Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Neshamah: additional soul

December 2, 2007 = 22 beKislev 5768. Let's have a smile, because it is roughly intriguing: On December 2, 1947, the day on which terrible riots clashed throughout Jerusalem against the Jews from the Old City to Jaffa Road, Mamilla Quarter, the Jewish calendar showed we were on the 19th of Kislev 5708, the famous day of release of Rabbi Zalman Schneur of Lyadi, the first Rebbe of Lubavitch. On that day, he left his prison of Saint Petersburg and went way to Lubavitch. The terrible riots that started after the UN partition vote were launched on the Chassidut national or renewal day. The amazing coincidence is that sixty years after the partition, the vote is celebrated on this major date for the important spiritual movements of the Chassidism as the riots leading to the independence of the first Jewish State in thousands years burst on that same day of freedom.

We might remember that, just before the vote started in San Francisco, in 1947/5708, a voice cried out hoyshineynu (hoshienu = (Lord) save us) in the audience. This was a cry of humility. Our problem is that the decision resembles a hatzalah (salvation). Either the vote would lead to some tiny hope or life might have been more crooked, more difficult, paved with terrible hardships. Because we might not really be aware today of the cost of so long long-term hardships and inhuman lives through generations.

This blog is strictly spiritual. But, dear Tzipi Livni, Foreign Minister of the State of Israel, you see, when, at Annapolis, the diplomats do not shake your hands, refusing to greet you or they simply ignore you (which frankly is almost unbelievable in an international peace process meeting), I doubt they ever heard that pious Jews do not shake the hand of a woman. True, they might not know or think this is even weird. The problem is not that suddenly in a very comradeship reaction of Condoleezza Rice, the United States Secretary of State, explained how much she personally suffered in Alabama of discriminations against the "colored". This born-cultured hatred against the "Blacks" has poisoned all the history of the United States till recently as the relations between Whites, Blacks and/or Colored/kleurlinge (South Africa). It is a consequence of hatred and repulsion against the other, a matter the Jews perfectly know and have to combat from inside the communities.

Such a level of opacity and ignorance towards our FM Tzipi Livni is not unbelievable. It belongs to the pragmatic and substantial nature of what reality is: rejection and ignorance. But these "fresh healthy crazy (meshigene) attitudes" - in particular in such a context - is the only possible behavior for people stunned that what should be dead of old is still alive and "worse of all" creating sources for living.

Now, I don't wear amulets, protecting wheels and various necklaces or bracelets. My first blog was about my wearing two watches: one to show the Jewish and universal date and time, the second indicating the Julian Eastern-Orthodox date and the "religious hour". Pious Jews, Christian Palestinians always keep one hour before the civil time-schedule. Thus, if I mention this Kislev 19 life-line again and again along with the liberation of the Chassidic Rebbe, it is precisely because most of Non-Jews totally ignore and don’t even want or think it is useful to know the Jewish way of going through time. It is the legal way of the State of Israel. Thus, they consider with total estrangement the way Judaism envisions history, events, historic events and future.

Let’s leave the Jews for a minute because a majority of them would not know anything about that. They would not refer to that firstly though in their utmost feelings they still would comprehend that it makes sense.

Still, we might have the dream that it is indeed possible to discuss and this is the challenge Jews have to face berach'mim (with loving-kindness, sweetness) and mit rachmunes (using sweet and wise measured portions). So, it might be strange, but, as this blog is published in an Israeli daily online (and not in an American newspaper), it might be difficult, but Christianity is then perceived on the basis of the Jewish reality and possible connections and not as a separate entity. In response, Jewish society should be open to in-depth dialogue and real knowledge.

Sixty years ago the riots broke out between Damascus Gate, Jaffa Gate, Mamilla rebuilt by the British, down to the former Hilton (David Citadel Hotel), King David Hotel, Jaffa Street. Today many houses keep the stamps of the Armenians (Saint James) or of the Greek (Taphos = the “T” and “Phi” = (Holy) Sepulcher). These days, crowds of tourists hurry down to Jaffa Gate. In four decades, the whole area has changed. Last Saturday, the handicapped of the French hospice came for a while, assisted by foreign volunteers. They spent some time on the stone bench and in their wheelchairs, at the entrance of the Old City. Immediately some Arabs brought them bottles of juice, cakes and a few cigarettes. There was a very warm and cuddling atmosphere, a lot of humor. Some Jews, on the way to the Wall, stared at everybody. “What’s that?” is very up-to-date when crossing “others” who are not us, or they are and we are not and vice versa. Don’t worry… The two large mezuzot at Jaffa Gate are kissed back and forth and forth and back, right and left hand – way-in and way-out… Some nuns enter the Gate making the sign of the Cross, but abstain on their way out. At the top of the entrance wall, there is a large space, where musicians usually gather to sing or play some instruments on festivals or special occasions. Two small tombs of the engineers supposedly killed by Suleiman link the Ottoman and Arabic Bab-El-Khalil (Gate of the Beloved = Abraham) to the Omar El-Kittab (Omar who gave the writ to patriarch Sophronios of Jerusalem in 638), the Christian Greek and Armenian quarters. The Gate faces the roads that lead to Hebron or to Jaffa.

Is it the City of David and its tower? The tower is a famous museum and a place for concerts and festivities. On the one hand, cabs, screaming and fighting for or after their preys, and the typical Old City multicolored wheel carts swiftly handled by locals who deliver all sorts of produce down into the City. On the other side, all kinds of sellers, flirty-wooing the more or less foxy-shy female visitors. People love buying hot corn/tiras and the Arab oily “beigele”. Jaffa Gate does change inside the walls. Time passes and the atmosphere is special, certainly unique because of the density of holy sites and religious backgrounds.

Then, it is quite amazing to see how, from dust, emerged a large road now connecting Kikar Zahal (square) opposite the Barclay’s Bank attacked during the riots. The square is wide, with benches… and a modern bridge constitutes a huge place that links Jaffa Gate to the new Mamilla quarter. At the present, there are three large cabins with exhibitions. It took decades to build the Mamilla first part. Numbered stones have been transferred and put back in place. To begin with, there was a sort of check-point. Today, the access is free. Now, Mamilla is a mall, like a pedestrian portion of a quarter. Exactly the same modern coffee-shops, restaurants, shops and again shops slope all along the place. It is simply, at the moment, a shopping center located above a bus station and a parking. The view over the modern building complex is nice… There is a Catholic school church that moved a bit upwards numbered stone by numbered stone.

The point is that the Old City shoppers come to buy clothes or have a drink, some food there. The numerous visitors cross with the Ethiopian and Russian guards doubling the police. At first glance, it is interesting as it is easy to duplicate a “ghetto” structure “outside of the walls”. There is no neshamah – soul for the moment. Yeshivah students will come as Arab clients, Israelis but it takes time for stones to remove their numbers and breathe their specific spirit.

There is a kind of password to enter the City of David. It is given in the psalm: “Mi zeh melech hakavod – who is this king of glory? The Lord is might and strong, the Lord is strong in battle. Se’u sh’arim rasheychem – Raise up your heads, gates, and raise up, you everlasting entrances so that the king of glory may enter. Mi Hu zeh – Who is He the king of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the king of glory, selah – forever (Tehillim 24:7-10).

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