The Old City’s walls and ramparts are modern Jerusalem’s most recognized architectural feature. These current walls and ramparts do not follow either the walls that Solomon built or the walls that Nehemiah built. The walls and ramparts we recognize as the city’s international icon were built at the order of Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in 1536, approximately 345 years after the Christians lost the Holy Land in the last Crusade. They roughly lay over the walls and ramparts which surrounded Aelia Capitolina (Roman Jerusalem).
Jerusalem…of the Judean Hills, of stone, and of desert sands; overlaid with the vibrant colors of many nations, sacred symbol of eternal faith of the three monotheistic religions, capital of the State of Israel, beginning of our redemption, eternally wind blown by the breath of G-d…Jerusalem!
Of Jerusalem we sing “Beautiful in its panoramic vista, the joy of all the earth is Mount Zion” (Psalm 48:3) and “Let Mount Zion be glad, let the daughters of Judah rejoice, because of Your judgments. Rally around Zion and go round about her, count her towers. Consider her ramparts, raise high her citadels, that you may tell it to future generations. That this is G-d, our G-d forever and ever, He will guide us eternally.” (Psalms 48:12-15). We are in the most solemn “Nine Days of the Month of Menachem Av”, it is the time to reflect upon the loss of the Jewish Temple and the approaching fast on the Ninth of Menachem Av. Our singing is limited to quiet, reflective, mourning Psalms. Next Monday night, the 9th of Av, we will honor a 24 hour fast and read “Eicha” (The Book of Lamentations). Only next Tuesday night will we be free to sing out happily again.
I have a difficult time when I can not sing happy praise to G-d. This morning I dreamt of my mother and Mahalia Jackson urging me to “Walk in Jerusalem-ah”. (Here is Mahalia singing it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYijLl5PRRg) Mother and Mahalia were belting it out. Mother with her sweet lilting Spanish-accented English and Mahalia with her strong contralto voice landed in my dream from “Way up, Way up, Way up, Way up, High in Jerusalem when I die….” I suppose the two of them turned up in my dream time because of my recent participation in the “People Demand Social Justice – Stroller March” which brought me the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., after all “back in the day” Mahalia was the singing voice of the American civil rights movement.
Upon waking it occurred to me, that I, along with 780,000 other residents of Jerusalem, have received a very special blessing: unlike in Mahalia’s song lyrics, we don’t have to die to “Walk in Jerusalem-ah! Talk in Jerusalem-ah! Sing in Jerusalem-ah! Be in Jerusalem-ah!”. All we have to do is just walk out of our front doors and we’re there “Walk in Jerusalem-ah! Pray in Jerusalem-ah!” The sociology and communal nature of the Jewish religion is such that it is all about group responsibility and group redemption. This thought urges me to invite you to “stick your sword in the sand” and virtually walk with me on this 4th day of Menachem Av, as I share a few of the panoramic vistas visible from the ramparts of Jerusalem. Heavenly Jerusalem, Earthly Jerusalem, Heavenly Jerusalem on Earth. It is not what we see from Jerusalem’s ramparts it is how we see it. And how we see it depends upon what we bring with us to Jerusalem. Some of us bring a sense of strict religious perspective and history, others bring their personal and/or national narratives – their political views and opinions, still others bring an open heart and mind, yet all of us are inspired and uplifted by Jerusalem!
May it be soon: “In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; G-d makes salvation its walls and ramparts. Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith. You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You.” (Isaiah 26:1-3)
Jaffa Road with Jerusalem’s old municipal building on the right
Mosque, ramparts walk with tourists and Notre Dame in the background
Secondary use of stones from different periods of time with Rockefeller Museum in the background
Playing Soccer in the Moslem Quarter’s Multi-use Sports Area
View of Eastern External Wall of the Old City, Dome of the Rock and Mosque of Omar
Garden of Gethesmane and Mount of Olives. Lower right, domes of the Church of All Nations; Middle center, Russian Church of Mary Magdalene in Garden of Gethesmane; Upper right, Mount of Olives – Jordanian built “Seven Arches Hotel”, below it Mount of Olives Jewish Cemetery
(First three photographs by Jay Berman, last three photographs by Isa David-Ben-Rafael. All photographs owned by IsraeLightly)