Houses of white limestone glow in the heat of the sun. Smooth tiles cover the narrow alleyways, testifying to the ancient history of this place. The City of David in Jerusalem was built on the historical Mount Zion in the Judean Hills. The view from the neighborhood of Arnona overlooking the beautiful City of Peace is breathtaking. This is Jerusalem, the capital of ancient and contemporary Israel.
A silver half shekel. Courtesy of the City of David Foundation
For us, for both Jews and non-Jews, it is very important to understand the biblical, Jewish connection with the State of Israel. Several organizations work tirelessly for this cause in both Israel and abroad. Together with the Jewish National Fund, Baron de Rothschild was one of the early Zionists who helped the pioneers to settle the land by buying land from the then Ottoman Empire and the British Mandate Palestine. One of these interesting biblical sites was the City of David, which is located in the Lower City of the ancient Jerusalem, while Solomon’s Temple was located on the higher part in the north, known as Mount Zion or Mount Moriah. Today these ancient sites are explored, discovered and preserved by an organization called ‘City of David Foundation’. Its vision and purpose is to connect every Jew and non-Jew to the biblical history of ancient Jerusalem.
Doron Spielman is the Vice President of the City of David Foundation. He is known as a man of patience: if the Jewish people had the patience to wait for two thousand years before finally being able to return to the Promised Land, then we should have patience in building the land of Israel. I met Doron Spielman in Jerusalem, where the organization is headquartered. He starts explaining that, “what we are doing today is a continuation of the Jewish dream going back at least three thousand years.”
Doron Spielman. Photo: Courtesy of Doron Spielman
Since the declaration of independence, Israel has had many challenges. “The challenge today is that many Jews believe that the State of Israel was a gift from the international community to the embattled Jewish people, but this is not true. When the international community says that we no longer deserve the land of Israel, we need to stand up. Our connection to the land comes from the Bible; our connection to the City of David and Jerusalem predates the United Nations by two thousand years”.
Doron grew up in a Zionist home in the United States: One of the clearest memories of his childhood was the certificate for the planting of a tree in Israel that his parents had placed on his bedroom wall. The certificate was a reminder that he was directly connected to the land of Israel: “When I was a child, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael – Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) was a symbol of the land of Israel. While I remember the smell of the chicken soup in my grandmother’s home, the blue box, the ‘Pushke’ was standing on the living room table. Over the last hundred years, the Jewish National Fund has grown and gone through many changes. Yet, it remains an organization that I can be proud of. They do unbelievable good and today we are wonderful partners,” says Doron.
“When I was 18 years old, I participated on a one month excursion to Israel. I felt as if it was like jumping into the pages of the story itself. The actual epic of the people that I was born into was unfolding in my lifetime, and it is still happening in Israel – I wanted to be part of it.” Later Doron studied international relations in the Middle East at the University of Michigan. During his youth he volunteered in many pro-Israel causes. Israel has always been passion for him.
Serving in the Israel Defense Forces: Just before the second Intifada, Doron came to Israel in order to join the army. As he advanced in the army ranks, he was made the spokesperson for the foreign press. Later, he was promoted to being an officer in the IDF, where he currently holds the rank of Major (Res.). Following his service in the military, he started working for a high-tech company in Tel Aviv.
Then one day, the army called him up to reserve duty. It was about the battle in Bethlehem inside the Church of Nativity where a group of terrorists that had blown up busses in Jerusalem were hiding out. “I found myself in the battle surrounding Bethlehem”, remembers Doron. This was an operation that Doron would never forget as he was even more convinced about how critical it was to have a sovereign Jewish State.
The word Zion is all about the return to the Zion: “The word Zion is the name of a Jebusite fortress that King David captured: it is the City of David. It is absolutely correlated to the return to Zion. Early Zionism was an incredible movement carried out by incredible people who were riding on the wave of the nation states in the early twentieth century. Today Zionism needs a great transformation: it needs to draw more deeply from its historical, cultural and spiritual roots.”
“Look, I want to show you something,” says an excited Doron, and pulls out from his pocket a minted silver shekel from the time of the Second Temple; it was the third year of the fight against the Romans. “We left a reminder in the hope that one day we would return to the Zion. This is the physical evidence that we are continuing a dynasty of 3000 years ago.”
“One of the biggest challenges facing our people today is the question of where to draw courage from? This is much of our job. We also need to connect the non-Jews to the Bible and to Israel. There is no place on earth that comes alive with evidence like the City of David. It shows you the kingship, the connection to the Kingdom of David. It shows how we dealt with persecution; it shows perseverance; the strength of our people. These are critical lessons for the modern day Israel,” says Doron.
Building a Jewish Homeland – Being an example to other nations: It was not about building a state, it was not about defending ourselves; it was not about dealing with geopolitics or national politics. “We were the People of the Book without the land. There are pillars of what it is to be Jewish: the land, the nation and the Torah; we grew with the Torah in exile. When you are the people of the land, then that changes the entire game.”
“That is a very hard transition to make. We are learning; we are taking leaps. Israel is a young nation located in a very tough neighborhood: There is not whole lot of a leeway to make mistakes. That is a major challenge.”
“For 2000 years our people were scattered over 170 countries around the world. In the Diaspora, people had the opportunity to do good on a personal level. With the founding of the State of Israel we had the opportunity to do national good. When there was a catastrophe in Haiti, Israel was there helping. When there was an earthquake in Turkey we were the first nation offering help. When there has been a problem of poor irrigation in the African nations, we have come to help. As members of our country we need to take pride in our national achievements. We need to be an example to other nations”, concludes Doron Spielman.