Jerusalem Day, the anniversary of the unification of Jerusalem in 1967, falls on May 29 this year. It marks 55 years since the day that changed everything. Most holidays tend to be reinvigorated over time. Lag B'Omer is a perfect example, assisted by an increased interest in Kabbala and the need to get outside as the weather warms.
Jerusalem Day, alas, has become diminished as it has been usurped by Israel's right wing in its desire to push an in-your-face assault on the city's Arab population with obnoxious marches through Muslim neighborhoods. That will continue to be the case this year. In an analysis in Ha'aretz, "Year After Gaza War, Right-wing March Endangers Not Only Jerusalemites," Nir Hasan writes that "politicians have no choice but to allow the parade, which is often accompanied by violence and racist chants, year after year." This year's "celebration" began early, with the push by Kahanists to pray - and sacrifice goats - on the Temple Mount during Passover.
It's sad, because Jerusalem Day celebrates a modern miracle, the fulfillment of a 2,000 year old dream, and it is a day all Jews should celebrate. Rather than allowing the Kahanists to become the Grinch that Stole Jerusalem Day, we should find way to reclaim it.
For a more balanced perspective, see these sobering reflections that were published five years ago, as we marked the Jubilee (Yovel) of the Six Day War, or read this Yovel sampler containing text study and poetry. This week's portion of B'har actually introduces the concept of Jubilee, the fifty year mark that ideally brings about complete liberation for the land and its inhabitants. Despite Jerusalem's miraculous liberation, we are not there yet.
I believe the time has come to restore Jerusalem Day to its former glory, much as the city itself has been restored in so many ways. But the way to do that is through reflection and dialogue, and the understanding that the best things in life are those things that are shared.
Stones (Shirley Kaufman, 1996)
When you live in Jerusalem you begin
to feel the weight of stones. You begin to know the word
was made stone, not flesh.
They dwell among us. They crawl
up the hillsides and lie down on each other to build a wall.
They don’t care about prayers,
the small slips of paper
we feed them between the cracks.
They stamp at the earth
until the air runs out
and nothing can grow.
They stare at the sun without blinking
and when they’ve had enough,
make holes in the sky
so the rain will run down their faces.
They sprawl all over the town
with their pitted bodies. They want
to be water, but nobody
strikes them anymore.
Sometimes at night I hear them
licking the wind to drive it crazy.
There’s a huge rock lying on my chest
and I can’t get up.
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