I Love Israel; And I Cry
Rabbi Gary S. Creditor
March 19, 2010
When I first came to Israel in September, 1968, the Jewish quarter of the Ir Atika – the Old City, was still very much in ruins. The grand rebuilding scheme was but a dream in city planners' eyes. A dear acquaintance had an apartment in a renovated building from which you could see everything in every direction. Especially during a Jerusalem snow storm, it was breath taking. Yet among the ruins there stood one in particular called The Hurva – The Ruined/Destroyed – Synagogue. It was immediately distinguishable by its solitary curved arch that curled into the skyline and returned into its rubble strewn base. For me, it was a landmark, it was my orienting compass inside the Jewish quarter, it was history and heartbreak, and even as the new buildings, faithful to their architectural milieu, the Hurva stood in its stark destruction, as a witness to the devastation and extinction of Jewish life and presence in Jerusalem, in the Ir Atika.
The building of the Hurva was initiated by Rabbi Yehuda Hassid who came to Eretz Yisrael in 1701 and sought to reconstitute Jewish life in the Rovah – Hebrew for Quarter. When he died with the edifice unfinished, it remained that way and thus received its name. In 1856 the Jewish community received permission from the Ottoman Turks to resume and conclude its construction. Attached to it was the Yeshiva Etz Chayyim. In, 1948, in violation of the United Nations enactments creating the State of Israel and internationalizing Jerusalem, the Arab militias and Jordanian Arab Legion attacked the Rovah and after valiant fighting, it surrendered. As a symbol of the elimination of Jewish presence from the Ir Atika, as a statement that it should be Yudden Rein – Ridden of Jews, they blew up the Hurva, making it a ruin once again.
And so it has stood.
For those who love Israel, for those who love Jerusalem, there is a compelling, heart-rendering, little museum in the Rovah that through pictures depicts its fall and ruination. I have stood before those pictures. Ruby bought me maybe the last copy of the book of those pictures.
I hold it and cry.
The Hurva is a ruin no more. Based on pictures and other documents, it has been rebuilt once more. It stands as one of the highest buildings in the Rovah. Ruby and I saw it under construction last summer. I had mixed emotions about what they were doing. In its brokenness it was a witness to what happened to us, the trek of our history sublimated to others, bereft of our autonomy, defenseless, exposed to the whims of a Pharoah to be remembered on Pesach and of a Haman just commemorated on Purim, both who wished us dead. And yet while this Eyd L'Umim – these stones witness to what the nations have done to us stood naked against the Jerusalem sky, withstanding sun and snow, earthquake and storm, the Rovah was reborn. Children run in its surrounding courtyards. Yeshivot classes are overflowing. Jews from around the world stroll the streets and shop in the Cordo. Ruby and I ate a quiet dinner on the patio of one of many restaurants just around the corner and heard the doves cooing and the pitter patter of feet echoing in the dusk and night.
How mysterious the hand of God! By all rights we should never be here. Not here nor there. Not ever. Every imaginable force has been summoned against us. The frigid regions of the Pale of Settlement and the Gulag; the fires of the hell of the Holocaust. And yet….And yet….we are here. We are there. So the Hurva – its name will last forever just like that – The Hurva – now stands rebuilt in the rebuilt Rovah, the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem. The next time we return to Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh, Jerusalem the Holy City and to the Rovah, Ruby and I will daven there.
I will cry and I will smile.
Unfortunately the world media called into question the right of Israel to rebuild the Hurva with the same breath that it bashed Israel about the Ramot Shlomo housing project in eastern Jerusalem. It is not that they don't know better, that they are so unsophisticated. They know. They know. The truth is that with the same voice that they proclaim that one is illegal they are saying that that the other is too. Make no mistake. No matter what one thinks about Ramot Shlomo in the eastern sector of the city, in questioning the right to rebuild the Hurva, by the Palestinians rioting over its dedication,
they deny the right of Israel to be. Period.
They are saying that by denying our right to rebuild our own ruins,
we don't have the right to be there at all. In any border. In any place.
We, here in America, because of the pressures created by this administration which is so critical to the very existence of Israel, we cannot be so unsophisticated, so uneducated as to miss this message. It is a message that we, the Jews of the world, in unity with the State of Israel must categorically and unequivocally reject, now and forever.
I have walked the streets and driven the roads of Jerusalem. Last summer Ruby and I drove exactly through this area, even if unintentionally. You can't take a knife and cut up the city. Not by Israeli. Not be Palestinian. Not by Jew. Not by Muslim. The new light rail system runs from one through the other. Commerce doesn't know the Green Line Armistice line of 1948 and the Mandelbaum Gate was torn down in June, 1967. Waste systems, air pollution, telephone lines all interlock. This is a city that is Hubra Yachdav, "cemented together."
There is only one switch of Hebrew letters difference between Hubra – "united" – and Hurva – "destroyed."
And yet the Arab Muslim section is distinct, just as are the Israeli neighborhoods in the western sector. When I first came to Jerusalem I saw that the differences were its richness. I loved to smell the different aromas, to look at the different architecture, the vision of different colors, the sound of different music.
Why the urge to destroy this by infiltrating Israelis into the heart of this area?
What moral mandate gives the right to evict people legally living in residences?
For a people exhorted to go l'fnay meshurat ha-din, above the measure of the law, we betray our essence when we subvert the din, the law, itself.
Why destroy its richness?
Why give the world an unnecessary pretext?
Why go head to head, toe to toe with the one indispensible ally?
Where is our "Yiddishe Cup?"
The prophets imagined that all peoples would stream to Jerusalem. The might not have imagined that the Dome of the Rock, the Mosque of Omar would stand over the place where the Holy of Holies once was. That is history. It is irrevocable.
The prophets urged us to seek, pray, plead for the peace of Jerusalem.
Isaiah (chapter 62) bids me, bids us:
"For the sake of Zion, I will not be silent.
For the sake of Jerusalem I will not be still….
And you shall be a glorious crown
In the hand of the Lord
And a royal diadem
In the palm of your God.
Nevermore shall you be called "Foresaken,"
Nor shall your land be called "Desolate."
I love Israel. And because of the deep, ceaseless pain of these turbulent times, I cry.