Newborn babies at a hospital in Jerusalem. The author argues that infrastructure in the city requires more investment.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Every year toward the end of the Passover Seder, we joyfully and exhilaratingly sing “next year in a rebuilt Jerusalem!” We sing, but we do not necessarily think. We sing based on family tradition and the force of habit.
I, too, sing with excitement, but on the other hand cannot stop thinking of the contradiction. It has been years since we were in exile and there’s no need to sing about “next year in a rebuilt Jerusalem,” considering it’s already been rebuilt for more than several years (perhaps too excessively built!). It has grown so much, it is larger now than at any other time in the history of the Jewish People.
Of course when we sing of rebuilt Jerusalem, we don’t mean bricks and stones, concrete and asphalt, but rather spiritual construction. Jerusalem will be truly built when peace and social justice prevail over it.
With regard to peace, we shall strive, aspire and push for it, and act like Aharon: “As lovers of peace and as pursuers of peace.” Although ultimately, peace does not lie exclusively in our hands – our neighbors’ intentions must align with ours.
Regarding social justice, however, that does depend solely on us. There are no externalities, no strategic circumstances, no neighbors to consider or partners to find.
Jerusalem will not be rebuilt so long as retired citizens and disabled persons cannot live in dignity, because their pension is so low.
Jerusalem will not be rebuilt so long as its hospitals are short on beds, essential equipment and medical teams.
Jerusalem will not be rebuilt so long as Holocaust survivors lack basic, minimum living conditions.
Jerusalem may be large, with fancy boulevards, soaring towers and spectacular office buildings, but it will never be rebuilt so long as social justice and peace do not prevail in it.
And this year, a brief moment before the Passover Seder we may begin by demonstrating some sensitivity to those in need – the elderly, disabled and others – who receive their meager pensions only after the Seder this year.
The National Insurance Institute, the Social Affairs Ministry and the prime minister will not be able to recite “Ha Lachma Anya” (the bread of affliction) without addressing the poverty of pensioners (in times past, the head of the household would go out to the street to recite Ha Lachma Anya, thus inviting poor people to join him at the Seder).
We must open our hearts with sensitivity and start by rebuilding celestial Jerusalem. A spiritual Jerusalem, on pillars of peace and social justice.
Brick by brick, that is our lesson for Passover.The author is Israel’s most veteran MK, a former defense minister and a candidate for the leadership of the Labor Party.