On Saturdays since the Jerusalem Pool closed –for the sake of development—we have a tradition of me walking my husband Elias to the YMCA pool. We walk from the Greek Colony and past the Nature Museum through Yitzhak Elhanan Street to Shalom Aleichem and past Mapu and within 20 minutes we reach our destination, the YMCA pool. I give Elias a kiss goodbye and walk back by myself on the same route, allowing myself to enjoy the beautiful homes and greenery on the way. At times when I am in the mood for exploration, I walk into streets that I have never walked before, to discover new Jerusalem highlights, spots that emanate beauty and love.
A few times already, on my way back from the pool, I have spotted a man in sandals in the Jerusalem cold, lying on the bench in the little park square opposite Shalom Aleichem 4 Street. Last week, I even turned to complete strangers whom I saw walking out of Shalom Aleichem 6 Street and addressed them the question: "Have you seen the homeless man on the bench right opposite your building?" I asked the younger of the two women. She replied that she was here visiting her mother from abroad, and didn't live here herself. Then I turned to the mother, a woman in her seventies with the same question who responded that she had not.
When one doesn't see, one doesn't know, and when one doesn't know she or he has no responsibility to do something on the matter.
So I have included here for all to see and witness a photograph of the homeless man lying on Shabbat morning of February 24, 2018 in one of Jerusalem's top neighborhoods. I want us to all know about him, in our Jerusalem cooperation hub. And to perhaps extend some help. Perhaps bring over socks and a pair of winter shoes, perhaps invite over for a shower and hot meal. Perhaps go over and start a conversation and show that you care.
As I walk past the homeless man after having taken his picture, I think of the irony of the street's name. I remember the author Shalom Aleichem and his character Tevye whose main motto was keeping the Jewish community together, and caring for each other's wellbeing. And a few minutes later, as if coming out of the play Fiddler on the Roof I catch another Jerusalem Shabbat morning scene on Rachel Immenu Street.
I witness proud and content, ultra-Orthodox men heading towards their morning prayer in a yeshiva around the corner.
It's been a long time since I last went to a Saturday morning prayer, but am aware that the precepts of Tzedaka, Bikur Holim, and Hahnasat Orhim, are central to Judaism.
And wonder how in a city where we pray for all these good values, this disparity exists. How can a man in his sixties, be lying on a bench homeless, on a winter day in down town Jerusalem, in the year 2018? On a Sabbath. Opposite a street whose literal name is "Peace Be Upon You." Can peace be upon us and on Shalom Aleichem Street as long as this man is lying there?
Should you know more about the man and his story, or in the case that you do go visit him to find out for yourself and assist in some way, feel free to write to me at [email protected] so that I possibly report your input in a follow up blog.