Being in Jerusalem makes me want to dance around my apartment and cry with joy. The energy in this large shtetl is of a big fat Jewish family – loud, loving and somewhat hostile all at the same time.
Experiencing Israel, and Jerusalem specifically, was definitely one of the main influences for bringing me onto the observant Jewish path. I am here now, fully observant (whatever that means), and so in love with every detail of this holy city. It is intricately wrapped in my personal journey. But, more importantly, it is really my journey in Jerusalem that is wrapped up in the journey of the Jewish people over the space of time.
Here, no matter how alone we are, we are never alone. Every stone speaks of a past and calls for a future. Our personal journeys are a thread in the fabric of eternity. Hashem’s eternity. Hashem is eternity. We are never alone because we are part of Him.
And so, as the rockets hit Israel and as I experienced my first siren to run for shelter, I thought “screw you Hamas. We’re alive. Truly alive. Living.” That is unbeatable. Life will always win. After a forest fire the strongest shoots sprout up. And that is the Jewish history. The strength in our history, in our forefathers and foremothers isn’t a relic to be studied, it is with us, current, present. It is who we are now.
When I stood in the Israel Museum in awe of the antique Torah scroll unwound in all it’s majesty on the wall, I watched a man in sneakers and jeans walk up and start singing from it. He knew every word and every cantonation of this encased artifact. It was his. It was his Torah. It is part of who he is now, just as much as it was part of another Jew’s life all those years ago when it was made. We may dress differently to how we use to, and we may have different customs and live in different lands, but we are the same Jews with the same Torah. I think this is what it must mean by the Torah and the Jews being eternal. They are really always one. We are one with the Torah and one with the land.
I would argue that there’s no such thing as a Jewish museum. As you walk the streets of Nachlaot, a very old part of Jerusalem, with alleyways and plaques of who once lived here, we’re still here. We still walk the same old streets, sing the same songs, reading the same Torah. The ‘old’ ‘historic’ synagogues here are full of people doing the same thing as they had done before throughout the ages – being Jews. Active. Alive.
Hitler had planned to build a large Jewish museum to remind the world of what Jews had once been about. I understand now what an impossibility that would have been. There is no such thing as a Jewish museum. We are a living tribute to everyone that has come before us. These cobbled streets are our history and our future. Our very lives are a tribute to the past, and as we read about the old Jerusalem in our prayer books while present in the new Jerusalem, we become an integral thread. Our actions and deeds now create the future and represent the past. Our lives are the tribute.
And so, I invite each and every one of you to live. Truly live. Make your lives a living history and a future link. Walk the streets of Jerusalem with your head held high for you are never alone. Weave your thread. Build your life. Live.