From my home in Jerusalem, I took a walk today. I passed the flowering gardens of Yemin Moshe, bright with orange and yellow blooms all along the block. I saw an Arab father helping his little boy onto the swings in Liberty Bell Gardens, and a little further down, I saw a class of forty haredi boys gathered together on the grass to have a picnic. As I passed the Great Jerusalem Synagogue, where both my son and my daughter got married, I saw a growing number of soldiers gathering by the entrance for some instruction, or ceremony. And as I walked further, I saw a group of high-level officers – lieutenants, colonels, and two–star generals – gathered on the crosswalk going towards the same place.
When I reached the center of town, I saw the hustle and bustle of Jews preparing for the coming Yom Kippur holidays – buying clothes, or food, or decorations for the sukkah on the Feast of Tabernacles. I saw a young couple with two little girls pushing a carriage as both girls skipped beside them, not a care in the world, in this peaceful little city, our little, beautiful Jerusalem, blessed by so many prayers, so many sacrifices, so many tears, so many triumphs of hope over despair, victories over defeats.
We sat together, my husband and I, in Big Apple Pizza, with its scenes from New York, my birthplace and father’s house that we had left behind after our wedding almost forty-seven years ago. The pizza was hot and delicious, the drinks icy cold. And the weather, a lovely warm Indian summer day that is with us in Jerusalem often until the middle of December, wafted over us with its perfect, cooling breeze.
It was so lovely, we decided not to take a bus back home, but to walk. We passed a police car blocking the road, but walked on past it, hoping it wasn’t because they were checking out a bomb. We walked past the walls of the Old City, joining a pastor with his wife and children, his clerical collar giving him away; and a haredi father with a little blonde boy with long payot flying in the wind as he sat on the bicycle seat in front of his father, a look of pure ecstasy lighting up his beautiful little face. And then down the path leading
through Park Teddy, and again past the houses of Yemin Moshe, past the lively markets and restaurants of HaTachana HaRishona (the First Station). We walked over the wooden boards of Park Hamisilah, through the trees and green grass, taking time to rest on a bench in the shade near the outdoor free library, where we chose a book to take home with us.
And I thought as I reached home, how lucky I am to live in this beautiful city! What an honor, what a joy!
But before I could end this article and tell you all to come and see for yourself, my husband walked into my office.
“There was a terrorist attack today.”
My mouth fell open. “Where?”
“Here, in Jerusalem, at the light rail station near French Hill. Two people are dead. The police had arrested the terrorist, but hadn’t asked for him to be held in jail until the trial. So he was walking around free.”
From my home in Jerusalem, I will look up the details. I will mourn the deaths of the 29 year-old decorated police officer who just got married, and the retired 60 year-old former Knesset employee, who were both going about their innocent daily lives in Jerusalem when they were shot and killed. I will gnash my teeth that the perpetrator, a known terror member from East Jerusalem who was to begin serving a sentence for attacking a police officer today, wasn’t kept in custody, but allowed to roam by a benevolent court who granted his appeal for a postponement.
My feet are weary, but my heart is strong, reminded why we Jews will continue to fight, to build, to rejoice that Jerusalem is once again our home. Nothing they can do will ever change that. Nothing. Our love for our city will defeat their murderous hatred. Because this isn’t Europe. This is the Jewish State of Israel, built by survivors, persecuted, murdered, hated and lied to. Our past has made us wise, and wary, and strong enough to face the truth without blinking. From my home in Jerusalem, my eyes are open wide to the complexity of our existence, the depth of our joys, the bitterness of our failures.
May the God of Israel who gave us this land bless us and look down upon kindly in the coming year.