The title of this piece is taken from Psalm 122 and was the inspiration for my latest podcast episode which can be heard at wrestlinganddreaming.podbean.com and other sources for podcasts.
I encourage you to listen to that podcast but will share a brief summary of my thoughts.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the podcast, I do not believe that events in Jerusalem are the only factor behind the sudden eruption of fighting between Israel and Hamas. But, they were definitely a factor in the timing of this latest round of violence. The dangers posed by the rockets coming from Gaza and the response by Israel has its roots in a much larger conflict but I look to Jerusalem as a symbol of what is and what could be.
I had the privilege of living in Jerusalem for the academic year 1979-1980 and have been back many times since, usually leading synagogue or community groups on trips to Israel. During the year I lived in the city, I fell in love with Jerusalem as so many have for millennia. I became enthralled with the city’s natural beauty and the ever-present sense of history around every corner. I particularly was moved by the presence of the three great Abrahamic faiths co-existing with a sense of peace and mutual respect.
I readily admit that what I saw on the surface at the time hid the conflicts barely beneath that surface but there was a willingness to at least attempt to find common ground and mutual respect among the different faiths and between Israelis and Palestinians. I was able to take advantage of the relative calm and peace to explore and feel comfortable in all parts of the city and, more importantly, the beautiful texts of our tradition about love for Jerusalem and our hope for it to serve as a place of redemption resonated deeply with me. I consider bringing people to Jerusalem one of my greatest joys as a rabbi.
But, the Jerusalem I dream of and remember is, sadly, not the Jerusalem we hear about today.
While there are many who continue to work for co-existence and mutual respect both on the political scene and in daily life, the loudest voices in Jerusalem are those which do not reflect love of the city. The voices heard most loudly in the city on both sides are those which call for exclusion rather than inclusion and we see videos of mobs of people, some tragically draped in the flag of the state of Israel, calling for expulsion and death to “the other”.
Jerusalem has been the site of tension and violence and rivalry for millennia. But, our texts still call for us to find peace in Jerusalem, to have it be the symbol and the incentive to work for redemption in the world.
Jerusalem holds a special place in the hearts of so many. It is a place so many love deeply whether they live there or love her from afar. As we see the horrible conflict continue, seeing Israelis suffer horrendous rocket attacks from Hamas and as seeing so many children and other innocent people in Gaza killed and injured, we all must pray and work for an end to this conflict. I pray that people throughout the region one day will be able to look to Jerusalem as a symbol of peace and redemption.
Please listen to my podcast and hear all of my thoughts.