My Celebration of Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day) 5775

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Walls of JerusalemJerusalem has been fought over for the last 3,000 years. Every few hundred years some other group comes along and raises their flag and makes their architectural mark. Then some other group comes along and takes it away. Over the last 3,000 years this city has been ruled by Judeans, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Hasmoneans, Romans, Byzantines, Muslims, Mamluks, Crusaders, Ottomans, the British, and the State of Israel. That was a list off the top of my head, my apologies if I forgot any conquerors along the way.

Instead of fighting over this city maybe it’s time to try something different.

Instead of polarizing into divided / undivided, maybe we should try talking about “shared” instead.

I can’t abide the “official” Yom Yerushalayim celebrations. They are ultranationalistic, racist,IMG_7215 and flanked by hatred on both sides. The exact opposite of what you would expect for the “City of Peace.” But it is an important day for me. The fact that Jews are again free to pray at the Western Wall, and that we don’t have to worry about Jordanian sniper fire coming from the walls of the Old City, is very important to me. So I decided to celebrate the day in my own way.

Last night I went to the “alternative” Yom Yerushalayim program at the old train station. A capacity crowd listening to music by Jewish and Arab musicians, and prayers recited by Jews, Muslims, Christians, rabbis, imams, and priests. It was lovely.

This morning I started my day by saying my prayers including the “Half Hallel,” psalms of praise. The “half” version instead of the “full” version, because even though we have regained Jerusalem, the city is far from at peace.

Then I recited Psalm 48 before heading off on a run around the Old City. I felt like fulfilling the verses:

Walk about Zion, go around her,
    count her towers,
consider well her ramparts,
    view her citadels,
that you may tell of them
    to the next generation.

I then did a 9k run through and around Jerusalem’s Old City. I wanted to connect with the history of this city – not just the Jewish history, but everybody’s history. See below with the photos and my annotation. I can’t look at this city and see only my people, the Jews. I see everyone who has had a part in making this city the city that it is. I do hope and pray we can figure out a way to live peacefully together, and put an end to the eternal fighting over real estate.

I finished my run by standing at the Haas Promenade, looking at the city I just ran around, and I recited a prayer I wrote two years ago:

Ribono shel olam, Master of the Universe
God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob
God of Jesus
God of Mohamed
Help us find the teachings of love in your Torah, your Bible, your Koran
Give us compassion and understanding
Show us how to live in peace, each according to his or her custom
Grant us the wisdom to know how to share our holy places – we all want to honor and praise you
Bring our leaders to the path of righteousness, caring for all, responsible for all the holy city’s residents
Bring us peace
True peace
May Jerusalem truly be Ir Shalem, a city whole, not divided by hatred, the true City of Peace

Amen

It worked for me…a moving and personal way to commemorate this special day.

Now for the tour:

First, my route:
Yom Yerushalayim

Jerusalem
View of Jerusalem from Haas Promenade
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Sign marking the battle for this neighborhood, Abu Tor, in 1967.
The YMCA, built in the early 1900s, a place that promotes interfaith respect.
The YMCA, built in the early 1900s, a place that promotes interfaith respect.
Mamilla and the King David Hotel. Between '48 and '67 Mamilla was a "no man's land," where poor people lived because it was exposed to Jordanian snipers. Now it's luxury housing for foreigners across from a high-end mall. The King David was bombed by Jewish terrorists in '46.
Mamilla and the King David Hotel. Between ’48 and ’67 Mamilla was a “no man’s land,” where poor people lived because it was exposed to Jordanian snipers. Now it’s luxury housing for foreigners across from a high-end mall. The King David was bombed by Jewish terrorists in ’46.
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Jaffa Gate, the main entrance to the Old City for tourists. Note the Arabic writing above and the mezuzah on the gate; everyone puts their mark on the city.
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The “New” Gate, exit from the Christian Quarter, added in 1889. Note the plaque on the left; it marks the breaking through of this gate by Israeli troops in 1967.
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The Pope’s flag also flies over Jerusalem – Notre Dame.
Damascus Gate, the main Arab entrance to the Old City, built on the ruins of a Roman gate built by the Emperor Hadrian, back when he changed the name of the city to Aelia Capitolina and expelled all Jews.
Damascus Gate, the main Arab entrance to the Old City, built on the ruins of a Roman gate built by the Emperor Hadrian, back when he changed the name of the city to Aelia Capitolina and expelled all Jews.
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The former Bar Lev line, once the border between Israel and Jordan, now still the border between Arab East Jerusalem and Jewish West Jerusalem
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Zedekiah’s Cave, aka King Solomon’s Quarry
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Herod’s Gate, aka Flower Gate, although it had nothing to do with Herod.
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Jerusalem is already (still) a divided city. Not many Jews go shopping on Saladin Street.
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Lion’s Gate, near the start of the Via Dolorosa. The gates on the eastern side of the city do NOT have mezuzot.
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Ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives. Favored because they are supposed to be ringside seats for the coming of the Messiah.
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Muslim cemetery along the walls of the Old City
Hulda Gates, or Gate of Mercy. Some say they will be miraculously opened when the Messiah comes.
Hulda Gates, or Gate of Mercy (closed, stone). Some say they will be miraculously opened when the Messiah comes.
Yom Yerushalayim
The City of David / Silwan. Nowhere is the city more divided than here, Right wing archeologists and settlers battling with Arab residents.
Dung Gate, closest entrance to the Western Wall.
Dung Gate, closest entrance to the Western Wall. Note the Crusader era “pillows” in the arch of the gate.
Yom Yerushalayim
The Dome of the Rock, third holiest site in Islam, built on the site of the Temple, hovering over the Western Wall.
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What better symbol for how this city has had many owners than a mosque in the middle of the Jewish Quarter?
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Zion Gate, entry to the Jewish and Armenian Quarters. Note the bullet holes in the wall from the wars in 48 and 67.
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View toward the “Hill of Evil Counsel,” where Christians believe Judas betrayed Jesus. Now the regional UN headquarters.
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Gehinnom, aka “Hell”
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A high tech symbol of Jerusalem today: Jerusalem Venture Partners.
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Caspi Street. My favorite residential street in the city. From ’48 to ’67 sat about 50 yards from the border.
Yom Yerushalayim
And last but not least, a chicken coop that they say is owned by the Queen of England.
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