Sunday, May 24, 2009

The day before D. Day +42

It was yesterday, i.e. on Thursday, May 20th/7, 2009 = 26 Iyyar 5769. The weather was quite nice and hot in Jerusalem. No sharav or hamsin, this desert wind that clutches to the throat or breathing. There are some tourists in the Old City and many male and female Israeli soldiers come by "battalions" to visit the Old City or have some "celebration" at the Western Wall. Lots of youths also arrive with huge Israeli flags and some specific flags reminding the "shichrurשחרור = liberation, release, acquittal" of Jerusalem 42 years ago. Most of them are joyously singing, waving the flags enthusiastically. Everything focuses on this Jerusalem Day, as if nothing else could exist, no other question, problem, concern. In two days we shall have the Iyyar 28th day that marks the point when 42 years ago, the Israeli troops entered the Old City of Jerusalem and "overshadowed" the mother city of Judaism.

In many blogs, articles and lectures, I already said how important this day has been essential in my life. In 1967, I was a young Jewish getting adult. All my backgrounds and personal Jewish spiritual intense life of prayer and service was centered on the fact that as a "Churban" survivor (Shoah, but I prefer the word "churban which tracks back to the destruction of the Temples), Israel - whatever status or international recognition - is and would always remain my homeland and country. I could live in any country, our family could be Soviet citizens sheltered in France and Europe, this was just a sort of irrelevant situation that had to be accepted or overcome. Throughout the ages, the Jews could serve and make their lives among and along the various nations of the world. They still knew by spiritual instinct and faith that their true home is and will always remain Eretz Israel.

I never envisioned this as a nationalistic issue that would cause some fight for the soil of Israel. In particular, there was the spiritual motto definitely described in the Talmud that Eretz Israel was given as a sort of permanent "lease" to the Jews, but it is not a "possession". The matter is absolutely not clear at the moment. But this is due to historic development and the movement of populations of different cultures that gather in the country and create a new structure and identity called to be "Israelity".

The partition decided ny the UN in 1947 had in view to allow the creating of a Jewish homland and another country for the Arabs. I never thought in such terms. Judaism is universal and cannot restrict itself to what it reflects about its own being. This is very dangerous and it recurrently imperils the Jewish identity, not only right now in the Middle-East. The Jews should never be left to themselves or "alone", but they still have to face an exceptional and rare situation of isolation and solitude. I always thought that Israel should exist, not only in order to provide a shelter for some Jews who have been and are persecuted in different States and among certain nations who practice specific religions. Judaism has always been rejected and denied. It is not a Christian or post-Christian story. It is a very ancient tendency that show up by the time of some Jewish holidays like Hanukkah: the real desire of the ancient Greeks to destroy the Jewish lifestyle as being uniquely connected with God.

But I would never accept to rebuke or reject anybody from the land and soil of Israel. It did happen quite often in the course of history: Jews and other nations removed each other and pushed some nations out. Eretz Canaan and Israel is a place of transit, transition, passing and crossing roads and "persistency" does not mean a lot in such a region of the world, submitted to a wide rifting away from the mainland and recurring earthquake. On the other hand, MEMORY is the "sacrament" of getting a permanent and eternal presence of our being and developing in this country and area.

Jerusalem is special, indeed. Jews cannot say al through the ages "next year in Jerusalem" and not believe "with full faith and confidence - " that God will someday, somehow make it possible. Just as the Yemenite Jews could not imagine that the flying carpets would bring them back to the land of the ancestors, just some two hours of flight away from their place of dispersion, we cannot anticipate what may happen in our generation, in the upcoming generations that would either develop or stop, bless or curse such incredible revolving process of planaterian history. I this sense, I do believe that God does not play with our destinies, nor either with the destinies of any peoples. Jews are not better than the Arabs, the Muslims, the Christians. They are. This existence constitutes a questioning that cannot be resolved with exactitude. Jews cannot know why and where to their extravagant history is called to give sense to other nations and peoples and to the people of Israel in many aspects.

