“The Jerusalem stone is the only stone that hurts” (Yehuda Amichai)
I came to Jerusalem by choice, a choice of love and passion for the most complex city in Israel and perhaps the most complex in the entire world. I arrived on the opposite route – while others got off her, I turned my face to her.
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Jerusalem is a city that lives between extremes and apparently cannot do otherwise: between the holy and the profane, between the shtetl and the great world, between poverty and the common people and enormous wealth, between the old and the new, between enmity and love, between religious fanaticism and progressiveness fighting for its existence and in front of it grows the desire for a temple.
I was a young girl when I immigrated to Israel on my own as part of the Naala program. I came from a big city in Russia to Bnei Brak. I was sent to live and study in a girls’ studio. I, the girl who grew up in the Soviet Union, the communist space, who did not know what the words secular or ultra-Orthodox meant, found myself adopted by a religious family who knew how to love me as I am.
I came from a big city in Russia to Bnei Brak. I was sent to live and study in a girls’ studio. I, the girl who grew up in Israel, who did not know what the words secular or ultra-Orthodox meant, found myself adopted by a religious family who knew how to love me as I am
I studied at a school run by a rabbi and a team of ultra-Orthodox teachers, a place that surrounded me with knowledge, warmth and learning when I loved it. From there I learned to see beyond the outfit and external signs, beyond the concepts that draw a stereotype, to see the humanity in people and accept them as they are. I took the good that I received with full gussets and went on my way to continue my life in Israel. in the army and the academy.
After a few wanderings in Israel I settled in Tel Aviv. I lived a life full of pleasure, culture, friendships and fun but Jerusalem winked at me all the time. I have often envied the people who live there, for the privilege of living in a city that enchanted me.
Sometimes I went to visit Jerusalem and I could feel it like a guest from outside who is not affected by common local judgement. I did not grow up with memories of the other Jerusalem, I did not know the days after the Six Day War nor before them. I felt no anger towards any community.
As mentioned, I lived my adolescence well in an ultra-Orthodox society, and during my military service in the Mageb, paradoxically, I also fell in love with Arab culture and went to study Orientalism to get to know better the society we are constantly suspicious of. I wanted to know, to understand, to know, to live in the full sense. And enjoying all the worlds is possible only when people around you are different from you. Otherwise there is no point in a one-dimensional and gray life.
I lived my adolescence well in an ultra-Orthodox society, and during my military service in the Maguv, paradoxically, I also fell in love with Arab culture and went to study Orientalism to get to know better the society we are constantly suspicious of
In Jerusalem I found all these and much more. Also the classical and high-quality culture that I longed for, the enormous influence of the academy in it, the sounds of the market, its colors and aromas, the neighborhoods of the past, the residences and the magnificent city buildings carved in stone and the religious buildings of all religions. The different religious communities in their costumes, the countless tourists and the cosmopolitan feeling, the calls of the muezzin, the ringing of church bells and the Shabbat sirens, including the blasts of the mahane Yehuda merchants demanding that the merchants of Mahane Yehuda close their shops because the Sabbath is approaching. All these were to me a kind of large and complex painting that hypnotizes me in its details.
One day I moved to Jerusalem. That was five years ago. I fulfilled a dream and settled in the pastoral Beit HaKerem neighborhood. I exhaust all the good offers in the city. My social and political passion also found a home and I joined Jerusalem Awakening to be a partner in promoting proper and growing processes for the city and its people.
The Jerusalem of the everyday also introduces me to the problems in it that are getting more and more acute and become stumbling blocks to its wonderful and unique urbanism. I hear from people older than me about the years of Jerusalem when the student community of Bezalel was a huge influence on its spirit and atmosphere, about the bohemianism that served in it, about cafes of heated discussions and picturesque figures that characterized Jerusalem in the 70-80s and no longer.
About two years ago, an exhibition was presented at the Tower of David about the Banai family. I walked between the exhibits and the stories and was filled with good envy. I was fascinated by the roots of the family and the naturalness of life in the city, even in the days when Jerusalem was poor, by the deep and tolerant Jewish connection within the embrace of the other, by the organic growth of the family and the house in the Mahane Yehuda market and the breakthrough into the spaces of Israeliness from those deep and secure Jerusalem roots.
One day I moved to Jerusalem. I fulfilled a dream and settled in the pastoral Beit HaKerem neighborhood. Everyday Jerusalem also introduces me to the problems that are sharpening and becoming stumbling blocks to its wonderful and unique urbanism
When I entered the fabric store in the market in Old Jerusalem, the Arab owner, a nice old man who speaks fluent Hebrew, told me about his relationships with customers from all parts of the city and his knowledge of the fabrics of the various Hasidic clothing. I saw fabrics that came from Damascus, Morocco and all over the Middle East. I sat and listened to the stories with bated breath. The space that is not accessible to us has come to life and is here next to me in the market that is part of my city and not really part of it. It pinches the heart and hurts, because a heavy cloud is constantly hovering over this beauty.
Community isolation is getting stronger. Every community is mature. It seems that the city, which is joined together according to the Israeli ethos, outlines clear boundaries within it that cut and separate community from community. The colorful texture is getting lost in favor of a uniform color that announces who owns the house.
On Jerusalem Day, groups of young people arrive and turn the charged and symbolic day into an eye-popping declaration of ownership. Those who have lived there for years as an organic part feel that they do not belong to the events. These are strangers to the real Jerusalem spirit that is fading away.
There is a beautiful song by Moti Fleischer written by Dan Almagor and composed by Nurit Hirsch in 1969. The human versatility and rootedness is presented in words that contain longing and sadness after the glorious victory in the Six Day War. I will quote the descriptions and references that produce the Jerusalem language and its special atmosphere:
“The peddler said from Moshe’s memorabilia:
It is Mahane Yehuda on Christmas Eve
Shabbat of ‘puppets’, cursing drivers
And the hummus of his womb and the smell of fish
Washing on the road and a bucket shower
The shoemaker from the Katmon neighborhood said:
It is seven years of rains in Blokon
Housing without a shop, a bus without an account
Saturday – first performance in Orion
Katamon C is also for me
Hebalen from Mea Shearim said:
She is a black streimel and gray books
And ‘the daughter of Israel shall not go short’
Said the young man there near the Nablus gate:
She crossed over a store, and police at midnight
A sister who eavesdropped and a pit with bombs
Independence march, hands clasped,
“Yes sir, what do you like?” Light Kebab Shaslik?”
said the soldier from Ashdot Ya’akov
I was there once in the morning of bereavement
An alley and a sniper in a turret on the left
I haven’t been back since, just can’t
Avner and Gadi – both for me
My Jerusalem is everything that I have told and everything that I hope will happen in it: that you will be wise not to indulge in blatant nationalism, that you will know how to connect its increasingly separate parts into a multifaceted Jerusalem without sticking a finger in anyone’s eye, that you will know how to appreciate and contain the difficult history of the place in all its complexities, that you will contain the Those who have deep roots in it and are not necessarily on the winning side.
On Jerusalem Day, groups of young people arrive and turn the charged and symbolic day into an eye-popping declaration of ownership. Those who have lived there for years as an organic part feel that they do not belong to the events. These are strangers to the Jerusalem spirit that is fading away
With proper management, we can all live here out of our deep love for the city that the whole world is watching. Only we narrow our range of vision and close our eyes, focused on the holy, on establishing the proofs of exclusive ownership and nationalism instead of seeing the human, authentic and colorful Jerusalem.
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