Monday, June 06, 2005

Yom Yerushalayim

I have an almost fierce love for Jerusalem. I feel it most particularly when I have to leave the city, to visit friends in the suburbs or attend to business needs in Tel Aviv or Haifa. As the bus winds through the hills on the city's outskirts, I look at all the neighborhoods - both Jewish and Arab- at the trees and rocks and shrubs and cars, at the homes and office buildings covered in golden Jerusalem stone, and I feel that at last I have found something - my right to live here- for which I'd indeed be willing to sacrifice my life if I had to. Every day, when I admire the flowers adorning my shortcuts to Emek Refaim Street or take a bus to City Center, I want so much for all the world to come to visit me here, anyone and everyone, so I can show off the beautiful, old, tattered, war-torn, bustling, hopeful, intense, impoverished, holy, swirling, changing city in which I live.

Someone once told me that to Israelis in the rest of the country, Jerusalem is not really "part" of Israel, in terms of the mentality of the country. The character of Jerusalem is so different from that of Tel Aviv, Nahariya, Beer Sheva, Ashkelon . . . it's as if there is Israel, and then there is Jerusalem. I was startled by this. To me, having never lived anywhere in Israel but Jerusalem, the capital is the most intense expression of Israeliness there is, and everything else is the sort-of, the watered-down version, the "almost." I love the whole country, particularly the Galil, but there is a reason that when someone moves from, say, Ramat Gan to Jerusalem, that person is said to have "made Aliyah." Jerusalem is that much closer to the heavens. As the song says, "You are the sun, Jerusalem." That is why we so often get burned.

Today is Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, which commemorates the 1967 unification of East and West Jerusalem. Today we celebrate the ability of someone like me to take a 45-minute walk to the Western Wall, through the Old City, with no hassle. There are parades and fireworks and special events.

I'm not attending any of those events. I did not plan anything special for today. I have an assignment due. I went to the bank and spoke in Hebrew with the clerk about exchanging my dollars into shekels; I walked around a bit to take photos of the various pretty recycling bins to post on my blog at a later date; I went into a grocery store, where the owner's little granddaughter was sitting behind the counter, eating a popsicle and begging in Hebrew to go to the park to play. Later I'll sit in Cafe Hillel, the site of a horrible terrorist attack last summer, and work on my assignment while eating a salad made of Israeli-grown vegetables.

Just another day in Jerusalem. And that is special enough for me. Today, and every day.

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