This week was Yom Yerushalayim, the day we celebrate the reunification of Jerusalem and our ability to once more touch and pray at the ancient wall. Whenever I think of Jerusalem, her stones, her beauty, her suffering, I cannot help but think of Yehuda Amichai, one of Israel’s great poets and author of some of the most beautiful words about Jerusalem. Born in Germany he immigrated to Israel in 1936 and began writing poetry in 1948. His poems are an intricate weaving together of traditional Judaism and texts with the realities of modern Israel. A passionate advocate of peace he was often scathing in his criticism of politicians and God. He wrote about every day life and entwined his images with the language and pictures of the past. Amichai died in 2000 but his poems still speak to the challenges, the
beauty and the power of Jerusalem to capture hearts and minds.
Jerusalem is a lullaby that rocks me
When I awake things happen to me during the day
My days force me to open my eyes and remember
The face of every passer by; maybe he loves me,
Maybe he has placed a bomb wrapped and
Decorated as a gift of love. I see the
Weak points in the stone houses,
The hole through which electricity flows
The cavity for the water,
The nakedness of the telephone cables and the sighing mouths
I am a man of Jerusalem.
Swimming pools and their sounds
Are not part of my spiritual life. The dust is my consciousness
The stone my subconsciousness
And all my memories are courtyards on a summer afternoon
This year Yom Yerushalayim coincides with the reading of parashat Nasso, the portion containing the priestly blessing, one of the most ancient prayers known to the world. It is a simple three lines, but within those lines is so much depth, so much meaning, that they have resonated with us through the years. Jerusalem is the same: every stone, every street, every fleck of dust contains a world, the stories of our people are etched into the very fabric of the city and we feel her pull, her power, her beauty. Like the priestly blessing, Jerusalem is complex, she speaks to us in many languages, in many places; our hearts, our minds, our souls, and she touches us in a deep and profound way. So on this Shabbat Naso, we ask for Jerusalem, our city, the blessing of the ages:
Yevarechecha Adonai Veyishmerecha
May God bless and protect you
Ya’er Adonai panav eilecha vichunecha
May God’s face shine on you and be gracious to you
Yisa Adonai panav eileicha veyasem lecha Shalom
May God’s presence be lifted towards you and bring you peace.