Monday, April 15, 2024 -
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Letter from Jerusalem

All of Israel screams one word: Future! 
 This is evident everywhere.

Construction cranes dot every sky.

The economy is booming.

Stores multiply.

So does the population.

Highways under and over and through all manner of previously hard-to-access pieces of the Holy Land connect and speed the pace of life.

But also slow it down. Less time on the highways means more time doing, thinking, creating, praying, devising, negotiating.

A short and much anticipated visit to the Holy Land last week revealed its eternity and parallel impatience with the present. All of Israel screams one word: Future!

The eternity of the Holy City is palpable. Step into a synagogue. It’s a different davening. The Presence hovers. The concentration, the focus, the depths of the words of the prayers dig into you and those sitting and standing around you.

“Jeremiah Street.”

“Wings of Eagles Street.”

“Ezekiel Street.”

“Samuel the Prophet Street” — intersects Ezekiel Street.

The Biblical past and Jerusalem today, rushing to the future, intersect.

The synagogues.

The street signs.

Most of all: the children.

Evident everywhere.

School buildings cannot be built fast enough.

The human visual landscape is not adults. They are in the minority.

On the bus, on the street, in the stores: children everywhere, at least after school is out.

Older sisters, but not older than 10 or 12, lead their younger siblings across the street.

Baby carriages, everywhere.

Grandparents with tens of grandchildren.

Great-grandparents with scores of great-grandchildren.

An astonishing statistic: In a single segment of a single neighborhood in Jerusalem, Neve Yaakov, the registration for first grade for next year is . . . how many classes? Nine. Forty students per class.

For one week I did not look at a newspaper, listen to the radio, turn on a TV, check my email, my phone or a single website or social medium.

Rather, I looked around.

Absorbed the Holy Land.

This is what I saw: It no longer took 45-60 minutes to travel from Jerusalem to Ramat Bet Shemesh. It took 30 minutes.

New roads. New tunnels. Beauties of engineering.

But that is not the story.

The story is the expanding cities of Israel.

The need for more . . . everything, in order to accommodate the growing . . . everything.

More road for more university students.

More yeshiva students.

More parents, more professors, more dreamers.

More enterprises.

More immigrants.

More air flights, not only in and out of the land, but within the land.

More ideas.

More tourists.

More hotels.

More inventions (everybody gets around using Waze — Waze was invented in Israel).

More sacred tomes published — an amazing efflorescence.

Ditto, academic research.

More students flocking to Israel from abroad.

This is a people that, despite the threat of war, despite the way people can bump up against each other, wants to grow.

More than anything, the main sign of society here is . . . more maternity beds in the hospitals.

My wife Elaine and I met our old and esteemed friend, Kendy Gross. Her husband Henoch, a marvelous bundle of fun and fount of wisdom, died some 15 years ago. I wondered whether anyone had been named for him. Kendy replied, referring to children and grandchildren: “There are now 17 Henochs.”

All of Israel screams one word: Future!

The eyes pop out. 
 Seeing for the first time our new granddaughter, named Miriam Goldberg, named for my late mother, Miriam Goldberg.

Seeing our granddaughter Feigie’s Bat Mitzvah.

Seeing the magnificent structures, the sacred handiwork of Rabbi Naftali Kaplan, who had the idea to found a yeshiva while he was in his eighties!

Seeing the beauty of Ramot, whose beauty includes the view from the apartment of the Adlersteins, high up a Jerusalem mountain, of the entire expanse of the rest of the Holy City.

Seeing the barbershop of Michael, who came to Israel from Ukraine when he was nine, who works in a tiny space of perhaps 7 feet x 7 feet, who has none — make that none — of the appurtenances of a modern salon, but who gave me the best haircut in years.

Seeing kosher jelly beans, just the shape and size I like, for the first time since before COVID.

Ditto, roasted almonds.

Seeing the running digital route trackers inside Israeli buses — in Arabic.

Seeing Reuven Fauman, a perfect stranger who somehow got a hold of my rented cell phone number and reached me while we were at ALYN Hospital (just the kind of providential connection typical in the Holy City), who came over the next morning and shared a beautiful musar exercise, under the category of the late Rabbi Avigdor Miller’s “unnoticed daily act of kindness”: filling his pockets with quarters so he can put them in flashing-red parking meters to save a perfect stranger, the driver of the unoccupied car, a ticket.

The Talmud articulates a profound blessing:

“May you see your world in your lifetime.”

Copyright © 2023 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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IJN Executive Editor | [email protected]

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