Jerusalem: Forever Old and New

A Moment of Celebration

I am always interested in the moment of change, the moment of transformation when a person might begin as a child and end up as an adult. I’m sure that we might believe that we found exactly that at our B’nei Mitzvah service this morning, and we would be mistaken, because, while this morning was, in fact, a bar/bat mitzvah service, no one “becomes” anything or changes their status between from a child to an adult. But one does celebrate. The occasion that we call a B’nei Mitvah service is actually the first time that a person celebrates performing parts of the service (being called up for an Aliyah or reading the Torah) that they are only allowed to do once they become an adult. We held our B’nei Mitzvah service today because, the public reading of the Torah traditionally took place on Monday or Thursday with the longer Torah reading on Shabbat. At our service, we had several of our kids and adults leading our service and reading Torah. Mazal Tov to Cole Saltzman, Blake Varon, Jacob Weisberg, and Lili Weisberg, as well as our adults who celebrated their B’nei Mitzvah: Selina Alko, Rick Dictor, Ginger Qualls, and Tamara Saltzman. Our service took place on a special, private rooftop area that overlooks the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. We followed the service with the one thing we do more than anything else during this trip – eat, in this case a lovely and delicious celebratory brunch.

Flowing Under the City of David

We then traveled to what is believed to be the City of David, the original location of ancient Jerusalem that was captured and established by King David three thousand years ago. We saw several ancient storage rooms and even and indoor commode of a very wealth person and perhaps of King David himself. We descended into an ancient water tunnel that was built by King Hezikiah to bring water from a spring that was outside the walls of ancient Jerusalem and bring it safely under the walls and into a pool within the safety of the walls themselves. The waters of that spring have been flowing constantly for as many as 2800 years. At times narrow with a low ceiling with a water level that occasionally came up to our mid-thigh, the tunnel is long and dark, and the water cool and refreshing. There are no lights down in the tunnel, so we were armed only with tiny LED flashlights that created a mysterious and otherworldly experience.

We then continued to ascend to Jerusalem in another tunnel that used to carry water out of the Temple and down through David’s City. We ended up at the excavations at the southwestern corner of the ancient Temple where the stones from the temple still lay where the Romans pushed them off of the wall nearly 2000 years ago. We sat in front of a shop where pilgrims to the ancient Temple might have purchased a sacrifice to bring to the priests as an offering. We rededicated this place by having Torah read at this very spot just as it might have been read in ancient times (Thanks to Jacob Weisberg for the inspiring reading).

At the Western Wall

We then wrote personal notes which we placed in the cracks of the Western Wall. Whether God hears the sentiments written on those notes will never be know for sure, but clearly, the messages lovingly placed in those cracks carry the highest hopes and aspirations of those who write them.

We then walked up on the rooftops of the Old City, overlooking the golden Dome of the Rock and heard a story as to why God might have chosen the Temple Mount as the place for the ancient Temple itself. We then made our way out the Yafo (Jaffe) gate and saw the borderline between West Jerusalem and East Jerusalem which became inaccessible between the times of War of Independence in 1948 and the Six Day War in 1967.

In so many ways, Jerusalem is the beating heart, not only of the Jewish People but of Muslims and Christians alike. Our hope is that Jerusalem lives up to its name as an Ir Shalem, a city of peace, where multiple religious groups can serve like facets of a jewel, each connecting to God in their own way.