1268CE
Rabbi Moses ben Nachman a well known Kabbalist also known as Nachmonidies, comes to Jerusalem after being exiled from Christian Spain. He finds only two Jewish families in the entire city. He turns an old house into the synagogue that becomes a center of the Jewish life in the Mamluk Jerusalem

 







   







 

My Jerusalem Thoughts


Jerusalem is on my mind... It has been ten years since I sat, on that warm Tuesday evening, looking upon the Western Wall and observing the vast diversity of all the people as they passed. There were the Orthodox Jews, praying passionately, oblivious to their surroundings. To them, the Western Wall represents the holiest site in Judaism - a place in which saying a prayer means infinitely more then uttering one anywhere else in the world.

I could only guess what one of these old men, in his traditional orthodox Jewish attire, was praying for with his gaze fixed on the sky as his outstretched  arms seemed to be trying to embrace the entire wall. One could rightfully assume that he was conversing with God, asking for the arrival of the Messiah. No longer a young man, his face expressed him being well aware that his remaining years of waiting were limited.

Hands on Kotel by Dinu Mandrea,  http:/photomendrea.com/ 
Picture "Hand on Kotel" by Dinu Mandrea

I then caught site of a middle-aged, European couple. Looking somewhat disoriented, their eyes wandered around hastily, trying to take everything in. As they observed all the movement and outpouring of emotions around the wall, they were probably thinking: "These people have gone mad!"

For the old man, this wall encompassed the meaning of his life while the tourist couple saw it as merely another place to shoot few photographs before moving on to the next attraction.  

As clearly as I could deduce the emotions of these strangers, I could not completely figure out my own. Only a few moments earlier, I had approached the Wall myself not feeling any great excitement. I touched the warmth of the stones and even forced the written note into the tiny crevasse.

My mind began to digress and I remembered my childhood, my family, my uncle David who had always wanted to come to this place but had passed away only couple of years prior. I remembered my grandma Sara, whose picture taken in front of the wall, I had looked at so many times before. Suddenly I realized that I was visualizing people that were dear to me and felt like I had arrived home surrounded by the loved ones.

As I sat across from the wall and watched my surroundings with mixed emotions, one thing has become clear: This was a special moment in my life, one I would always remember and cherish.   My trip back to New York was a long one, but it allowed me to share the experiences of my trip with some fellow passengers. Many of them expressed similar emotions. The strong connection that exists between the people and the land is almost metaphysical.   

Several years later, I was watching CNN news, as the Israeli and Palestinian representatives were going at it after yet another suicide bombing in Israel. A Palestinian spokesman was saying that all the Jews that live in Israel come from Russia, America and even Ethiopia. He asked, "What are all these 'foreigners' doing there?" His words took me back to that evening in Jerusalem, near the Western Wall.

How could I explain to him the connection that Jews have to Israel and Jerusalem in particular? This connection is neither fictional nor made up; it's not like the Jews looked at a map one day and picked Israel as a particularly appealing place to settle. The connection is Biblical, historical and, most importantly, emotional.

The last sentence of the Jewish Passover prayer is "NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM." Needless to say, the Passover Seder was not written by some Zionist 60 years ago. It is nearly as old as the history of Jewish people. It represents the feelings of belonging to the land they were unjustly removed from so many times in its tragic history.

I have no doubt that the reason lies in the powerful connection that emanates from the land and from the traditions and books that originated there.  

Watching the body parts of the victims of the bombings laying all over the pavement and the twisted metal debris of a blown-up bus got me thinking. Over centuries, Jews have survived the armies of the Nebuchadnezzar, the legions of marauding Romans, the torture chambers of the Inquisition and the Nazi concentration camps, to name just few.

The price was huge, the toll on human life staggering and the suffering unimaginable.  Yet, here we are, staring into the face of another enemy who has no regard for any form of life, neither ours nor their own.   "Never Again" was proclaimed right after World War II  and yet, here at the beginning of the 21st century, you can feel the hurricane of hatred making it's way around the world.

As sure as the spring will follow the winter, there will be a new wave of anti-Semitism for every generation of Jews. It seems to have almost become an additional law of nature. One does not need to look very hard to hear the rhetoric emanating from the  Muslim world. 

Several newspapers in the Arab countries attributed the 9/11 attack to Jews. Couple of days later it became an undisputed fact. Some still believe it to this day even though Usama Ben Ladin took responsibility for it. Russian tsarist lies concocted in the 19th century about the "Elders of Zion" became widely watched miniseries in modern day Egypt and other Arab countries. In 1994 Iran has sponsored the terrorist attack in Buenos Aires Argentina that killed 85 people in the Jewish Center. The last time I looked at the map, Buenos Ares was not anywhere near Israel.

All this is going on in conjunction with the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, a continent with a monopoly on morality. It seems that the 60 years after the Holocaust  have served as a sufficient respite. They can now go back to what they did so well over the centuries; inventing new reasons for hating Jews.  

 Then there are the newest of the world's Jews, the Americans. The fact that a large percentage of the world's population was on the side of Saddam Hussein - regardless of what one's feelings may be about Iraq  war - is very telling. Where do we go from here?

The questions that resonate in my own mind are: f Israel disappeared tomorrow, would the world become a safer place? If America disappeared tomorrow, would the world be a better place?

With regards to the unified hatred of Israel, all the Arab nations are operating as a generally cohesive unit. Without Israel to beat up on, these same countries will be at each others throats in no time. If you need a proof, just listen in on the Arab League conferences.

To answer the second question about America would be redundant. Just consider where we would be without America influencing the world order over the last century.

While gazing at the Western Wall I could not help noticing the Israeli solders and police all around the place. Just before I arrived here there was a wave of suicide bombings that hit Israel and Jerusalem specifically. Yet I felt absolutely at peace, the way you feel at home surrounded by your family and friends.

This is a home that needs to be protected at any cost because for Jews it's the last stop. Next stop is the oblivion. In the meantime, as I watch the news about the killings, suicide bombings and beheadings, I think about Jerusalem and that moment of peace that is worth dreaming about, and  even fighting for.