In June 1967, I felt something was turning to another direction and that Judaism and Israel, being Jews and/or Israelis will confront the human community because the whole thing was "too much" and landed at the top of the Temple Mount. Today, we can think of the Machpelah cave of the ancestors, the Tomb of Rachel, Hebron... The cave was ceded at a high price and Abraham was indeed conscient that he was a foreigner and still welcome to bury his wife. We often forget this aspect in the present: our call is to believe with full confidence in the world-to-come and redemption of every soul. Otherwise, Jewish destiny would not make sense.

I am the only member of my two-sided paternal and maternal families to see Jerusalem, just see the town of Jerusalem. Moreover, I am the first and the only one to see One Jerusalem, a Jerusalem that I can drive through in a car, bus, soon in a tramway or a train, on foot or by bike. 2000 years have passed. Other families came back earlier. We have families that have been living in Jerusalem in the past three centuries. Even more.

In my case, the thing is terribly simple and banal. It is so common, so personal and still anonymous. 400 people killed, murdered on my mother and father sides and no survivor. This year, my parents would be 108-109 years old! I cannot understand, explain, give any reason why I could come back here, in this generation, a total survivor of the pogroms, civil wars, Nazi time, Churban-Shoah\חורבן-שואה and a mother who in 1949 could give me birth when she was half lame, partly deaf and 48 years old!

This is why I am often stunned, totally overwhelmed and surprised to be alive; indeed this is real and there are some reasons. I should have died 12-13 years ago of an unexpected health accident. The Most High allowed me to reach this year my 60th anniversary that roughly corresponds to this period of Israel Independence and Jerusalem Day, one year after the Independence. It is also so special that I could stay here for years against all previsions: I married my wife and had asked her hand on the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) almost 30 years ago and she had accepted in Jerusalem. We have spent some time here and came often back to Israel. I could have come to Israel as a babe, as a teen, as a young adult. I would never have thought that I would be here, sent by the Patriarch of Constantinople, in order to try to develop, if any, an embryo of an Israeli Christian Orthodox community network. Over the past twelve years, I have steadfastly and without any sort of nationalism celebrated the Services in Hebrew, in some Yiddish, Ukrainian and other tongues, trying to substantiate that our survival leads to pardon and unity.

People may smile at times when I start praying in Ukrainian. My father accounted me in details the backgrounds of the Nikolaiev/Mykolaiv region of our family as well as my local nannies. When I arrive in Nikolaiev/Mykolaiv in 1993, I spent a whole night to look at the immense Bug river from a high building room. It was so weird that I could come back, that all the tongues and cultures had been transmitted to me and that I felt there are home as I feel at home in Jerusalem. This was a moment of truth, when surviving reach a deadline that pushes anew and again ahead into the future. There was no reason why I should arrive in Israel to be a Christian, a deacon and then a priest. There was on specific reason to marry a non-Jewish Flemish and Perigourdine woman from France, a Christian born of Christians who desired to spend a year in the Holy Land in order to read the Bible. I asked her hand in order to "embody" a special goal: "of the two (Israel and the Gentiles he (Jesus Christ) made One body" (Ephesians 2,14-16). This simple goal was readily a challenge. We faced and have to face multi-faceted challenges that include the way we can accept with faith what is proposed on our road.

Each year, on Jerusalem Day, I pray for Unity. As time passes, years go, it maybe possible to determine some patterns for unity. Twelve years ago, in Jerusalem, the Churches could really have at least some looking forward toward some prolegomenon of possible unity". Not so much, not too much, but still, we had some sort of brotherly connection. Of course, today, there is a "club": the heads of the Churches meet on a regular basis. It had been launched before I arrived, and except in cases of specific clashes, the meetings always took place according to the agenda.

But Yom Yerushalayim can hardly be a "Christian-shared" day. Some personalities would join and come. Not too much. The "One Jerusalem" is a sharp Zionist group, headed by Nathan Sharansky. Their point of view is interesting and should be taken into account. But over the years, the Yom Yerushalayim was usually a festive day for the Jews and the Israelis. Progressively, much arrogance showed, slowly from the part of "hard" religious or "pro-zionist or pro-Jewish Jerusalem" groups of all sorts. There are definitely no specific or pre-determined groups. Things are much more flexible or undefined. Nonetheless, some groups can be very pushy, aggressive, try to clash or provoke the Arabs at Jaffa Gate. It does not really work for different reasons.

