A Letter from Jerusalem

Shira and I have been in Jerusalem, safe and sound, while the events that you are reading about in the papers are unfolding. Our hotel is less than a mile from the Old City, and we have seen significant police presence. We are here to see our 93-year old father, whom we had not hugged during the pandemic; to dance at the wedding of our 27-year old nephew Yeshayahu and his bride Adi; and to be in Israel again, which we had desperately missed since we were last here in December, 2019.

How to understand dancing at a wedding when sirens were sounding because Hamas fired missiles from Gaza towards Jerusalem?

The Torah anticipates private lives unfolding in the context of public complexity.
The bride and groom still marry, still rejoice, even though their nation is at war.

When a man has taken a bride, he shall not go out with the army or be assigned to it for any purpose; he shall be exempt one year for the sake of his household, to give happiness to the woman he has married. Deuteronomy 24:5.

True then. True now. But grooms today do not get as long to savor their new marriage. Yeshayahu has one week to be with Adi before he reports for miluim, Israel’s reserves, next week. He is the lieutenant of his unit. He has spent the weeks before his wedding calling each reservist and imploring them to show up. He is getting married tomorrow knowing that the violence will transform his miluim duty, in his words, from “boring to scary.”

Biblical Israel, and Israelis today, live with and in the presence of contradiction unresolved: wedding and war, joy and worry, peace and events which destroy peace. All are true at the same time.

The Israel we see is post-Covid. Streets are filled with people walking around without masks. Restaurants are jammed with diners eating, outside or inside, without masks, once you show your tav yarok, your proof of vaccination. Shuls are full. Traffic is impossible. Tomorrow’s wedding, consistent with Israel’s health protocols, will have 500 guests. There is energy, energy, energy in the streets of Jerusalem. What about the violence, the scary prospect of more violence? On the outside, at least, Israelis keep on living their lives.

That complexity is true not only for Israelis. To walk in Jerusalem is to imbibe not only its beauty—but also its many layers. Our Yom Yerushalayim is their day of protest. Our day of celebration is their day of mourning.

That does not justify sending missiles to Jerusalem. Nothing justifies sending missiles to Jerusalem. But being here, especially now, captures
the complexity of rejoicing in our story, while recognizing another people has its own story.

What can we who love Israel from Greater Boston do? Pray for Jerusalem and all its inhabitants. May it soon become again a city of peace and justice. Come to Jerusalem as soon as you can. To be here is to be simultaneously uplifted by its beauty and challenged by its complexity.

We have no answer to offer other than to be with.

From Jerusalem with love,

Wes and Shira