Jerusalem is above politics. It is mentioned more than six hundred times in Scripture and not a single time in the Koran. Its presence in Jewish history is overwhelming. There is no more moving prayer in Jewish history than the one expressing our yearning to return to Jerusalem.
To many theologians, it is Jewish history, to many poets, a source of inspiration. It belongs to the Jewish people and is much more than a city, and it is what binds one Jew to another in a way that remains hard to explain.
When a Jew visits Jerusalem for the first time, it is not the first time; it’s a homecoming. Its sadness and its joy are part of our collective memory.
Throughout the history of Jerusalem, Jews lived inside its walls with only two interruptions: when Roman invaders forbade entry into the city and under Jordanian occupation when Jews, regardless of nationality, were denied access into the old Jewish quarter to meditate and pray at the Wall.
Jerusalem must remain the world’s Jewish spiritual capital, not a symbol of anguish and bitterness but of trust and hope. As the Hasidic master, Rebbe Nahman of Bratslav, said, “Everything in this world has a heart; the heart itself has its own heart”.
The poet Yehuda Amichai, for whom Jerusalem was his heart and soul, wrote in one of his poems a verse that captures something of my feelings: “Jerusalem is a swing: sometimes I descend into the generations and sometimes I rise into the heavens.”
And that’s Jerusalem: a city where opposites, diversity, and change are all fused, lending it its unique character.
There is no other city in the world like Jerusalem. A city that people pine for, a city they face to pray, and for whose sake they pray, a city to which so many look up. A city that serves as a common ground but is often also a locus of friction.
A city contains everything: the spirit of sanctity and the vibrancy of day-to-day life. Jerusalem is a city whose one million inhabitants reflect the entire mosaic of Israeli society and its complexity. It’s a city whose name means “peace” and has also known many wars.
Jerusalem Day symbolizes one of the formative events in the city’s history. Since Jerusalem was unified, all parts of it have been growing and developing.
Jerusalem safeguards the sovereignty of the State of Israel. It guarantees freedom of worship for members of all religions, along with a form of coexistence that does not diminish difference and tradition, bringing to light the strength of our ability to live and work together.
On Jerusalem’s festive day, a national holiday for us all, our hope is that it preserves its unique character, including the burst of renewal and growth it has experienced in recent years.
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