Today is a Holiday. . . Time to Celebrate?
In 1967, on this day according to the Hebrew calendar, Israel captured the whole of the Old City of Jerusalem, bringing a united Jerusalem under Jewish control for the first time in two millennium. The following year, the Israeli government declared the 27th of Iyar as Jerusalem Day. For many, Jerusalem Day is a time for unbridled celebration. For others, though, it is a day of mourning. For me, it is a day of conflict - much like Jerusalem itself.
Jerusalem is perhaps my favorite place in the world. I find its layers of history fascinating, its diverse peoples captivating and its beauty unrivaled. I truly hope that, if you have not made it to Jerusalem, you will be able to visit some day.
Yet, until there is true peace in Jerusalem and a reconciliation between Arab and Jew, I find it difficult to truly comfortable there. Likewise, Jerusalem's Jewish population has become increasingly religious and intolerant of diversity of Jewish practice - making it difficult to feel truly at home as a progressive Jew.
I celebrate Jerusalem, but I am not as sure about Jerusalem Day. In writing to you today, I wanted to express my mixture of emotions and thoughts. I have chosen two artistic pieces to share with you, which together captures my feelings this Jerusalem Day, Hopefully, they will touch your hearts and minds. One is a poem by the great Yehudah Amichai, pasted below. The other is a new rendition of Naomi Shemer's masterpiece "Jerusalem of Gold" sung by female cantors around the world. You can take a listen by following this link.
I hope that this note finds you well and feeling healthy. Please remember to reach out and stay in touch.
VIEW OF JERUSALEM by Yehudah Amichai
On a roof in the Old City
laundry hanging in the late afternoon sunlight
the white sheet of a woman who is my enemy,
the towel of a man who is my enemy,
to wipe off the sweat of his brow.
In the sky of the Old City
At the other end of the string,
I can’t see
because of the wall.
We have put up many flags,
they have put up many flags.
To make us think that they’re happy
To make them think that we’re happy.
Yehuda Amichai has been Israel's best-known poet and the most widely translated. He was born in Wurzburg, Germany, in 1924, and immigrated with his family to Palestine in 1936.