Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Yom Yerushalayim Part II

Today, Jerusalem Day, I see throngs of Jewish youth and families clad in blue and white, clutching flags and glowing with the joy of the day as they pour in to Jerusalem from all over Israel.

Call me a soft touch but I still get a warm fuzzy feeling from seeing parents and children all clad in their Sabbath finest in honour of Yom Yerushalayim, starched white shirts gleaming in the sun, their faces overcome with the awe and gratitude of meriting to live in an era when Jews are free to come to the holy city once again ruled by a Jewish government after the millennia of our exile.

I too am awed at the privilege of being able to so casually walk over to the Western Wall to pray, of riding a bus whose route just happens to take us past the iconic walls of the Old City. I remember only too well my family's stories of visiting Jerusalem in the 50s and 60s, when not only were Judaism's holiest sites barred to Jews by the Jordanian occupation, but the city itself was divided through the centre by barbed wire and concrete barriers and walking through much of the city centre put Israelis at risk of Jordanian snipers who would from time to time take pot shots at civilians on the Israeli side of the armistice line. 

For all the problems and disputes faced by modern Jerusalem, how different it is today when older border areas like Mamilla, once a slum in the shadow of Jordanian snipers are now a glittering shopping and entertainment district where Jews, Arabs, Christians and tourists mingle in the just outside the walls of the Old City. I am not so naive as to think that Jerusalem's problems are solved, but neither am I so ungrateful as to ignore the improvements made in the last decades since the city was reunited. There is still much work to be done, but I am always hopeful.

More than anything though it is this everyday coexsitence, whether born of ideals or of practicality, that inspires me on Yom Yerushalayim. 

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