Next year in renovated Jerusalem

“Moshiach,” declared the little sticker on the dirty old wall, “is just one good deed away!”

A small picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe waved at me from the middle of the sentence, framed by random pipes and rusty odds and ends. The door to his left was torn out of the wall, as was the gate to his right. Behind the missing doors, within the gaping spaces, construction workers were chatting with each other, sipping coffee.

When they finished, they left their dirty cups on a lose stone below the sticker.

Once upon a time, over a century ago, houses used to stand apart on this street. But they had since fused together into long, yellowing caterpillars, dotted with graffiti and store fronts and poorly spelled signs.

And little stickers promising redemption. A redemption which is one deed away.

(Do the Arab workers whose coffee cups stand below the sticker want redemption too, I wondered. And should we worry about each other’s hopes? After all, here in Jerusalem, one man’s redemption can mean another’s downfall.)

“Next year in rebuilt Jerusalem,” we will sing at the end of the seder. Some of us will think about the Temple, others – about some spiritual rebirth.

But I will think about the walls of Jaffa street, and the workers toiling behind the old facades, and everything they represent.

The facades of Jaffa street will remain rusty and yellow: These caterpillars aren’t turning into butterflies any time soon.

And anyway, should we even urge them to? They wear their history for all to see, and why should we shed it, when it’s our history, too?

These walls, like the tensions we live with here in Jerusalem, are real. They’re rooted in history. They’re rooted in truth.

We can’t wish them away. We can’t whitewash over them. And we can’t simply decide that they’re not real.

But behind the facades, behind the pipes and the rust and the stickers and their promises and the way the promises we hope for clash, Jerusalem is being renovated from the inside out.

Behind the old surfaces, construction workers are building something new.

Underneath the old tensions, activists converse with strangers in Zion Square every Thursday night, and bring us closer to each other despite our different paths.

That “rebuilt Jerusalem” that we always pray for? It’s materializing, slowly, as we speak. It’s growing ever closer, in between the squabbles and the (ample) coffee breaks.

It’s coming.

One room, one deed, one conversation at a time.

Rachel Sharansky Danziger

Posted by Rachel Sharansky Danziger

Rachel Sharansky Danziger is a life-long Jerusalemite who's in love with her city's vibrant human scene. She blogs about life in Israel, Judaism, and parenting for The Times of Israel, Sifriyat Pijama, and Kveller, and you can follow her adventures on Facebook and via her personal blog.

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