This week in Israel and in Jewish communities around the world, Yom Yerushalayim is celebrated, commemorating the miraculous Israeli victory in the Six Day War. Prior to the war, Jews were forbidden from visiting their holy sites in the Old City and the Jewish quarter of the old city was destroyed following the Israeli independence war of 1948.
Following the war, Jews once again returned to the eastern part of the city, prayed at the Western wall, tearing down the barrier that separated the Western part of the city for 19 years. Every Israeli prime minister since has vowed that, in light of the historic return of Jewish sovereignty to Jerusalem, the city will remain under Jewish control and never again be divided.
As the capital city of the State of Israel and the historic capital of the Jewish people, we should all take pride when the city shines – and it is shining. It has become a modern city, with modern malls and trendy restaurants, world class shopping, beautiful parks and a new first-rate light rail system. It might not be growing as fast as Tel Aviv, but there is new construction visible in lots of places in Jerusalem.
But things are not perfect in our holy city. The Arab areas of East Jerusalem are often not high on the list of civic priorities. East Jerusalem does not see that fantastic growth and beauty that other areas of the city are accustomed to. The Arab citizens of East Jerusalem (and many of them are citizens of the state and all of them are at the very least permanent residents) often feel marginalized and discriminated against.
For Jerusalem to be a shining example of our national pride, ALL citizens need to share in its wonders – Arabs, Haredim, seculars and everyone else. While it might be too much to ask Arabs to celebrate Yom Yershalayim instead of lamenting it, our hope and prayer for our united, holy, eternal capital should be a city all of its residents can take pride in.
We Were Immigrants, Too
This month we saw horrible scenes on TV of tens of thousands of migrants from Africa risking their very lives in trying to get to Europe.
Men, women and children cram into small boats and cross the Mediterranean for the faint hope of freedom – a very tragic situation for all. It should remind us of the perilous journey our fellow Jews have taken throughout the ages in their own search for a better life.
This week, we honor five outstanding immigrants to our country and our city at JFCS’s MOSAIC Swards and, considering our communal history, it is very Jewish to care for, about, and to honor immigrants. Jews have been kicked out of so many countries in our history. I believe that is why we make exemplary citizens of the countries that have given us a home.
JFCS’s work with immigrants continues a long line of Jewish support for immigrants, with Jewish Federations and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society continuing their historic roles in helping immigrants, both Jewish and non-Jewish. We should continue to lend our time, finances and energy to these organizations, continuing the work of which our ancestors were most certainly thankful beneficiaries.
Israel in Nepal
Subsequent to the horrific earthquake to strike the country of Nepal, many nations around the world have sent both relief teams and supplies to help alleviate the suffering. But no country sent more aid than Israel.
Over 250 Israeli doctors and rescue personnel were sent to Nepal, setting up a field hospital with an emergency room, operating rooms and recovery rooms. As was the case when Israel dispatched an aid team to Haiti after their earthquake, several babies were born there.
Israel is a small country and does not have a lot of resources, but it has an expertise in this kind of work and an uncommon generosity to make every effort to alleviate suffering.
The Jewish Federations of North America, through the Joint Distribution Committee, have also sent teams and supplies. Much still needs to be done. If you would like to make a donation to help with the recovery work, please visit www.jewishlouisville.org.