The view from my veranda

Jerusalem Day 5780

22nd May 2020


Shabbat Shalom dear friends. How are you? Today I won’t talk of politics or trials, Iran, the PA or pandemics – today I will write about the city I love – Jerusalem


“Jerusalem is an epic. It is the well-spring of a civilization. Without Jerusalem’s civilization, the spiritual history of the world would be stagnant.

Has anyone ever heard of a daughter or son of Saladin fasting each year in memory of ancient Jerusalen’s anguish? Not a one!

Has anybody ever heard of a son of a Crusader who breaks a glass at his wedding ceremony in memory of ancient Jerusalem’s torment? Not a one!

Throughout all its three-thousand-year-long history Jerusalem has been capital to no one but the Jews. So it was. So it is. And forever it will be.”

Menachem Begin, 1980


Today is the Hebrew date for Jerusalem Day, that fateful day during the 6 Day War, when three generals drove through the Lions Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City and arrived at the Western Wall. After 19 years of Jordanian rule over the Holiest of sites Jews could return. Rabbi Goren, Chief Rabbi of the IDF stood before the Western Wall and blew his shofar, his ram’s horn, next to the very spot that Abraham took Isaac and found the ram, it’s horn becoming a symbol of belief in the Almighty. In true Israeli style the most famous photograph is not of the three Generals but rather of three ordinary soldiers looking up in wonder at the vast structure of the retaining wall of the Temple Mount.


I looked up information on Jerusalem Day, on the military victory and the emotional, spiritual and religious significance but found mostly very dry, almost academic, descriptions which as you know, are not my style. That is, until I found Rabbi Goren’s description of how, after General Motte Gur told him that they were on their way to the Holy sites. “I ran to the Rockefeller Museum where I took a shofar and an ancient Torah scroll and ran to the Lion’s Gate, all the while blowing the shofar and reciting Psalms.” The Rabbi, together with several soldiers, went up to the Temple Mount. “I think that this is the first and only time in history, following the Temple’s destruction, that a Torah Scroll and a Shofar are present here.”

Here is an exceptional description of the 1967 battle for Jerusalem


Rabbi Goren wanted to build a synagogue right there on the Temple Mount but on June 17th 1967 Moshe Dayan met with the Moslem religious authorities in Jerusalem and formulated an agreement which became the status quo. Jews were given the right to visit the Temple Mount unobstructed, if they respected Muslims’ religious feelings and acted decently, but they were not allowed to pray. The Western Wall was to remain the Jewish place of prayer. The rest is history.


At last, Jerusalem became a city which promised freedom of prayer to all religions.


The first time I saw this city was in 1963 as part of the very first Jewish Agency tour from the UK for 16-18 year olds. My first impression was one of sheer terror…..not fear of going to the most important city in Judaism but rather the old road which we climbed in a rickety old bus!! Once leaving the main road (then even it was not exactly a highway) we began the climb – known in Judaism as the Aliya or going up –toward Jerusalem. The road was perilous, it was barely a two lane road with room for one vehicle, with unbelievable hair-pin bends.  This section of the road is, and was, known as the “Seven Sisters” and the bus chugged its way up and either end hung out from the bends – or so I felt.


We went past Hadassah Hospital, and our guide told us we would visit on the morrow to see the famous Chagall windows. Finally, we arrived at our hostel. I say hostel loosely because it was the David Yellin Teachers Training College in Bet Hakerem where they had set up army beds in huge dormitories which during the year were classrooms. We visited the Military Cemetery on Mount Herzl and Herzl’s Tomb; the Knesset which was still on King George Street in Beit Frumin before the modern Knesset was even built; indeed all the expected sightseeing. We then went to a place I cannot remember but it overlooked the Old City. We were told we could not go any closer to Biblical Jerusalem, the Old City – in fact Jordanian soldiers were a mere 200 metres away – my uncertain memory suggests that it was in Yemin Moshe but I’m not sure. Everywhere that we went, every lecture, every prayer, every thought was on the Old City, so near and yet so far.


My next visit to Jerusalem was 4 years later, on the eve of Rosh Hashana 1967, when my father, my brother Ronnie and I walked in awe toward the Western Wall and prayed. It didn’t look the way it does today. No plaza, indeed a large portion of the wall was still underground and rubble surrounded the entire area. No archaeological excavations had taken place, no synagogue, museum or tunnels, no Davidson Park beside the Dung Gate and no division between men and women (I have the photos to prove it). There was something pure about that moment. I felt the words of Motte Gur ring through my very being “The Temple Mount is in our hands”.


