Wednesday, July 8, 2009
My favorite poet, Yehuda Amichai, writes often about my favorite city, Jerusalem. He writes of the interplay of what the rabbis called the heavenly Jerusalem with the earthly. Here the air is thick with dreams and prayers. Here the streets echo with the sounds of young people studying, people scurrying to morning services, buses rumbling on Emek Refaim, and cars honking their horns. It is this very tension that I, as a frequent visitor, find so refreshing and rejuvenating. For those who live here, they see instead people who are forever trapped in the heavenly city, floating through the streets as if on a magic carpet. The truth is that there are too many people here struggling through the day to day of the earthly. Last evening we met with Nir Barkat, the new 48 year old mayor of Jerusalem. Barkat left his career in high tech several years ago. He created a charitable foundation with his millions and then entered politics. He decided that the city of his birth and the object of his love deserved his best efforts. His salary is one shekel per year. He is refreshingly idealistic. He believes that with good management and business acumen the earthly Jerusalem can be improved. He does not appear terribly concerned with the heavenly, but his idealism and love suggest otherwise. He worries that Jerusalem will soon lose its Jewish/Zionist majority. According to his estimate this might occur by 2035. His hope is that by investing in Jerusalem's unique cultural heritage this city will once again be a magnet to foreign tourists and more importantly a destination for secular Israelis. It is sad to say that the earthly Jerusalem is less of a pull than the heavenly. This city is more the stuff of prayers than of walking its streets. I pray that his efforts and his idealism succeed and that he, in his own words, enables all people to love Jerusalem in their unique and different ways and to do so by touching this city's earthly reality. I love my prayers. I love being here even more.