Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Celebrating (in) Jerusalem

The Jews have been around for quite a while now - 3,000 years, give or take half a millennum and depending upon whom you ask and what criteria you use for "Jews" and "around". If you tried to list the Top Ten events in their history, the list you'd end up with might say more about you than about them. Torah at Sinai? Disliking that Jesus fellow back on Passover that year? Rebbi orally editing an oral tradition? Lobbying Cyrus? David penning Psalms? The Baal Shem Tov shaking things up? Abraham haggling with God about Justice? Spinoza laying philosophical foundations for the Enlightenment?

When you get into recent history - say, 1750 onwards - things get even trickier. The emergence of secular German-speaking Jewish thinkers is probably on the list; should Refael Lemkin convincing the UN to outlaw genocide be on it? For that matter, is the Holocaust a Jewish event, and will it look as important in 2045 as it did in 1995?

The top event on my list for the Common Era is easy: the 28th day of Iyar, or June 7th 1967, the day Israel gained control of the entire city of Jerusalem including all of the Old City. It's not a normal event when a group of people spend 1,897 years vocally waiting for an event, which then happens. I'm not aware of anything remotely similar having ever happened anywhere, anytime, with any other group.

This evening is the 28th of Iyar, Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day. We celebrated it at our shul in an unusual way, by celebrating Baruch's 90th birthday, which also happens today.

I wrote about Baruch back when he was a young 85. At 90 he still identifies primarily as the grandson of Rav David W, the chief rabbi of their Slovakian community. A Holocaust survivor, who fought in Israel's War of Independence and then spent 10 months as a POW in a Jordanian camp. One of the speakers this evening recollected stories about his service as a tank crewman in the Sinai War of 1956. Much of the congregation came to celebrate with him this evening, as he is universally regarded as second in importance only to the Rabbi, and he's the more obviously beloved of the two. (Rabbis inevitably have critics because they take positions on matters).

He was surrounded by his family: children, lots of grandchildren, lots and lots of great-grandchildren. It was the most natural and miraculous event imaginable. One of two survivors of a death march on which 2,000 people perished, celebrating his 90th birthday in Jerusalem. Geopolitics, world history, wars, national interests and international cynicism, statesmanship and diplomacy, terrorism and hatred, law, international law, justice, injustice, propaganda, public relations, politics - these and many others are all part of the contemporary story of the Jews and their City. At times, however, a simple birthday party will trump them all with the force of its truth.

1 comment:

Barbara Mazor said...

Beautiful. At 100, he should be like 20. Thank you.