Essays

Jerusalem’s Moments

Jerusalem’s Moments

In the past 50 days, we celebrated Jerusalem as we experience it.

We celebrated the beauty of this city, which shines throughout the day – and night.

We didn’t shy away from Jerusalem’s challenges: We thought about terror and borders and the differences between us, and why some people don’t stand for the siren, while others do.

But we also delved into Jerusalem’s quirky, fun moments, its dressed-up dogs and its graffiti and its open-mic nights.

We watched sheep joining the Jerusalem Marathon, soldiers knitting, and old men playing music by Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station.

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Posted by Rachel Sharansky Danziger in Essays

Last-Minute in the Sunshine

I’ve described Jerusalem by the shining white stones of its buildings. I’ve tried to capture Jerusalem in words like “intense” and “holy” and “diverse.” I’ve made friends out of the acquaintances on Jerusalem’s buses and in her cafes. And I even introduced a sabra to the Jewish people in the hills of Jerusalem’s Ein Karem (his passport has no country, but we know).

Still, it’s the wee hours before Pesach that showcase quintessential Jerusalem for me (how appropriate, as we near Shavuot). After midnight, the city is dark. The streets are nearly empty (it’s a city that doesn’t fully sleep). Cafes are finishing their final scrub-down before the holiday, sponga water cascading into the gutters. Homes stand empty of leavening for the holiday (or it’s been sold…or so we trust). And the florists…well, the florists are open. Because Jerusalem is in the final throes of preparation for Pesach, and everyone needs flowers. It’s almost the last minute, and the florists don’t close until right before candlelighting.

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Posted by Anne Gordon in Essays

The port city of Jerusalem

(Artwork by Daphne Odjig)

Most countries that are not landlocked have their capitals on a coastline. Jerusalem is the rare exception, a capital city that does not flow into an ocean, river or sea. But in a poem created by Yehuda Amichai, Jerusalem is a port city, where the ebb and flow is prayer—the tide between heaven and earth. The flow is vertical, rather than horizontal.

I asked the Canadian literary journal, KI1N, if they could acquire permission to use a painting by Daphne Odjig, a First Nation Canadian artist, to illustrate my English translation of Amichai’s poem. I felt her silkscreen of Jaffa Gate brought to life the nautical spirit that Yehuda Amichai evoked in his poem. When I discovered her art, I learned that El Al had commissioned Odjig to paint Jerusalem from her perspective in 1976.

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Posted by Eva L. Weiss in Essays, Poems
Giving birth in Jerusalem

Giving birth in Jerusalem

“We already sealed the womb itself,” explained Professor Elchalal. “Now we’re stitching the tissues around it.”

The professor’s voice rose, oddly disembodied, from behind the curtain that separated my head from the rest of my body. A C-section, I thought, is all about separations – we separate tissue from tissue, baby from womb. Under these circumstances, a curtain cutting the body in two is only fitting.

“And how do you stitch the tissues together, professor?”

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Posted by Rachel Sharansky Danziger in Essays

Noticing the Everyday Miracles in Jerusalem

Neighborhood playground (Ir Ganim- Kiryat Menachem facebook page)

Not a dry eye in the hall. Bet you’ve heard that phrase before, but how often do you really see a room full of guests sniveling collectively to keep composure at a seemingly routine family event?
Eleven years of waiting, hoping, praying for a child came to an apex at a recent brit milah in an obscure Jerusalem neighborhood synagogue.

Ir Ganim- Kiryat Menachem is best known for the culture clash between the old-timers and the new-comers. The older residents are comprised of Jewish families from Arab countries which had been forced out after centuries of living in thriving communities. In Israel’s infancy they were settled in quickly-constructed shikun buildings in the 50’s and 60’s and have since been joined by Russian immigrants who came in the big waves of aliya from the former Soviet Union. They have carefully guarded their secular lifestyles. The new faces on the blocks are the young, sincerely observant families lacking the means to choose more established religious neighborhoods.

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Posted by Heddy Abramovitz in Essays

Hooked

One of my earliest memories is the first time I cast eyes on the Kotel.

I was 5 years old, and I was already under Her spell. After experiencing the Kotel, though, I was hooked.

I was hooked on the vibrancy of Jewish people of all different kinds coming together to pray.

I was hooked because of the technology protecting us juxtaposed with this ancient wall that reminds us of who we were, who we are, and what we have the potential to become.

That was the moment I knew. I knew that my life would be ruled by Her, dedicated to bettering Her, and that my I would raise my children to feel the same.

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Posted by Naava Shafner in Essays
A Jerusalem Vision, Jerusalem Day–Yom Yerushalayim

A Jerusalem Vision, Jerusalem Day–Yom Yerushalayim

Aaron Ettinger was one of the paratroopers who fought in Jerusalem during the Six Day War, and was severely wounded on Salah e-Din Street near Damascus Gate.

A few years ago, at a Jerusalem Day sing-along at a synagogue around the corner from the President’s Residence, Aaron was given the microphone to recount his experiences during the two hellish days of the battle to liberate the city in June 1967.

The elderly, slightly portly man with a full head of white hair topped with a knitted kipa, spoke about the number of his comrades (mostly reservists from kibbutzim) who fell in the worst of the fighting that took place on the northern side of the Old City on Nablus Road, Salah e-Din Street and in front of Damascus Gate.

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Posted by Judy Lash Balint in Essays
Where we tell it like it is

Where we tell it like it is

I’ve been living in Jerusalem for nearly 9 years now. Ironically, the very thing that drove me nuts about living here is something I’ve come to value and appreciate.

Living here, I am struck by the realness of the way that we deal with life.

I don’t mean to say that life in other places is somehow superficial. I’ve had some incredibly rich life experiences both in NY and Melbourne, and a very brief stint in the Ukraine many years ago.

It’s just that living in Jerusalem feels somehow more real than anywhere else I’ve been. When I say real, I mean in your face. You-can’t-run-away-from-it kind of real.

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Posted by Micki Lavin-Pell in Essays
Home Run

Home Run

Would the rabbis of the ancient world have given their blessing to the twenty-first century Jerusalem Marathon?

It’s a question I ponder each March, on that designated Friday when traffic in the Holy City comes to a grinding halt. Barricades are set up to block cars and buses, and their place is taken by some 25,000 runners (and chilled-out walkers) who make their way along Jerusalem’s cleared roads. It’s a marathon, but it feels like a festival.

When I wrote my first children’s book a couple of years ago, I asked eleven-year-old Gabi, who ran with her sisters, to describe the day. In her words:

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Posted by Eva L. Weiss
Jerusalem’s faces

Jerusalem’s faces

Almost alone among cities, Jerusalem transcends its physical essence to reach exalted spiritual and metaphorical levels. The many faces of Jerusalem are reflected in the rich and complex personality of King David who established his sovereignty there. As Rabbi David Silber, the great teacher of Bible notes, there is the David of the Book of Samuel, the David of the Book of Psalms and the David of our liturgy. Corresponding to these three aspects of this monumental king, there is the political Jerusalem, the loving Jerusalem, and the Jerusalem of eternal spiritual transcendence.

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Posted by Avi Weiss in Essays