Heaven and Hell

1020242_imgJerusalem geography makes an interesting metaphor for life in the Middle East.  The photo at the left is a picture of Gehinnom, the Valley of Hinnom, a.k.a. "Hell."  The Jewish term for Hell comes from this valley in Jerusalem where the Bible tells us that the Canaanites offered their children up to Molech.  "And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the valley of Ben-Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I did not command them, nor did it come into my heart." …Jeremiah 7:31.

I’m staying in the southern part of Jerusalem and decided I wanted to run up to the Old City for my morning run.  To get to Zion and the Temple Mount–which symbolize "Heaven on Earth," the place where God’s presence was most manifest in ancient times–one must go through Hell. Literally. 

So if we feel like we are in difficult times now, we can take heart, that geography shows us we have to go through Hell to get to Heaven.  We can also take heart from noticing that the distance between Heaven and Hell is not all that far — a few hundred yards.  But as any professional football player can tell you, there are times when 100 yards can seem to be a very long distance indeed.  And not only that, but geographically as in real life, it is an "uphill climb" to go from the valley of Gehinnom, Hell, to ascend to Heaven (Mt. Zion).

The wall of the Old City of Jerusalem is visible at the upper left hand corner of the picture…the site of the Temple is further to the left.

After climbing out of Hell and approaching Heaven, I was coming in the Zion Gate and once again noticed all of the pockmarks in wall around gate — souvenirs from the fierce battles for the Old City in 1948 and 1967.  Which reminded me that there may be a price to get to Heaven.

Despite what you may be reading in the papers, life here in Israel goes on as normal.  Today I had lunch with someone from the Israeli high tech world at a lovely restaurant right on the beach in Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv.  He told me that after the intifada broke it took a year and a half before he had a visitor from his employer’s headquarters and other operations in Europe.  But when his first visitor after that long dry spell sent his wife a picture of the view of the beach from his phone, she decided it did not look like a war zone, and she wanted to get on the first plane here!  The overwhelming normality of things here is not news, however, so instead of showing me and my associate having a nice piece of fish looking out at the Mediterranean, CNN’s coverage for today has a picture of a tank, a sight which us civilians don’t see at all.  It reminds of when I lived in Iran in 1978/79.  People asked me why didn’t I leave earlier — all they saw on TV were all these pictures of riots and fighting as the people were revolting against the government of the Shah.  But none of that was near where we lived.  What I told people was "if you live in Beverly Hills, you don’t move because there are riots in Watts."

But the difference between Israel and Gaza is NOT like the difference between Beverly Hills and Watts.  There is a real fence and real security around Gaza.  To understand what it’s like, imagine if instead of having Mexico on the southern border of the US it was Sudan.  Life in Los Angeles would not be affected much, despite the craziness of Muslim killing Muslim which is going on in Sudan. 

May God give all of us, Jews, Muslims, Christians, Israelis, Arabs and everyone else in the world the strength to climb out of the Hell of violence and into the Heaven of brotherly love and peace…

Reb Barry

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Barry Leff

Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Leff is a dual Israeli-American business executive, teacher, speaker and writer who divides his time between Israel and the US.

2 thoughts on “Heaven and Hell

  • Thank you for keeping us informed. It was great to read about what you are doing. God Bless and keep you safe.

    Ruth and Jerold Gold

  • Thank you for keeping us informed. It was great to read about what you are doing. God Bless and keep you safe.

    Ruth and Jerold Gold


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