“Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) is a gift given to our generation,” I declare often to my children. “It is not a small gift and it is not a gift to be taken for granted. It came at a high price and we have a huge responsibility to appreciate this treasure and care for it properly.”
For generations, we longed to be able to walk the streets of Yerushalayim in peace and in song. We prayed long and hard for the opportunity to shed tears and pour our hearts out in prayer at the Kotel (The Wailing Wall). When we visit Jerusalem now, we can enjoy the beauty and comfort of Jerusalem and it is easy to forget that it has only been 51 years since we have received this enormous gift.
My brother-in-law, Bezalel, recalls visiting Jerusalem for his Bar Mitzvah, prior to 1967. He made the long journey by boat with great anticipation of finally reaching the Holy Land and seeing Jerusalem. He describes the moment of the great reveal.
He had spent weeks traveling by sea. Jerusalem was in his hopes and his dreams. He along with the Jewish nation prayed and pray daily for the opportunity for our eyes to behold Yerushalayim. There was such anticipation and excitement.
Bezalel reached the Mandelbaum Gate, the closest place at that time that a Jew could come to the Old City of Jerusalem. It was the checkpoint into the Jordanian-controlled part of Jerusalem, north of the western edge of the Old City. Bezalel climbed up as high as possible to try and catch a glimpse of the Old City of Jerusalem. He describes straining his eyes to behold Jerusalem. He describes how fortunate he felt that his parents allowed him to make the long, albeit meaningful, trip to catch but a glimpse of the holiness and beauty of Yerushalayim.
Did he believe that just a few years later his children and grandchildren would be able to choose from scores of flights daily into Israel? Did he imagine that he would be able to walk hand-in-hand with his progeny in the streets of Yerushalayim? Would he have guessed that the streets of Jerusalem would be filled with song and the many study halls of Jerusalem would be sweetened by the sounds and echos of Torah learning?
It is a dream come true and an enormous gift and responsibility not to be taken lightly.
Years ago, we visited Israel with Kaitlyn, who was a preschooler and just beginning to learn Hebrew. She struggled with the basic Hebrew vocabulary and grammar. I remember that during that visit, Kaitlyn exclaimed, “Wow! Even the babies cry in Hebrew!”
Today is Yom Yerushalayim, a day commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli control over the Old City after the Six-Day War. It is a day of drama and a day of appreciation. It is a day of importance, a day of gratitude and a day of responsibility.
As I have written in the past, G-d chose the place for the the Holy Temple in Jerusalem to be built as the spot where two men felt each other’s kindness, caring and brotherly love. We are taught that there were two brothers living in Jerusalem. One brother had a large family and the other brother lived alone. One evening, each brother devised a plan to help the other brother. The single brother thought, “my brother has so many children and probably not enough food. I will bring him a bundle of wheat.” The brother with a large family thought, “my brother has nothing but his wealth. I will bring a wheat bundle to him to fill some of his loneliness.” That night, each brother carried a bundle of wheat through the hills of Jerusalem. Under the cover of darkness, the two brothers met and embraced each other. God proclaimed. “This very spot where these two brothers demonstrated love for each other is where the Holy Temple will be built.”
The boy in the picture is my three year old grandson, Yehuda. When we visited Yerushalayim for Pesach (Passover), Yehuda had just turned three. One morning, before the rest of the house awoke, I invited him to take the Jerusalem light rail train with me to do some shopping. On the way back, I offered that he could get himself a single item. He chose a small Israeli flag. As we were walking back to the train, Yehuda remembered that we had not bought anything for Avigail. He asked if I would give him money to buy a flag for Avigail, as well. We went back and bought her the same flag.
This picture was a candid shot of Yehuda at the Davidka station of the light rail waving his and Avigail’s flags in the streets of Jerusalem with the carefree happiness that we have hope for, longed for and prayed for.
May G-d allow us the opportunity to appreciate the gift or Yerushalayim, until the true rebuilding of this city in the times of Moshiach.