To my mind, Jerusalem is the most beautiful city in the world. And besides the enormous pull of my Wisconsin roots, it is the place where I feel most at home. Whereas Wisconsin's land under my feet is the prairie, rich and fertile, Jerusalem is dry and rocky, its hills the horizon against which my soul seeks greater visions.
Today, 43 years ago, Jerusalem was unified after battle with the Jordanians and Palestinian forces in the Six Day War and as a result, Jews have more freedom now in the entire city than we have had in our entire history as a nation. Sovereignty is a sacred privilege--this we know from our sacred sources.
I always appreciated the freedom I had to walk wherever I wanted in Jerusalem. In 1985 while at Hebrew University, I sometimes slept late on a Saturday, walked down Mt Scopus into East Jerusalem for a hummus lunch and then wound up at friends in West Jerusalem for a Shabbat nap and then out for beers on Saturday night. I found the ability to traverse the landscape, its communities, its languages, its nations, to be a holy walk.
For people who love to walk cities, I am in heaven there and I don't mean the heavenly but the earthly Jerusalem.
For Jerusalem to be negotiated in any political sense is an absurdity--I believe that. Of course, a look at what passes for Jerusalem today--with its borders extending beyond any reasonable definition of what Jerusalem is or ever was, makes that absurd premise all the more necessary. That there is no compromise even in this negotiation is a negotiation--I believe that, too.
Jerusalem makes you believe at least two things about your self. One of the many tricks it plays on you and one of the many reasons it keeps you coming back.
One of Jerusalem's greatest walkers was the late poet Yehuda Amichai. Just a few months after the capital was unified in 1967, 43 years ago, Amichai wrote the following poem which today remains for us, a prayer for peace:
On Yom Kippur 5728, I donned
Dark holiday clothing and walked to Jerusalem’s Old City.
I stood for quite a while in front of the kiosk shop of an Arab,
Not far from Damascus Gate, a shop
full of buttons, zippers and spools of thread
Of every color; and snaps and buckles.
Brightly lit and many colored like the open Holy Ark.
I said to him in my heart that my father too
Owned a shop just like this of buttons and thread.
I explained to him in my heart about all the decades
And the reasons and the events leading me to be here now
While my father’s shop burned there and he is buried here.
When I concluded it was the hour of N’eilah (“locking the gates”).
He too drew down the shutters and locked the gate
As I returned homeward with all the other worshippers.