The Jaffa Gate Old City square and entrance to the holy sites is special. Everybody is a bit "blasé". "Stop your game or play, stop showing off". The Arabs can be very Palestine, very Hamas, very everything, they are very connected with the Jews and the Israeli system. It does not mean they are a part of it. A lot of Arabs have their ID cards, get their ID card, it est they are or become Israeli citizens and do not show that too much to either side. This is the non-credible part of the Pope's journey to the Holy Land, because relationships and partisanships are often fake or playing a show.

In the past decade, a lot of Jews and a lot of pious Jewish groups settled inside the Christian quarter. The streets of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and down to Khanqa, Christian Quarter Rd are heavily penetrated by Jewish settlers; silence is the rule. It is not possible anymore to just look at small groups of "haredim" and say that they "only pass along". Then, the Old City, in this part of the quarter, is intermingled with all kinds of true-false-half-false, pre-supposed thes and those that are swimming in different waters without really trying to settle down. Indeed, streets can be empty, without any soul showing at certain hours of the day. There are new "Greek patriarchate" shops (a bookstore just opened), but life is difficult for many of the inhabitants.

It is also evident that Christians can be now mocked inside the Old City. This could hardly be the case before. The clergy shows less and less, or at specific hours. It would not be the case before and not so long ago. Local "cassocks" disappear, some "Roman collars" do show, but it is rare. There is even a new tendency: specific Russian clergymen would never show in cassocks and only put them on in church and on special occasions. This is brand new and concerns peculiar groups of pilgrims/tourists.

Yom Yerushalayim questions the Israeli society and the Christian world in the same way as the State recognition. Nobody could ever think that the Jews would one day rule or be responsible for the development of the whole City. It is very difficult in such a context to truly expect some sense of righteousness and conscience. It only starts. The process is too recent. Forty-two years are nothing. Thirty years ago, I worked here with rabbis who had anticipated the move toward the Temple and the possibility to rebuild it or to consider that the Temple will be "kayam = extant". This canot be reduced to some evangelical comments. It requires a profound understanding of how Judaism contemplates times and delays and the possibility to perform the sacrifices and where. This is a very strange matter because we are often too "virtual". On June 28, 1967, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel confirmed that it was too early and not possible to perform the ritual Paschal (Pessah) sacrifices. In the present, the books of prayers for "Temple Services" flourish and are published in Hebrew. Still they are "awkward" and only suggest some praying structures. Living Judaism perfectly knows how to face the reality of the Sacrifices and would reconnect immediately with this reality. This point is not ignored by most if not all of the Christian and other denominations.

We are is a period of uncertain spiritual confusion for Judaism. Christian Churches are definitely not prepare to any revival of the Jewish Services, though they are constantly studied by all Jewish religious groups. When Moshe Dayan returned the Temple Mount to the Muslims, he argued that the Jews could not serve there because we do not know the exact place of the "Devir\דביר = Holy of Holies". There is more: the Jewish community has not undergone the full purification of the "Parah adumah\פרה אדומה = red heifer" cleansing.

This causes a strange reciprocal ignorance of the traditions. The Christians are at pains with updating and would supersede, as often, the real understanding of the Jewish traditions. The Jews have often very fundamental, basic knowledge of the living traditions that are wide, like oceans of comprehensiveness of Divine Providence and Will.

* * * * * * * * * *

It was 3:30 pm. I was about to cross Ben Yehudah' street and was looking at the people on the square, just in front of a clocks and watches shop. A group of youths - something like 17-20 - looked at me and laughed. They started mocking while the passers-by ere swiftly stopping to listen and continue their way. "He, Jesus! , yeah, you Jesus, tell us, what! you don't speak??!!!" Heh, Jesus, you should speak, you should always answer to Jews, right? OK...". did not say a word and continued to look around and also at them in between. Three Yeshivah student were siting in the middle of the road (there are coffee-shop tables); they were smiling, chucking with some gladness and continued to talk... in English.

My group of youths apparently spoke Hebrew, but in fact, there was some French. There attitude was typically new wave newcomer from France, with a taste of "tourist". Interestingly they can be very anti-Christian. One of them was filming the event" with his mobile phone while the first guy tried to take my Greek Orthodox soft hat (skufia). He took it and threw it away and said: "Take it, goy!", in English. I took my hat and put it on my head. The other continued to laugh, the female shop-keepers looked without saying a word. They awkwardly did not know what to say.

