20 Jun 2006

the Holy City of the People of Israel. The following blessing from the Amidah, recited morning, afternoon and evening for 2,000 years by the Jewish People all over the world, sums up accurately their feelings for Jerusalem:

“And to Yerushalayim, Your City, may You return in compassion, and may You rest within it, as You have promised. May You rebuild it soon in our days as an eternal structure. And may You speedily establish the Throne of David within. Blessed are You, HaShem, Builder of Yerushalayim.”

The first Biblical reference to Jerusalem is in Bereshit 14:18, after Avram’s victory over the Four Kings, where “Malki-Tzedek, King of Shalem, brought out bread and wine, for he was a priest of G-d the Most High. He blessed him saying, ‘Blessed is Avram of G-d, the Most High, Maker of Heaven and Earth…’ ” “Shalem” means “peace,” and it is an early form of the name Yerushalayim. In that verse, we see the city’s spirituality from the beginning, and its dedication to peace.

According to Jewish tradition, the Temple Mount was the site of the “Akeidah,” the Binding of Yitzchak. For nearly 1,000 years, while the Temples stood, Jerusalem was the place to which the Jewish People traveled three times a year on the Pilgrim Festivals Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot.

King David acquired the site of the Temple in Jerusalem around 1,000 B.C.E. and wished to build the Temple himself. But HaShem would not allow him to be the builder, because he had spilled too much blood in wars, and the Temple was to be a symbol of Peace. Instead, He chose David’s son, Shlomo (Solomon) to build the First Temple. That beautiful and holy structure subsequently was destroyed by the Babylonians around 586 B.C.E., was rebuilt 70 years later by Ezra and Nechemiah, only to be destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E., initiating the 2,000 year Exile in which the Jewish People now finds itself.

During this period, during which the Jewish People has maintained itself by adhering to the Laws and lifestyle of the Torah, it would sing Psalm 137 of David, who in prophecy foresaw a long period of Exile and wrote the Jews’ theme song:

“How shall we sing the L-rd’s song in a strange land?
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her skill.
If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,
If I prefer not Jerusalem above my highest joys.”

The modern State of Israel fought its War of Independence against several Arab armies. It established itself within borders that did not include the Old City of Jerusalem, but that did include the New City of Jerusalem that was contiguous with the Old. Residents and visitors recall staring at Jordanian soldiers only yards away, across the “border.” During this period of Arab occupation, access even to the small alley in front of the “Western Wall” that had served for centuries as a place of prayer and tears was denied to the Jews.

In June of 1967, during the Six-Day War, the Israel Defense Forces recaptured nearly the entire Biblical Land of Israel, including the Old City of Jerusalem. A beautiful plaza was built in front of the Western Wall. That place now serves as a place for Jews to gather every day for prayer and memories, and on its special days of joy and mourning.

The sound of building is heard at all times in Jerusalem. Entire new communities are springing up and “Yeshivot,” institutions of Torah learning from Europe have re-established themselves in the city. New applications of Torah Law, including Jewish Medical Ethics, are being developed constantly, and taught to the Diaspora. Immigration from the West is building and “Aliyah” is occurring “b’kommiut,” out of free will. A modern university holds classes in all secular disciplines. Biblical prophecies are being fulfilled before one’s eyes.

May this current period of rebuilding serve as a milestone for the coming of the “Mashiach,” and the final rebuilding of the Temple.