Next Year/This Year in Jerusalem
Posted by rabbibrian on March 28, 2010
One of my favorite childhood memories of the Passover seder is joyously singing, “L’shana Haba’ah Birushalayim Habnuyah/ Next Year in the rebuilt city of Jerusalem” at the end of the seder. I remember singing L’shana Haba’ah at the end of our family seders and at the end of the huge “model” seder at Herzlia, the Jewish day school that I attended as a child in South Africa. Next Year in the rebuilt city of Jerusalem! Tomorrow night my family will celebrate Pesach seder in the city of Jerusalem, a beautiful city that I love, and currently, a painfully divided city.
For me, there are two realities to preparing for this year’s seder in Jerusalem. The first reality is the uniqueness of preparing for Passover in Israel where the holiday is part of the national culture. Celebrating Jewish holidays in the diaspora is so different from here in Israel where Jewish holidays and culture are the norm. The supermarkets are packed, there are “Pesach specials”, there is a festive holiday air, the coffee shops are packed and everyone is talking about the holiday. All my neighbors are preparing for Pesach.
Today I went with my neighbors to one of the street corners near us where someone had set up a huge vat of boiling water where one could bring one’s pots, cutlery and other utensils to make them kosher for Pesach. We spent much of our day shopping and getting what we need for our seder. Later, our whole family went to get haircuts, as there is a Jewish tradition not to cut one’s hair for several weeks starting on Pesach. The barber told us that he started work this morning at 8 a.m. and his last appointment is at 10 p.m. tonight.
And, there is another reality. Next year in the rebuilt city of Jerusalem! Building in Jerusalem is in the news. In response to the recent controversy about building in Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, defiantly declared, “We will continue to build houses in East and West Jerusalem!” What he meant is “we (Jews)” will build houses for Jews in East and West Jerusalem. The Municipality of Jerusalem doesn’t build houses for Palestinians. As regards Palestinians, it demolishes houses and assists in the eviction of Palestinians from their houses and replacing them with Jews.
After many years of shamefully turning a blind eye to this immoral system of discrimination, the American administration has finally demanded that it end. In a moving piece in this morning’s Ha’Aretz Gideon Levy writes,
If Israel had a real peace camp, if the silent majority had broken its sickly silence, if more Israelis approached the situation as a collective rather than individuals yearning for the next holiday or car, if more Israelis refused to accept blindly the deceptions of Israeli diplomacy and propaganda, Rabin Square would have been filled with demonstrators yesterday. Among the banners and flags, one sign would have stood out in this hour of risks and fateful decisions: “Thank you, friend.” Thank you, Barack Obama, friend of Israel.
Among Obama’s modest demands – a construction freeze in Jerusalem and extending the freeze in the settlements, two basic conditions for “negotiations without preconditions” and for anyone who really wants a two-state solution – there’s a demand that the Israelis themselves should have made long ago.
Obama is asking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and through him every Israeli, to finally speak the truth. He’s asking Netanyahu and the rest of us: What on earth do you actually want? Enough with the misleading answers; the moment of truth is here. Enough with the tricks – a neighborhood here, a settlement expansion there. Just tell us: Where are you heading? Do you want to go on receiving unprecedented aid from the United States, do you want to become part of the Middle East, do you want to achieve peace?
I couldn’t agree more. The question now is whether Obama will continue to insist on the modest demands he has made of the Israelis. Will the AIPAC letter signed by over 300 congressional representatives pressure him to mute his reasonable demand? I hope not.
So, tomorrow night, when we come to Next Year in Jerusalem, let’s give thanks to Obama and encourage the American Administration to insist in the strongest terms possible to his reasonable demands.
For Jerusalem to be a holy city it must be one where all its inhabitants are treated with dignity and equality. It is not the ancient graves and sites that will make this city holy. Obama has the power to change the destructive and suicidal path of Israeli policy in Jerusalem. He deserves our full support as long as he continues to insist that the Israeli government agree to his modest demands.
This year Jerusalem is divided and in a city torn in conflict, hatred and violence. Next year in Jerusalem, a city of peace, a city of human dignity and equality, a city that honors all the children of God.
This year we are slaves, next year may we all be free!
For those of you who would like to read more about this issue I recommend Lara Friedman and Danny Seidman’s article and Letty Cottin Pogrebin’s post about her tour of East Jerusalem. Both excellent articles provide solid factual information to counter “the deceptions of Israeli diplomacy and propoganda.”