HolidaysHuman RightsInterfaithIsraelYom Yerushalayim

Yom Yerushalayim 5771


Tuesday night, May 31, the 28th of Iyar on the Jewish calendar, we mark Yom Yerushalayim, “Jerusalem Day,” the day (on the Jewish calendar) when Jerusalem was reunited in 1967.

Last year I wrote about some of the ambivalence I feel for this holiday.  I wrote:

On the one hand, ‘when I watch the news clips from that June day in 1967 — which you can see here — a shiver runs down my spine when I hear the announcer yell “har habayit b’yadeinu!” The Temple Mount is in our hands! After 19 years of being in Jordan, 19 years when Jews were not allowed to pray at the holiest site in Judaism, to be able to return was fantastic. To have the Temple Mount under Jewish authority for the first time in nearly 2000 years — what can you say?

On the other hand, the “reunification of Jerusalem” is used (abused) by those on the right who say “Jerusalem will never again be divided.” Meanwhile, the government of Israel has engaged in quite a bit of subterfuge in defining “Jerusalem.” Land miles away is now part of “Jerusalem.”

You can read the whole post from last year here.

This year I’m still ambivalent.  Sadly, while there has been physical reunification, we seem more fragmented and less unified than ever on the spiritual / political front.  Things have gotten so bad with some sectors of the haredim that the police are afraid to go into Mea Shearim (I’m not kidding, you can read about it here).  It seems like the haredim are mad at everyone: they battle the modern Orthodox over conversions, the Reform and Conservative are heretics, and they don’t want to let the secular do what they want on Shabbat without interference.  The divisions over local real estate are getting worse, with Jewish groups trying to “Judaize” Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, while the Arab residents can’t get building permits or decent municipal services.  And everyone picks on the gays if they want to have a parade.

I feel ashamed for my city.  Jerusalem, home to Judaism’s holiest site, to Christianity’s holiest site, to Islam’s third most holy site, should really be doing better.  We owe it to the world to be the very model of religious tolerance.  We should be a shining beacon of inter- and intra-faith respect and collegiality.  Instead no one gets along with anyone else.  Even at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Christianity’s holiest site, the different denominations bicker over territory and prayer times.  And the Jews are just as bad, at the Western Wall, don’t dare say your prayers in a group out loud if you are a woman, and don’t even think about praying with men and women together unless you leave the plaza and go to Robinson’s Arch.  Bishops aren’t allowed to wear a cross if they go to visit Judaism’s holiest site, and this rabbi got kicked out of Mary’s tomb for wearing a kippah (see my post “Jews not welcome at Mary’s tomb?”).  Oh yes, and to round it out and pick on everyone, on a visit to the Temple Mount, the Muslims would not allow a Christian visitor to bring her Bible.  Little did they know that I have the whole Bible on my phone! 🙂

Mr. or Ms. Messiah, would you please hurry up and arrive already, and remind all those fervently devout religious types of every faith that God really meant it when She said “love your neighbor as yourself???”

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.

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