Jerusalem is my city

Longtime residents expound on what makes the Jewish state’s storied capital so special.

A view of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
A view of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem
Jerusalem: A living organism
From 1946 to 1951, many synagogues in the US incorporated into their creative confirmation programs a song by Avigdor Hameiri: “Me’al Pisgat Har Hatzofim” [From the Top of Mount Scopus]. It became a standard in synagogues of all denominations, helping young men and women get a multifaceted view of Jerusalem. At the time, American Jewish youth knew this city only through black-and-white photos and a few films.
Now I realize that those who introduced that song wanted Jewish teenagers to internalize what Jerusalem represented and could mean for them. The object was to implant a vision so that some would want to visit Jerusalem and ultimately live here. Moreover, it was thought that through American Jewish inventiveness, Jerusalem could be invigorated.
Only a small number of the American Jewish youth of that era made aliya, but those who did truly made their mark. I think wistfully of that era as my wife and I celebrate Jerusalem Day for the 38th time.
On this Jerusalem Day, let us draw from the past, commit ourselves to new initiatives and choose to perceive not only the Jerusalem of today but also a Jerusalem of tomorrow.
A city is a living organism, constantly revitalized by its leaders, its citizens and its taxes. The way we citizens relate to our city brings to mind the famous phrase of US president John Kennedy. What do we want from our city, and what does our city want from us? Is cleanliness a priority? Do we put garbage in the bins or do we drop it all over town? Do we participate in the city’s myriad programs or do we just say, “Let someone else go”? Do we encourage people to move to and remain in Jerusalem? Do we attend public meetings about planned development for the city? Do we join municipal boards and task forces so we can let our voices be heard? Do we try to make a difference for Jerusalem or do we sit back and let others take care of it? We feel good that Jerusalem is a city with so many “happenings.” Once billboards around town bore posters for just a few events. Now Jerusalem rivals Tel Aviv in the number of exhibitions, concerts, lectures, fairs, sports leagues, courses and tours to learn about the city’s inner secrets. These events don’t just happen; there have to be concert halls, museums, outdoor venues and much more. And they have to be funded as fully as possible.
Back in 1911 when the Young Turks forced Jews out of Jerusalem and out of the country, they diminished the Jewish population for years. When Zionist leader David Raziel left with his parents, he swore he would return. “I have a golden key,” he emphasized, “which opens all the gates and doors of Jerusalem. I plan to come back and unlock what has been sealed tight so we can live in our city and in our land.”
He did come back. However, he was killed in Iraq in WW II as part of a secret mission for the British to that country.
Now the key has been passed on to us – a precious legacy. It is our responsibility to treasure it and transfer it to future generations.
– David Geffen
Jerusalem: City of miracles
Jerusalem is many things to many people. For me, in addition to its many fascinating facets, Jerusalem has proven to be a city of miracles. Things happen here that transcend the bounds of coincidence and enter into the world of wonder. Such incidents occur so often that I’m not surprised, but I’m always amazed.
Here are three of my favorites.
I moved here from Montreal in May of 1992. For my first trip back to spend Rosh Hashana with my family, I wanted to buy my mother one of those necklaces with the outline of Jerusalem and her Hebrew name on it. Shopping in Mea She’arim, I passed a jewelry store with several such necklaces in the window. My mother’s Hebrew name was Nehama, which is not such a common name, so I thought that if need be, I’d ask them to order one for me. I walked in and said to the woman behind the counter, “You have necklaces with names on them?” “Yes,” she said as she opened a large black velvet-covered drawer with dozens of those necklaces.
“Like this?” she said, pulling one out and handing it to me.
“No, not like this,” I said. “This!” The name on the necklace was Nehama.
My mother wore that necklace every day of her life.
Shopping has involved a number of miracles for me. I tote bags of groceries all the time, and that’s fine. But sometimes when I feel overburdened, I think to myself, “I wish someone would help me.” And every time I do, someone passing by offers to help. It’s amazing. But one particular incident was truly astonishing. It was about 9 p.m., and on my way home from work I stopped at a grocery store that I don’t usually frequent. As it would be an uphill trek home, I thought, “I wish I’d meet someone with a car.” Just then, in walked the son and daughter-in-law of one of my best friends. After a warm greeting, I asked the son if he could give me a lift home.
“Of course,” he replied. And then he added, “I don’t even know why we came here. We don’t need anything, and there is a supermarket downstairs from our apartment, so I don’t know why we stopped in here.”
Need I say more? Another type of encounter was truly life-changing. I was suffering from a very painful hip and had to have an operation. I was dreading the whole procedure, and nothing anyone could say or do could calm my fear and trepidation. It was the eve of Passover, a few weeks before the scheduled surgery. That morning, I had to go for yet another test. As I was hobbling over to the Maccabi building, an elderly man was walking toward me. As he approached, he said something in Hebrew, which I couldn’t make out. “Sliha?” [Pardon?] I said. He repeated it, and I still couldn’t make it out. “Sliha?” I said again. The third time, I heard him say, “She’Hashem yishmor alayich” [May God watch over you].
“Wow!” I exclaimed. “Lecha gam ken” [You, too]. And we parted.
Suddenly, a wave of calm swept over me and I thought, “You know what? Let God watch over me. I’m not going to worry about this anymore.”
That blessing could not have come at a better time. That feeling of serenity saw me through the next few weeks and a very successful operation and full recovery.
By the same token, I know that I have been in the right place at the right time to offer assistance or encouraging words to someone else. I may well figure in other people’s “miracle” stories. We may all be miracle workers in one way or another. We just have to be open to the awesome aura that is Jerusalem.
– Ruth Beloff