A view of the Western Wall, the Temple Mount and Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Leaders of Jewish communities around the world, In ancient times, communities in the Land of Israel would send emissaries to the Diaspora where they would be received royally in every community they visited.
They weren’t treated this way because of their own honor, but rather due to the honor afforded the Land of Israel and Jerusalem whose flavors and colors they brought with them.
The image of the Land of Israel was etched on everyone’s heart. The Western Wall, the Tomb of the Patriarchs, Rachel’s Tomb… Few were able to actually go to these sacred sites, but there was not a Jewish boy or girl anywhere who did not recognize these names and images. No amount of money was considered frivolous for an etrog (citron) from the Land of Israel. No effort was too great to have your name and those of your dear ones mentioned at the sacred Western Wall. Even after two thousand years of exile, Am Yisrael’s love for its country just intensified.
And now in our time, we have been privileged to witness part of this dream become reality. We are seeing, with our own eyes, the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy: “Lift your eyes around and see, all of them have gathered, have come to you” (Isaiah 49). The fabled and distant Jerusalem went back to being the capital of the entire Jewish nation which streams to it by the thousands.
Naturally, anyone returning to his beloved home wants to act in it as he is used to, design the home in his own style. So too in Jerusalem, our eternal home, we all wish to be able to express our individual beliefs and traditions. But Jerusalem is different.
Jerusalem is not a private home. It is the home of an entire nation and all its streams. It does not belong to us. We belong to it.
During this time of year, days of pilgrimage, all of Jerusalem’s sons and daughters come to visit and it is open to them all. These are days full of joy – the joy of the pilgrimage, the joy of the encounter, the joy of solidarity and unity. But we, at the Western Wall, remember other days as well. We remember the days when under the guise of pilgrimage, zealots slaughtered one another in the courtyard of the Temple. They all believed Jerusalem was theirs, and they brought about our greatest destruction.
Only if we remember and remind others that “Jerusalem was not divided into tribes” (Baba Kama 4), only if we commit to keeping all arguments and disputes outside of Jerusalem, only if we avoid using it to sharpen the differences between us – only then will we be privileged to be decorations in the crown of our beloved city, and we will merit the continuation of Isaiah’s prophecy: “that you shall wear all of them as jewelry, and you shall tie them as a bride,” and eat from the Passover sacrifices in a rebuilt Jerusalem.
I wish members of all communities a Happy and Kosher Pesach. May it be a holiday that carries love, solidarity, peace and friendship on its wings for us and for all of Am Yisrael.The writer is rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites.