Jerusalem of Go(l)d 50 years on

Tomorrow is Jerusalem Day. 50 years since the reunification of Jerusalem, since the liberation of the Old City from the Jordanians, and the ability to get closer to the site of our Temple Mount. Closer, and yet not quite there.

Last week I read a blog post by Rabbi Efrem Goldberg of my former shul in Boca. I have tremendous respect for Rabbi Goldberg, and enjoy reading what he writes. However, this time I don’t quite agree with him. Rabbi Goldberg laments the attendance at a recent shul event celebrating Yom HaAtzmaut, and asks why so few people came. He is 100% correct that a religious Zionist is someone who says Hallel on Yom HaAtzmaut and on Yom Yerushalayim, and that sending your kids to a school where daglanut is performed is not enough.  He goes on to ask what does make a “Religious Zionist”. Rabbi Goldberg lists what he believes to be the key factors  Belief in the centrality of Israel, Gratitude (to Hashem), Israel Consciousness, Aliyah, Community.

Under Israel Consciousness he writes (emphasis mine): “Feeling like a resident of Israel even while living in the diaspora means following the news from Israel closely, sharing in its successes, and being pained by its challenges.  It means advocating and lobbying on behalf of Israel.  It means contributing our resources in a meaningful way to Israel.  It means raising our children to think about Israel like their hometown, rather than like another foreign place they don’t live.”
This is where I disagree. In my opinion, it is not possible to raise children outside of Israel to think of Israel like their hometown. Even a family who is lucky enough to vacation in Israel for holidays and summers cannot achieve this.

Of course Israel should always be on our minds, whether or not we live here or in the Diaspora. Of course Hallel should be recited on Yom HaAtzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim. Of course Aliyah should always be somewhere in the consciousness of those who currently live in the Diaspora. But vacation in Israel is not the same as living in Israel. And to truly feel Yom HaAtzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim a lot of people need to be here physically, not just spiritually. Can July 4th be fully celebrated outside of the United States?

Until I lived in Israel, Yom HaAtzmaut was just another chag that I spent at school, albeit saying Hallel in davening, and usually with some sort of Israel-centered activities. Yom Yerushalayim was celebrated even less, but noted as of great importance. Once I had lived in Israel, and spent seven Y’mei Atzmaut and Y’mei Yerushalayim here, nothing would ever compare again. For 16 years I “celebrated” those chagim in the Diaspora, and for 16 years something big was missing. For most of those years I chose not to attend local celebrations, because nothing lived up to the real feel, the excitement of celebrating either of those holidays in the country.  It’s just not the same. To daven at a shul IN Israel on the eve of Yom HaAtzmaut, is not the same as davening in a shul in the Diaspora. To wander the streets of Israel with your family and friends, watching an entire country celebrating our continued miraculous existence of this little piece of land surrounded by enemies is not the same as gathering with a few hundred other Jews in a Federation field or a local shul hall to celebrate, even with top Israeli musicians performing.

In the almost 3  years that I’ve  been back, I have celebrated both these days to the full. It is so easy to feel the miracle of our existence here. How blessed am I, to have the freedom to go to Jerusalem whenever I feel like it? Last Thursday night my daughter’s elementary school had their annual cultural evening at the local theatre. The theme this year was Jerusalem. Sitting in that theatre, watching our Israeli children sing and dance to well known songs about Jerusalem, and having the honour of Shuli Natan sing “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav” as beautifully as she did in 1967, I felt Jerusalem. Tomorrow Jerusalem of Gold will shine as always, she will be filled with people celebrating her unity. The festivities for her Jubilee year have already begun and will continue around the country for a while yet.

I am not saying that Zionist Jews in the Diaspora shouldn’t celebrate. I am not saying “if you don’t live in Israel you shouldn’t celebrate”. But many people can’t celebrate fully without being here. And while communal efforts in the Diaspora should be supported in every way by the communites, it’s not a realistic expectation for these days to take precedence over their daily Diaspora lives.

Raise your Diaspora children to love Israel as the home of the Jewish people. Raise them to view an undivided Jerusalem as her capital, and Har HaBayit as the holiest place in Judasim. Raise them to aspire to making aliyah as soon as possible. If possible bring them here at every opportunity, so that they will know parts of Israel as well as they know their hometown. So that when they get here, it will already feel like home.

For 50 years Jerusalem of Go(l)d has been a unified city again. Be’ezrat Hashem, within 50 years from now we will have the merit to see our third and final Temple on Har HaBayit.

Chag Sameach!



2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. yhmwp888
    May 23, 2017 @ 16:27:33

    Great points Vanessa! This is essentially what the Tanach says. This is why Jews were commanded to GO to Jerusalem three times a year, while living IN Israel. Presence does matter. Hag Sameach. Rebekah Israel


  2. Dad
    May 23, 2017 @ 16:50:47

    Wish I could be there


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