I am filled with so many thoughts and emotions surrounding this week’s announcement by the President in which he formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
As a Jew and an ardent Zionist, Jerusalem has always been and will forever be to me not only the capital of Israel, but the spiritual center of the global Jewish community. While some are saying that we don’t need the President to recognize this truth, this recognition validates what our hearts and souls have felt for centuries. It affirms the historical events – including all of the complex political and religious messiness – that are an integral part of Jerusalem. And this validation and affirmation empowers Israel and the Jewish people.
But, our empowerment comes with a price – the rage of those who, based on their hearts and souls and grounded in Jerusalem’s complex political and religious messiness, feel that the city is their capital. Our empowerment also comes with tremendous responsibility. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and the Jewish people, but it is also a holy site for Muslims and Christians. The complex messiness of Jerusalem does not go away simply because of the President’s declaration. We can’t ignore this messiness. We must acknowledge it, respect it and refuse to brush it aside simply because we have the power.
The famed Israeli poet, Yehuda Amichai, referred to Jerusalem as a seesaw and a spinning carousel. The spirituality of the city can lift us to incredible heights and the messiness can quickly bring us crashing down to earth. As I take in the President’s acknowledgement that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, experience the emotions that this acknowledgement fills me with and watch the violence and protests that have erupted in Israel, the West Bank and throughout the Arab world, I find myself on that seesaw or spinning carousel.
Jerusalem is a Spinning Carousel
Jerusalem is a carousel spinning round and round
from the Old City through every neighborhood and back to the Old.
And you can’t get off. If you jump you’re risking your life
and if you step off when it stops you must pay again
to get back on for more turns that never will end.
Instead of painted elephants and horses to ride
religions go up, down and around on their axes
to unctuous melodies from the houses of prayer.
Jerusalem is a seesaw: Sometimes I go down,
to past generations and sometimes up, into the sky,
then like a child dangling on high, legs swinging, I cry
I want to get down, Daddy, Daddy, I want to get down,
Daddy, get me down.
And like that, all the saints go up into the sky.
They’re like children screaming, Daddy, I want to stay high,
Daddy don’t bring me down, Our Father Our King,
leave me on high, Our Father Our King!
May God give the leaders of Israel and the Jewish people the courage to stay on the seesaw and reach out to those on the other side as we attempt to find balance and peace together.
Somehow, someway may there be peace in Jerusalem and through the world this Shabbat.