(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
■ FOR MAYOR Moshe Lion, Jerusalem Day activities began on Thursday of last week and continued for several days. Lion visited several synagogues to participate in their Jerusalem Day festivities. It is not easy to walk in so many different directions on Friday night and Saturday, but Leon didn’t seem any worse for the wear.
One of his last scheduled synagogue stops during Shabbat was at Hazvi Yisrael for seuda shlishit – the third meal. Lion has previously participated in services with this congregation – leading the prayers and reading from the Torah. Although his family is Sephardi, he is equally familiar with the Ashkenazi traditions, and can easily fit in with an Ashkenazi congregation.
The synagogue was far from full in the morning, but there was a packed house in the afternoon for Lion, who based his address on the Torah reading for the week, in which the Land of Israel was apportioned to the tribes. Lion emphasized that Jerusalem was not given to any of them, because in a sense Jerusalem belongs to all and to none. The liturgy states that God gave the Land of Israel to the tribes, but that Jerusalem belongs to Him. Lion said this means that the residents of Jerusalem are the guardians of the city and are obligated to build it up, but it is not theirs. “Everyone has their own Jerusalem,” he said, as Jerusalem means different things to different people. When his grandfather came from Saloniki, he said, his focus was Jerusalem.
Although Lion did not mention the immigrants from Ethiopia who went through so much hardship and suffering, walking across the desert to get to Israel, what was of primary importance to them was getting to Jerusalem. This was their focus. Jerusalem is where they congregate for their key memorial events. On Sunday they gathered at Mount Herzl to honor the memories of those who died along the way and never got to see the city that meant so much to them.
Lion said that his plan for Jerusalem is to make it a world center for Torah and technology, creativity and construction. He wants to develop the city at every possible level. He has also taken a leaf out of the book of the late Teddy Kollek, whose phone number was listed in the regular telephone directory. Kollek believed in being accessible to his constituents, and Lion is of the same opinion.
■ LION AND Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau were at the Renanim Synagogue on Friday night, along with several lone soldiers from different branches of the Israel Defense Forces. The soldiers came from 12 countries as well as from Israel.
They were participating in a gala Jerusalem Day happening organized by Gesher shel Zahav (Bridge of Gold), an organization founded 30 years ago by attorney Yehuda Zaretsky both to care for lone soldiers and to draw Israel and Diaspora Jews closer together.
To a major degree, it’s a family affair, because one of Zaretsky’s sons, Moshe, is an internationally known cantor and singer with a fine, wide-ranging operatic voice. Moshe Zaretsky, who led the prayers on Friday night and Saturday, recalled that during his own stint in the army, he became aware of the fact that religious lone soldiers had nowhere to go on Shabbat. In fact, it was mostly ultra-Orthodox Israeli lone soldiers who had been disowned by their families for going against the grain by joining the army.
Moshe brought this to his father’s attention, and his father instantly began to find solutions for these young people who wanted to serve their country without compromising their religious values.
At the luncheon there were soldiers from various countries plus a couple of these ultra-Orthodox Israelis. One of them, who was raised residing on the capital’s Bar-Ilan Street, which produced a lot of anti-Zionist sentiment and many demonstrations against Sabbath desecration, mandatory army service and gay pride and tolerance parades, told of his own experiences. When he joined a combat unit, his family wanted nothing to do with him, convinced that he was selling his soul to the devil. It was only when they saw that his religious observance was as strong as ever, but that his character had developed in the army, that they gradually became more accepting of his decision and more supportive in their attitude.
Aware that not all families of ultra-Orthodox lone soldiers will become more lenient toward their sons and daughters, Zaretsky wants to build a series of apartment houses for lone soldiers, including those from abroad, so that all will have a place to call home and comrades on whom they can rely both in and out of uniform.
These apartments will also be a base from which to move forward after they complete their army service.
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>