This year I have the wonderful opportunity to spend the beginning of June in Jerusalem with members of our community, on Temple Beth Ami’s 7th trip to Israel in the last ten years! We will be walking through the Old City exactly fifty years to the day when Israeli paratroopers first stood at the Kotel.
For 3000 years Jerusalem has been the center of the Jewish faith, retaining its holiness throughout the generations. Jews who had been exiled after the Roman conquest and scattered throughout the world never forgot Jerusalem. Year after year we repeated "Next year in Jerusalem."
Jerusalem was the symbol of the desire of Jews everywhere to return to their land. It was invoked at every Jewish lifecycle event, enshrined in daily prayer, and sung by Hebrew poets in far-flung lands. Mount Moriah, where the Temple once stood; the Western Wall, the only remnant of the Temple, which has been the focus of prayer and longing of Jews for nineteen centuries; the Tomb of David on Mount Zion; and the ancient cemetery on the Mount of Olives where Jews have been buried for centuries - all these are indelibly etched on Jewish consciousness.
Sanctified by religion and tradition, by history and theology, by holy places and houses of worship, Jerusalem is a city revered by Christians and Muslims as well. It reflects the fervor and piety of the three major monotheistic faiths, each of which is also bound to Jerusalem. Freedom of religion and the safeguarding of all holy places are anchored in Israel's Declaration of Independence, and ever since Jerusalem was reunified, the holy places have administered by their respective religious communities, and Israeli law has guaranteed free access.
For Christians, Jerusalem is the place where Jesus lived, preached, died, and was resurrected. While it is the heavenly rather than the earthly Jerusalem, which is emphasized by the Church, places mentioned in the Christian Scripture have drawn pilgrims for centuries. Among these sites are the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Site of the Last Supper, and the Via Dolorosa with the fourteen stations of the Cross.
According to Islamic tradition, the prophet Mohammed was miraculously transported from Mecca to Jerusalem, and it was from there that he made his ascent to heaven. The Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aksa (“the remote”) Mosque, both built in the seventh century, made definitive the identification of Jerusalem as the "Remote Place" that is mentioned in the Koran. Thus, Jerusalem is a holy place in addition to, though much less important than the cities of Mecca and Medina. (Jerusalem is not mentioned once in the Koran, as opposed to 667 times in the Hebrew Bible.)
This year, the 50th anniversary of the Reunification of Jerusalem, Yom Yerushalayim/Jerusalem Day saw celebrations beginning the evening of May 23rd. Traditionally, most recognition given to Jerusalem Day takes place in Israel, but special ceremonies and other programs outside of Israel are growing in number. This year documentaries, news reports and a host of media attention has been focused on the significance of Jerusalem. We hope you will follow our journey on the TBA Israel Trip 2017 Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TBA-Israel-Trip-2017-172975916561513/
The political implications of moving the US embassy to Israel’s capital continue to be debated, but this year we, the Jews of the Diaspora, must celebrate that the unified Jerusalem, the Eternal capital of our people, has been open to all people to worship in peace for half a century. We pray for a time when Jerusalem, as well as the entire land of Israel, will be at peace. And we look forward to the day when every Jew throughout the world will make true the words:
L’SHANA HA'BA-AH B'YERUSHALAYIM
NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM!!!