Unity Government, Unity of Jerusalem

Today is Yom Yerushalyim, Jerusalem Day, the day we commemorate the re-uniting of Jerusalem in the 6 Day War in 1967. It’s a  perfect  day  for a visit to the Western Wall. In fact, this morning, the Western Wall plaza was full of people singing, dancing  together to celebrate the day.

In 1967, just after the war, all of Israel came to the  Western Wall. Puah Shteiner–an author who had been a young girl in the Old City of Jerusalem during the siege and surrender in 1948–writes:

“There are those who cry at such a meeting with the  Western Wall, but I did  not. I  did not  cry, for I knew that this was no longer  the Wailing Wall. The Wailing Wall — remnant of the destruction of our Beit  HaMikdash (Temple) — had become  a place of joy and  redemption. I opened my eyes and looked at the women nearby…Those who were  familiar with  the prayers recited  long passages  from their siddur (prayer book), while  others  simply whispered a request. Some had never in their lives uttered a formal prayer, but their hearts, their hearts spoke wordlessly.  Still others  did not  pray at all;  they simply walked up to  the Wall and silently put a note into one of the cracks in the ancient stones. From all directions  came the  sounds of prayer  – prayers in all versions, uttered in countless accents, sung to different tunes. Here  at  the Wall, the Jewish  people were one, united, whole.  (Forever My Jerusalem).

There is a remarkable connection between the unity of the Jewish people  and the unity of Jerusalem  both in modern and ancient times.

Regarding our current story, on June 1st 1967, just a few days prior to  the victory of the 6 Day  War, the government of the State of  Israel had formed a National Unity government including Levi Eshkol and Menachem Begin, brining  together parties  that no one would have  anticipated  would have  come together.

We have many sources in the Tanach (Bible) about the direct connection between the unity of the Jewish people and peace and unity in Jerusalem.

Over 3,000 years ago,  when King David was about to make Jerusalem the capital,  all the tribes of Israel  came together to acknowledge David as their  king  (not just his own  tribe of Judah).  (2 Samuel 5:1-4)

The Book  of Ezra  (written over 2,500 years ago), tells us that when  the Jews returned to the Land of Israel, they each returned to various cities that they came from. But when they were  ready to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple, “The people  gathered themselves together  as one man  to  Jerusalem.” (Ezra 3:1).

Interestingly, this phrase (c’ish  echad, as one  person) reminds us of the commentary on the Torah that tells us about the unity of the Jewish people when  receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai which we celebrate next week on the holiday of Shavuot.

We know the opposite is  also true.  When  the Jewish people are divided,  Jerusalem is divided and can be taken away from the Jewish people.

We know from various sources that this  is exactly what happened when the Temple was destroyed in the year 70 CE and the Jewish people lost control of  the Land of Israel to the Romans.

Today,  there is much speculation about PM Binyamin Netanyahu’s recent move  towards a unity government. Does it mean a war with Iran is near? Is it a sign of insecurity? Is  it a political ploy?

Today, on Jerusalem Day, let’s remember that throughout Jewish history, unity of the Jewish  people has always led to strength and peace for the Jewish  people, and  may this unity  government also be a sign of good things to come.

© 2012, Lisa (Leah) Bowman. All Rights Reserved.

Walking tours in Jerusalem: http://www.jerusalemwalkingtour.com

 

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Bonfires, Marshmellows and Secrets of the Torah

This Wednesday night is a Lag B’Omer, the traditional day when  we honor  the memory of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai by lighting bonfires (huge memorial candles), singing and dancing. The center of  the festivities is the Upper  Galilee on  Mt. Meron, where Rabbi Shimon Bar  Yochai is buried, but the celebration takes  place throughout Israel and in Jewish communities around the world.

Lag B'Omer  Bonfire

This is a perfect time for a  virtual visit to the Galilee town of Pekiin, where Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (also  called the Rashbi) and his son hid in a cave for 13  years. Rabbi  Shimon was a student  of Rabbi Akiva. They were some of the  key leaders of the Jewish people in the years following  the destruction of  the Temple almost 2,000 years ago. He was  known for his great  wisdom and ability  to do miracles. In those days, there was ongoing tension between the Jews  and the Romans who were  in control of the Land of Israel.  Rabbi Shimon  had spoken negatively about the Romans by  saying that all of their engineering wonders  were for their own benefit, and he was harshly condemned to death  for his  criticism. So, Rabbi  Shimon and his son went to hide. They were sustained in the cave by a carob tree which sprung up and fresh water gushed forth nearby. Until today, the cave is surrounded  by  carob  trees and there is a stream nearby.  During this time,  they learned secrets of the Torah intensely, and Rabbi Shimon wrote  the Zohar (meaning the radiance), the central  work of Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism).

The Talmud tells us that they stayed there until Eliyahu HaNavi  (Elijah the Prophet) came to tell him  the Roman Emporer had  died,  and thus the decree against him was annulled. After twelve years they emerged from the cave, but were  no  longer able to be in normal society. They saw  people engaged in farming and their eyes burnt up the fields  which they saw as mundane.  A voice came out from heaven and said: “Have you emerged to destroy my world!” They returned to the cave for another year, in  order to reach an even  higher level of understanding being able to reconcile the existence of the everyday with the lofty.

May it be a fun Lag  B’Omer with hotdogs and marshmallows, bonfires and songs and together with this may we reach deep spirituality.

© 2012, Lisa (Leah) Bowman. All Rights Reserved.

Walking tours in Jerusalem: http://www.jerusalemwalkingtour.com