Appreciating Jerusalem Moments

“There’s a gap between the Jerusalem we celebrate in public ceremonies – full of history, great causes and grand narratives – and Jerusalem as we experience it every day."

World War II veterans march down Jerusalem’s streets, together with IDF soldiers, at the Veterans’ Parade. (photo credit: RACHEL SHARANSKY DANZINGER)
World War II veterans march down Jerusalem’s streets, together with IDF soldiers, at the Veterans’ Parade.
Except for the time she did national service in Beit She’an, Rachel Sharansky Danziger has lived her whole life in Jerusalem. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, Danziger recently embarked on a private initiative to help everyday Jerusalem come alive.
Having attended a lifetime of Jerusalem Day ceremonies, Danziger realized, “There’s a gap between the Jerusalem we celebrate in public ceremonies – full of history, great causes and grand narratives – and Jerusalem as we experience it every day. When we talk to people on the street in three different languages or we see kids playing in front of a Roman ruin, these experiences are also worthy of celebration. The big celebrations don’t quite capture what really matters to people.
“It dawned on me that instead of waiting for someone else to do it, I can create a celebration. With this project, I feel like I am celebrating the earthly Jerusalem, because I see what people notice, what people care about. It’s exciting!”
Danziger’s project is called Jerusalem Moments. Her website celebrates “real- life Jerusalem in all its quirky glory.” She is soliciting contributions from regular people from all walks of life.
Contributions can be in the form of a snippet (“Even just two lines”), a short essay, a photo, a poem, a video or a gallery of photos. The only stipulation is that the written entries be submitted in English. Translation of submissions received in other languages cannot be guaranteed. Danziger emphasizes that she’s explicitly not looking for polished essays about the political, religious or historic issues related to Jerusalem.
She wants raw impressions of the city from real people. The key word is experiential. She doesn’t want people to hold back out of concern that their experiences are too small to matter. It’s exactly that fresh quality of an everyday, direct encounter with Jerusalem that she’s looking for.
“It can even be a Facebook post,” Danziger assures potential contributors.
“Part of the idea for me is that I want people who are not the usual crowd to participate. I want to encourage the real people of Jerusalem to feel comfortable to participate. I’m not looking for some privileged set of people. Everyone can engage with this project in some capacity.”
Jerusalem Moments is a private endeavor with a very modest budget, celebrating tiny moments of everyday life in Jerusalem.
“I’m open to various outcomes. I’m fine with it to be intimate. I’m fine for it to be bigger. If I had 100 submissions, then it will have created enough of a community to generate different points of view. I’m creating this opportunity for conversation. I’m eager and curious to see where it will go.”
Every day, Danziger talks up the project, networking, encouraging people to submit an anecdote, a story, a slice of life. She wants as many communities as possible to be represented.
“So far everyone I talked to was really excited,” she says. “A lot of people felt like they want to celebrate Jerusalem’s small moments. I hope that more people will actively participate and more people will join the celebration.”
She hopes that her webpage,, which launched April 5, exactly 50 days before Jerusalem Day, “will become a tapestry of moments” that celebrate “real-life Jerusalem” – exactly as the city exists for the people who walk her streets.
Although she draws the line at submissions that include hate speech, Danziger has no plans to reject “submissions that will make readers uncomfortable, as long as it’s experiential. At least that’s honest.” To address oneself to challenges is okay. She’s not looking to whitewash the city. But the submission has to be based on an individual’s personal experience.
Irene Rabinowitz, a semi-retired non-profit manager who made aliya in 2014 from Provincetown, Massachusetts, now living in the Talbiyeh neighborhood, submitted this text, which Danziger says is exactly the kind of everyday Jerusalem moment she wants the project to highlight.
“I was in the Ben Avi liquor and wine shop in Nahalat Shiva. As the proprietor and I were discussing the smokiness level of a certain single malt, I realized that ‘White Christmas’ was playing on the music loop in the store. When I pointed it out, he laughed, shrugged, and said: ‘We’re Israeli, we celebrate everything all the time.’ I love this city.”
Among the early submissions that Danziger found most moving were two essays. One was from a woman who profiled her house in Mekor Haim. She wrote about discovering the history of the home – which is slated for destruction to make room for a new building project – while living there. Danziger says this essay “captures something very real about Jerusalem.”
A second essay tells the story of an Arab family who lost their home in Baka in 1948.
“This is a perspective we don’t often hear. It made me think about Jerusalem in more complex ways. It’s a discomfort that’s important to examine and live with and not repress,” Danziger argues.
She lives in the German Colony with her husband, Micha, who helped her build the website and is the master of the technical side of the project. The couple has two children, a six-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter. They are expecting their third child in May. Danziger tells In Jerusalem how being a mother deepened her appreciation for Jerusalem.
“In Israel, you can find history behind every rock. You walk down the streets where prophets walked. Now that I’m a mother and I walk with my children down the street, I feel that history very much more strongly.
“There are two parts to this. One is the sheer awe I feel when I walk down the streets with my kids. I know that houses that look totally mundane can have stories behind them. I can teach them how their young lives are happening right here, where there is so much history. When I see Jerusalem with my children, I know it’s my responsibility to give them a sense of that history. I feel humbled by the responsibility.
“At the same time, I ask how we can make new things in Jerusalem. My children don’t always have to rewalk the same stories of the past. They can create new associations.
“I’m always kind of in awe because my parents had to fight for the right to come to here and build a life here.” Danziger’s parents are Natan and Avital Sharansky. Her father was a noted refusenik in the Soviet Union and her mother was an activist in the Soviet Jewry movement who fought for his release in the 1970s and 1980s.
Danziger sees herself as a link in a chain. She is acutely aware of her grandparents, who were detached from their Jewish heritage, and even her great-grandparents, who suffered from pogroms. She says representing Jerusalem “is an emotional experience like no other. It makes me aware of the privilege I have to live here.”
She emphasizes the uniqueness of the Jerusalem Moments project.
“Each of sees Jerusalem through a lot of stories we have in our minds. That’s what’s so fascinating. We get to see Jerusalem through different prisms.”
Danziger is happy to hear from volunteers who can help with specific tasks, such as proofreading or translating submissions into English. The project’s email address is Danziger emphasizes that the earlier submissions are received, the better the chances for being included.
“There is no one correct story of Jerusalem. There are many types of experiencing it. Especially for people who don’t live here, Jerusalem is fantasy. We know that Jerusalem is alive. With this project, we will meet all sides of Jerusalem,” she notes.