My friend's brother Joel had a hobby of building model airplanes, vintage cars, racing cars, battleships – anything you could put together from plastic parts and model glue. He's probably put together a human being since I left Chicago. My second cousin from New York, Loony Louie (anyone from N.Y. was a bit loony to us in Cubs-land) – he had a hobby, too. You see he loved watching movies about WW2 in the Pacific, Yankees and Japs, ships and planes. His hobby was building elaborate models of battleships – and them "bombing" them by throwing baseballs at them, while being his own radio announcer: "And here's another bomber over the Tennessee… boom! Kaboom!" I once caught Loony Louie at his "hobby", all the pieces of the model ships flying all over the place from the impact of the baseballs, and gave him the: "Huh???? Whaddyadoin'??" look. He shrugged his shoulders, grinned sheepishly and said: "Y'gotta hav'ah hobby!"

So I have a – er – very different hobby. It lets me be in an entirely different environment, entirely different people, and also contribute to the cause of the general good in the world. I guide in the Western Wall Tunnels. The "Western Wall" refers to the western retaining wall of the Temple Mount, built over 2,000 years ago during the renovation of the Second Temple in Jerusalem by Herod, the Roman-appointed King of Judea. The "tunnels" are a series of passageways under support-arches mostly built in the 14th century but some going back to the time of the Maccabees in the 2nd century B.C.E. I meet all sorts of people literally from all over the world, even exotic places like Malta, Vietnam, Lapland or Brooklyn. I guide in English even though sometimes the group comes from places that doesn't really speak English, like the places I just mentioned.

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Once I had a couple of Catholic nuns from Germany in my assorted group, one elderly and one who seemed to be in her twenties. At the end of the tour, standing again on pavement stones under an open sky, they asked to speak with me, privately. Stepping aside, they said: "We come from Germany, yes? We want to ask forgiveness for what our people did to your people". Well – what would you say if some German people asked you for forgiveness for the Holocaust?



"Look", I said, "You're not representatives of the German people and I'm not a representative of the Jewish people. Maybe you should talk to my father who is a Holocaust survivor – but I don't think that would help either".

They looked silently into my eyes sincerely beseeching me to help them make things better. So I said: "You know: we have always lived here, but we lost our sovereignty to European conquerors and eventually became a minority in our own homeland. Two hundred years ago we started to return: disciples of the Baal Shem Tov, and even more – a group of disciples of Rabbi Eliyahu from Vilna who came with a plan for bringing the Jewish nation back to life in our homeland. We were in the middle of this great historical process awakening our nation, our language, our land and our holy lives. Then – we were interfered with by Europeans: the British who reneged on the promise to assist the Jewish people re-establish a homeland in the Holy Land, and then to top it off: your people killed off a third of my people, with the help or apathy of many in the world. So you see: the state of Israel didn't arise BECAUSE of the Holocaust, but rather DESPITE of the Holocaust we miraculously continued to build our country, with God's help. Because of what your people did we have millions less Jews here than there should have been – and that adds greatly to the problems and conflict. So if you wish to make amends – I don't know if it’s possible. But one thing I know for sure – you have to make up for the terrible interference and instead help us build our nation in our land. You can't be neutral after what you've done – you have to be pro-Israel! You can't let others interfere in our rejuvenation, you can't help them steal our land – you have to help us! It is the only way that you make amends in some small fashion."

 

    

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