxieties preceding it. I was completely oblivous to the rants and screams coming from Arab radios declaring death the the Jews, and how the sea would be red with Jewish blood. I was unaware that American Jewish leadership - fearing another Holocaust - called on the Israeli population to send their children to America, where they would be safe. I didn't know that thousands of graves had been dug in parks across the Land in preparation for the feared mass casualites.
But I did know that the Israeli air force demolished its enemies' air forces in a surprise attack  ('our planes bombed their planes'). I did know that Jerusalem was unified (but admittedly, I didn't know what that meant), I knew that Israeli soldiers cried, and I knew that, though far too much Jewish blood had once again been spilled, it was not 'running into the sea'.

In addition, I thought that Moshe Dayan was King of Israel.

Years later, I had a poster of Moshe, with the caption "hire the handicapped".  I thought it was funny.

This is the point:
I can't remember any time in my life, where Israel was not a significant element and part of the discussion, not even at 16, when just about nothing was significant, except how to skip class; not even in the far off Old Country where our biggest worry was how to keep snow out of our boots.  I can't remember any time when Jerusalem was not the eternal capital of the Jewish people.

I am part of a blessed generation, born into a world where the State of  Israel exists, and functions as a homeland of the Jewish people; born into a world where there are more Hebrew speakers, more Torah scholars, more Jewish soldiers than at any other time in history; born into a world where my children and their children have been blessed to be born in their homeland, and are no longer forced to wander and live under the mercy of strangers.  

We are blessed to have borne witness to the open miracle of the liberation of the Holy places -
in Hebron
Tomb of the Patriarchs, Hebron

in Bethlehem,
Kever Rachel,  Bethlehem
and of course in Jerusalem.

The Kotel

The Holy Temple Mount

I am part of the generation that has been blessed with these gifts to be heralded and cherished.

According to Wikepedia, Jerusalem has been attacked 52 times, captured and recaptured 44 times, besieged 23 times, and destroyed twice.
And now, here we —my generation— are, 50 years after the return of J√©rusalem to Jewish hands, and in the words of Naomi Shemer:

We have returned to the cisterns
To the market and to the market-place
A shofar calls out
from the Temple Mount
In the Old City.

And in the caves in the mountain
Thousands of suns shine -
We will once again descend to the Dead Sea
By way of Jericho!

Or more to the point, in the words of the prophet Zecharia:

There shall yet old men and old women sit in the broad places of Jerusalem, every man with his staff in his hand for very age. And the broad places of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the broad places thereof. (Zechariah 8:4-5)

We are living in prophetic times.  We are blessed. 
It was our Legacy.
And our Destiny.