Yom Yerushalayim: A Look Back

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Old City During Six Day War
24 May 2011
Batei Rothschild in 1967

I came to Israel one month after the Six Day War, as a teenager with an Instamatic camera, Kodak slide film, a burgeoning love of photography and total awe for the wonder and beauty that is Jerusalem.

Nineteen years later I studied photography professionally under Anita Kushner, a photographer and water color artist who today resides in the Westbeth Artists’ Community in New York. Even though I had a “real” camera by then, it didn’t have elaborate lenses or lighting options. “This is good,” said Anita, “because you’ll have to learn to use your eye.” Every week we would explore a different neighborhood in Jerusalem, using up roll after roll of film on the people, the architecture, the marketplaces and the little “stories” one captures through a loving and curious lens. But nothing can ever compare to the haunting splendor of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City.

When I exhibited my photography in Denver, at the 1994 General Assembly, as part of the Gush Etzion Judaica Center booth, an art collector saw my photos from 1967 and asked that I return to the same locations in the Jewish Quarter and shoot them as they are today. Some of those shots are represented here. There are also scenes of Jerusalem in the first snow after liberation, and of the Golden Gate of Mercy (Sha’ar Rahamim). This is the gate of the Old City that one sees when standing on the Mount of Olives. Jewish tradition says that the Mashiach will enter Jerusalem through that gate. The Arabs, familiar with this tradition, placed a cemetery in front of it, hoping to make the Mashiach impure as he walks among the grave, preventing him from entering the gate and bringing the geula (redemption). What they didn’t know is that non-Jewish graves cannot create tum’a (impurity), only Jewish graves.

My most famous Jerusalem photo is one of the archways of Misgav Ladach Street, featured in a 1992 issue of Jewish Action. This shot is impossible to get today, since now the street is filled with shop signs.

Today I am seldom without a camera. You never know when that heart-wrenching or breathtaking vision will appear before you, in this land where, just around the corner, or before your eyes, stories never cease to unfold.

And I want to have it with me to get that once in a lifetime shot of the Moshiach when he arrives, may it be speedily in our time.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.