The more aggressive guy said to me: "So what, you goy?" There I just quietly answered: "atah chahcam o mah - you are wise (ly behaving) or what?" The one who was filming the scenery came to me took seized my hat and tore it brusquely from my head as I tried to stop him. Curiously, the people stopped and ried. But the guys quietly packed up and said to each otehr they intended to meet at their place. The three Yeshivah students did not ask anything. People went away. The shop-keepers said it was unbelievable (good gracious!). I had tried to take a picture with my small pocket camera that is always ready: there are so many fascinating scenes in an Israeli street.... God enough. It did not work. The women asked if I was okay. I said yes and then told them: "You know they are certainly not Israelis". They looked at me, not really surprised. I said, they are certainly French. Indeed there were a lot of French Jewish youths in the center of the city at that time and they said some words. They are often pushy, arrogant and do not know how to behave in general in Israeli society. Well, the women told me: "May the Living God forgive them and please forgive them too"... That's so cute! It is cute because if something similar would have happened to some Israeli in a non-Jewish country, this would immediately be considered as a anti-Semitic aggression...

I told them that these guys could hardly be Israelis. Israelis can be arrogant toward the Christians, spit at us all the time, mock at different times of the year (this is a subject for some university dissertation, by the way!). Girls can be odiously girlish. But there is also a general great sense of respect of some "habeas corpus". Or total ignorance. The Israeli would not even look at a Christian and of course not at a "cassock". The "cassock-bearer" simply does not exist.

On the other hand, an Israeli - both a Jew an an Arab - would never TOUCH a member of the Christian clergy. The Yeshivah students who attacked an Armenian bishop and removed his cross and medallion were American, not educated in Israel. In Israel, children, youths, boys and girls, pupils can be harsh, they would never touch. They agreed and a friend of mine later said it was very right.

I walked down the street, went to buy some stamps, maybe because the shop-keepers are good friends, of German origin and real Israeli pioneers. I then remembered that on a Hanukkah evening some years ago (I usually attend the candle lightning at Kikar Zion), a young man had suddenly screamed at me and asked me to leave because I was "a goy". He was rude, very but would not touch me. He was furious that I stayed there, but he would not touch. It is something significant. The funny thing is that on that Sunday evening a Catholic priest of mine - very "Hebrew en vogue-like" - passed just as the boy was shouting. He came to me and greeted me in Hebrew. The other one though we were right out of the green cheeses. He stared at the Catholic priest who was in civil clothes and would not show he is a priest. So he asked him: "Do you know that one (me)? and where from?" My friend choked and said "He (me) likes the Jews" and said to me: "See you next time".... Eh!!! Why not??? and ran away...

On the way home to the Old City, I laughed. Something like Francisco of Assisi when he was stolen by the thieves. Frankly, we live in a society based on confusion. Jewish youths behaves as pagans and in full ignorance of the Mitzvot and it does not come to their minds that they do anything wrong. The shop-keepers were so Christian-likely inspired about the spirit of forgiveness! There was no police in sight, but it would be useless. I could have argued that I wanted to make a deposition because I consider that a "chevra tziburit, chokit, chavretit, demokratit\חברה ציבורית, חוקית, חברתית, דמוקרטית - a civil legal, socializing and democratic soiety like the Israeli one can positively accept my testimony. It would not be useful; the best way is to create and develop the adequate training system... No time, maybe no real desire to correct so numerous and diversified problems.

I felt something else. Nobody would help. This is something that is very important in the realm of faith. If we cannot recognize each other for who we are as human beings and cannot pay the respect every human being deserves (Avot 11), we should not speak of how good we should be to each other. The Mitzvot, in that sense, are far beyond any understanding of the true nature of humankind and human nature. And thus, the true way of faith is to open the path to understanding of any behavior. It may lead us some day to One Jerusalem, from beneath to above and vice versa for the best of life.

May 22/9, 2009 - 28 deIyyar 5769 - כ"ח דאייר תשס"ט

av aleksandr [Winogradsky Frenkel]

The concerned hat...

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