In Praise of Jerusalem

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I realize my last post about Yom Yerushalayim comes across like one big “kvetch.”  It might lead a reader to wonder, “so why live in such a crazy place?”

The truth is, the things I love about living in Jerusalem far outweigh the things that bug me.  I suppose I had to kvetch because the whole self-righteous jingoism that seems to go with Yom Yerushalayim gets on my nerves.  It arouses the curmudgeon in me.  But here are some of the things I love about living here:

The history: my wife was saying over dinner how we are continually discovering new things.  We’ve lived in this city a total of five years now, yet most weeks we get to feel like a tourist on Friday morning and go on a walking tour and discover new things about this fascinating city.  You can’t walk two blocks without stumbling across something historical, either ancient or less ancient.

The scenery.  In honor of Yom Yerushalayim my morning run today was a loop around

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 the outside of the walls of the Old City.  Hills always help views, but here you can see everything from Suleiman’s walls to 3,000 plus year old archeological sites to forests to the desert, the Dead Sea, and the hills in Jordan.

Security.  Ironic, isn’t it?  Everywhere else in the world, people think Israel is a “dangerous” place.  This evening my 13 year old was saying she appreciates being able to walk home from karaoke on her own at midnight.  I’d never let her do that in any major American city.

The weather.  We only have two seasons, but both are pretty easy to take.  It gets hot in the summer, but it cools off very nicely in the evening.  Winter can be wet, and cool but not cold.

Sense of meaning.  Since there are things screwed up, and it’s such an important place, it’s possible to feel like you can make a difference in something important.  Between my professional work, where I help create jobs for immigrants, and my volunteer work with Rabbis for Human Rights, and now with the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary I feel like I’m helping, at least in some small way, to correct the problems I complained about in yesterday’s post.

Knowing everyone.  The English-speaking community in Jerusalem is only about 100,000 people.  Half of the op-ed pieces I read in the Jerusalem Post are from people I know and/or see at the synagogue every Saturday morning.  It also can contribute to the “big fish in a small pond” feeling which enhances the “sense of meaning.”

Food.  There isn’t anywhere in the world with a better selection of kosher restaurants. Everything from Indian to Chinese to French and Italian, Moroccan, and my favorite the “Biblical” cuisine of Eucalyptus.

Culture. It may not be the biggest city in the world, but since it’s Jerusalem we get a much better selection of live music, theater, etc., than you would expect.

Interfaith.  Even though in yesterday’s post I complained about the lack of tolerance, there actually is also a fair amount of interfaith dialog and communications happening.  Once every two weeks we take one of our kids to her “Kids for Peace” meeting where we get together with Jewish, Christian, and Muslim families.  Once a month I study Torah with nuns and priests at a monastery.

And last, but not least, get a load of this last picture I snapped on my morning run: where else in the world can you see a wood-plated car with a model of the Temple on its roof!

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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.

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