“Roam the streets of Jerusalem,
Search her squares,
Look about and take note.” – Jeremiah 5:1
I realize this verse is actually about the prophet’s vain search for an upright man in ancient Jerusalem, but you have to admit the above excerpt is pretty amazing. “Roam the streets of Jerusalem, search her squares, look about and take note.” If you have been fortunate enough to visit this sacred city, you know that roaming her streets is one of the greatest pleasures in this world. But it’s not only what lies along Jerusalem’s streets – the synagogues and marketplaces, the shops and cafes, the parks and halls of study – that infuse the city with such beauty and holiness. It’s the names of the streets themselves.
It’s no secret that the streets of Jerusalem are named for the figures, the places, the values, and even the dates that are most dear to our people. And some of these names – King David Street, for example, or Menachem Begin Expressway – strike a familiar chord in us. But the meaning of other names – Hashalshelet, Sfat Emet, Gdalyahu Alon – sometimes does feel like a secret – a secret I can’t wait to unravel in this blog, “The Streets of Jerusalem.”
Each post in this blog will take you to a different Jerusalem street – only figuratively, sorry, unless I can develop a really fantastic hyperlink – and explain the significance of its name. As we explore the streets that bear their names, we’ll find the ancient and modern history of Israel, our patriarchs and matriarchs, our rabbis and sages, our warriors and kings, our politicians and benefactors coming to life in all their timeless glory. And we’ll make sure that the next time you are lucky enough to be in Jerusalem, “Emek Refaim” will mean more than a great place to grab coffee, “Hayei Olam” will mean more than one of the prettiest streets in the Old City, and “Ben Sira” will mean more than the best hummus in town.
In case you are wondering who your guide on “The Streets of Jerusalem” might be, please let me introduce myself. I am a Reform rabbi, the author of several books of nonfiction Judaica (one was a National Jewish Book Award finalist, which was awesome), and a complete Israel-phile. I am the kind of person who finishes up a summer in Israel by crying hysterically in the rental car on the way to Ben Gurion Airport (always delightful for my husband and children) and “like” so many Israel-themed Facebook pages that it’s hard for me to scroll through my news feed and find out what’s going on with my friends. This blog is my way of sharing my love for Israel, expressing my passion for Judaism, learning and teaching, and hopefully having fun together along the way.
My next post will explore Heleni HaMalka – a street named for a little-known but incredible woman, and also the street where my family rented the most amazing apartment last summer. If you are intrigued by a first-century Assyrian queen who converted to Judaism and saved the people of Jerusalem from famine, and/or by the idea of sleeping in a nineteenth-century cistern, please stay tuned.