Ten measures of beauty descended on the world - nine were taken by Jerusalem, one by the rest of the world. There is no beauty greater than Jerusalem. (Talmud: Kiddushin 49B).
I remember myself standing in front of Jerusalem’s ancient walls, looking up in excitement and awe. I was a boy on a school field trip wandering into another world. Back then, I couldn't truly grasp the great meaning of those shining Jerusalem stones. The deep importance and weight of millennia of Jewish existence in the holy city was particularly poignant for us, citizens of a sovereign Jewish state visiting our capital city. This poignancy wasn't yet clear to me as a young boy. But I felt I was home.
This feeling brought me back to live in Jerusalem for my university studies. I couldn't imagine any other option, and I recognized how fortunate my generation is. Jews haven’t always been able to make this simple decision - Aliya, going up to Jerusalem!
For generations my ancestors dreamt of Jerusalem, mentioning her in their prayers from morning till evening and on all of Israel's holy days. The destruction of the Second Temple was and still is remembered at every Jewish wedding- "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget itself "- demonstrating with these sacred words that even during their greatest joys, the people of Israel remember their beloved homeland, and deep in her heart, Jerusalem. Reciting these lines, spoken by generation upon generation of Jewish grooms before me, was one of the most exciting and meaningful moments of my own wedding.
In addition to those Jews in the Diaspora, throughout the past 2,000 years there was also a small but continually enduring Jewish presence in the holy city. The Jews of Jerusalem lived as a small minority under the shadow of the city’s heavy walls, which protected them from outside dangers. The walls of Montefiore built for the Mishkenot Shaananim neighborhood testify to both the symbolism of the Old City’s battlements, and the Zionist pioneers’ movement to move and build a modern, shining city beyond them.
After the establishment of the State of Israel, Jerusalem suffered from foreign Jordanian rule and occupation. The Jewish neighborhoods opposite the ancient city walls were subjected to constant Jordanian attack and heavy fire. Only after the Six Day War, when Jerusalem was finally liberated from foreign, unjust occupation, was the Shofar again heard on Temple Mount. Only with the regaining of their sovereignty could the Jews go back and live in their eternal capital city, as could people of every nation and religion.
Born in Jerusalem
However, along with this justified reverence, Jerusalem’s unique position in the world also brings her difficulties. We live in a modern, liberal world where people are driven to underestimate the important values of the past. Too many of us have forgotten the history and Jewish nationality which unite the people of Israel. Today, too many Jews alienate themselves from their past and their own people, choosing to abandon the principles and faith of their forefathers in favor of universal values disconnected from the struggles and beliefs of their grandparents. In doing so, these individuals deny the contribution of those who came before them, and believe instead in foreign values.
Given their abandonment- some might even say betrayal- of their own history and identity, it’s not surprising that some of our Jewish brethren speak up and call on others to leave Jerusalem, to give up our capital, to cut it in half, to divide it or to run away. However, those individuals who are willing to give up Jerusalem need to undergo a process of serious self examination and criticism.
Then there are those people who excuse their leaving Jerusalem because they don’t like one thing or another about the city - the complexity and tension of life in a such a multicultural and often conflicted city, the difficult economic situation faced by many, particularly young secular couples, or the ever encroaching religiosity from the city’s ultra-Orthodox sector.
However, like those who want to give away the city to our enemies, these people ought to open a history book and learn about Jerusalem’s past. They should understand that living in Jerusalem is about much more than simply making your life in one city or another. To live in modern, undivided Jerusalem is to make a choice and a statement about the future of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. To live here is to proclaim one’s place in the history and continuity of the Jewish nation.
In every generation there have been Jews who betrayed their brothers and the people of Israel. In our days these are the fallen weaklings who try to speak nicely to foreigners and the world at large while forgetting their own people at home. They show tremendous concern for foreign workers on the shores of Tel Aviv, and worry about the preservation of terrorists’ rights, but they forget the eternal capital of Israel – and hand it away to the enemy.
Every Jewish woman and man in our generation must ask themselves whether they did enough for Jerusalem. Whether they lived Jerusalem, created in it, built it and brought the Jewish spirit to it. We must remember that we're lucky to be the free generation who builds in Jerusalem!
At least I can be proud of the fact that after thousands of years of my family living in the Diaspora, after thousands of years of killings, persecution, pogroms and Jewish destruction that my family endured – my first child was born in the Jewish people’s eternal capital. On her birth certificate it says: BORN IN JERUSALEM!
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