Sunday, July 1, 2007

We'll be leaving Jerusalem shortly, a city of much beauty and complexity. Historical and contemporary narratives swirl around every corner... sometimes as gentle as a cool summer breeze, sometimes as violent as a tornado. So many extraordinary moments... so difficult to express... As one of the group said after a particularly moving Shabbat morning service at the Orthodox egalitarian (not an oxymoron) Shira Hadasha, "sometimes silence is the only appropriate response."

Walking through the Western Wall tunnels and touching stones that were put in place more than 2,000 years ago... Walking through the Shrine of the Book and reading Biblical texts also written more than 2,000 years ago... so much more fragile than stones, but somehow more enduring as well... or at least their messages are clearer, easier to decipher. Meeting with MK Michael Melchior and being challenged to lend our Diaspora hands to help deal with the issues which tear our Jewish hearts.

Some observations from members of the group:

"Spending time on Ben Yehuda Street on Thursday night was such an invigorating and exciting experience. The buzz, energy and enthusiasm was palpable... Friday evening, spending Shabbat at Kol Haneshama (one of the most successful Reform synagogues in Israel under the inspired leadership of Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman) is something I will always remember. Jews from all over the world gathered and prayed together as one...It is very difficult to articulate how special I felt."

Another: "Things that surprised me: 1)The amount of construction going on in Jerusalem; 2) the amount of traffic, 3)how few soldiers were carrying rifles."

Another: "The close proximity of the security wall to the Old City is jarring. The fact that relations between Jews and Palestinians have not improved over the decades is disappointing. Will there ever be peace? No signs point to it."

Another: "One little thing struck me as a big thing. The 40th Anniversary banner outside the walls of the old city (marking 40 years since the liberation of Jerusalem in the Six-Day War). It seemed to rub the Arabs' noses in their defeat and in the occupation and colonisation."

Another: "Something that surprised me: My feelings about davening at the Kotel have not changed over 30 years. The spiritual energy was powerful."

To end again with a poem by Yehudah Amichai:

Jerusalem is a port city on the shore of eternity.
The Temple Mount is a huge ship, a magnificent
luxury liner. From the porholes of her Western Wall
cheerful saints look out, travelers. Hasidim on the pier
wave goodbye, shout hooray, hooray, bon voyage! She is
always arriving, always sailing away. And the fences and the piers
and the policemen and the flags and the high masts of churches
and mosques and the smokestacks of synagogues and the boats
of psalms of praise and the mountain-waves. The shofar blows: another one
has just left. Yom Kippur sailors in white uniforms
climb among the ladders and ropes of well-tested prayers.

And the commerce and the gates and the golden domes:
Jerusalem is the Venice of God.

That's it for now... more later.