Daddy and I visited Bethlehem, the Intercontinental Hotel atop the Mount of Olives, the University Campus on Mount Scopus – which was a UN protected tiny part of Israel within Jordanian 1948 borders. We walked through the Shouk and saw the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, falling down and neglected – the Jewish Quarter had not been rebuilt and the Hurva Synagogue was still in ruins.


That day in June, the Hebrew date of 28th of Iyar 5727, changed our world, indeed changed the world, and turned Jerusalem from a decaying, broken down city of longing, prayer and pilgrimage into a thriving, bustling, incredibly beautiful metropolis with the Old City at its heart. Today, on the 28th of Iyar 5780 we will dance and sing, albeit within the limitations of the virus and say a prayer of thanks to those brave soldiers and their leaders who understood the importance of our roots. Tel Aviv may have beaches and bars, but it doesn’t have the spiritual aura, the history or the exquisite beauty of Jerusalem. For 2,000 years after our dispersion, we prayed and chanted “Next Year in Jerusalem”, we never gave up and we never will.


Incredibly, we still sing the psalms that King David wrote in the same language that we sing them today. He wrote while walking the pathways, climbing the hills, sitting to rest on the same stones that we see today. For Christians the importance of Jerusalem is paramount through both the Old and New Testaments – the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Stations of the Cross, the Garden of Gethsemane and so much more.


Today we celebrate the reunification together – today is above all a story of return.


Zvi’s boys and their families are coming to Shabbat Dinner on our verandah! It’s the first time since the restrictions on family being together was lifted. We still have to be careful, especially since their children have returned to school, but Shabbat, overlooking the city of Jerusalem on a balmy May evening, lights twinkling and the aromas of a hundred ethnic meals floating through the air. We will sing Shalom Aleichem to welcome Shabbat then Zvi’s voice will carry over the neighbourhood as he sings Kiddush, the blessing on the wine and the children will clamour to join him for the blessing over the Challah. Our dinner will begin with a yoghurt and cucumber soup, a medley of salads – cucumber, caprese, crisp green lettuce, mushroom in sherry, courgette and onion, carrot in orange to accompany the salmon and of course the usual chips, veggie lasagna, edamame and corn on the cob for the children. We will end with Amit’s delicious frozen Lotus cheesecake and fresh water melon and what makes the meal extra special is that all the fruit and veggies are Israeli, fresh from the earth.


Psalm 137. If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.


Shalom Aleichem is the song we sing with the children before Kiddush tonight. As with most Jewish songs it talks of peace

Peace be with you, ministering angels, messengers of the Most High,
Messengers of the King of Kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He.
Come in peace, messengers of peace, messengers of the Most High,
Messengers of the King of Kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He.
Bless me with peace, messengers of peace, messengers of the Most High,
Messengers of the King of Kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He.
Go in peace, messengers of peace, messengers of the Most High,
Messengers of the King of Kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He.


The final song has nothing to do with Jerusalem but rather with kindness, determination and generosity of spirit. Captain Tom Moore, then 99 years old, walked around his garden in the UK hoping to raise 1,000 pounds for National Health Services Charities. He raised 33 million pounds! For his 100th birthday he made a recording with singer Michael Ball. The message in this song is for Jerusalem and for all of us. “When You Walk Through a Storm Hold Your Head Up High”


I hope you enjoyed my trip down memory lane, memories of Jerusalem. All three of my children spent time here and Rachel is growing her family here. Zvi’s boys grew up here. His parents were in the Hagana defending this city and his father, the beautiful Kalman, was Mandate Policeman No 81, Policeman of the Kotel. They were both honoured by the City, “Beloved of Jerusalem”.

Perhaps the most miraculous event on Jerusalem Day, Yom Yerushalyim, was the birth of Talia. Talia, the second child of Rachel and Igal was born in Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem and I had the honour of delivering her! Talia, Beautiful, strong with high moral standards and a  generous, welcoming nature is a true woman of Jerusalem. Talia, every year more beautiful. I love you.

With much love from Jerusalem, from our verandah and from our little orange tree