And then there’s Jerusalem

The crowd at Koolulam

Before I write about Jerusalem, I have to tell you about the Koolulam concert. There were 12,000 people gathered to sing together in a joyous community! The tickets were only $12 so the crowd was diverse in terms of socioeconomics and religious vs. secular segments of society. Once they had the whole arena up and dancing, vocalizing and shouting, we were ready to sing. An incredibly talented person spent over an hour hopping all over the stage teaching us the song, with the arena divided into two parts. There were song sheets taped to our seats, and color-coded parts. Somehow, we learned our parts, sang in harmony with great enthusiasm, and the sound was thrilling. Then the featured musician, Stephane Legar, a charistmatic African-Israeli hip-hop artist, came out with his dazzling dancers and we had a dress rehearsal and then four takes that were taped, later to be edited into a video they’ll post online. We loved it!

In 1961, I was a twelve year old at Camp Ramah in Connecticut, and I met a wonderful, inspiring, newly-wed couple working at camp. Over the years, Lee and Mira became like my older brother and sister and my role models for an observant Jewish family and a loving, supportive marriage. We have been close all these years, sharing life in NYC and then Jerusalem where they have lived for almost 50 years. We are also dear friends with their wonderful son David, whom I took care of for a summer when he was 3 and I was 16, and his wife Havi, whom I adore. David and Havi’s daughter Shira and her family are also our friends. Chuck and I went to Jerusalem yesterday to see them all and it was wonderful.

We took the fast train from Tel Aviv, which went through a deep tunnel most of the way. Even though it was indeed fast, I was sad we didn’t experience “going up” to Jerusalem, which is both a literal and a figurative experience. Traveling on the road to Jerusalem, you climb and climb and wind through the Judean Hills and then, suddenly, the golden city appears. It takes your breath away. Although there are lots of new buildings going up everywhere, the height of buildings is limited in Jerusalem and all buildings must be covered in Jerusalem stone, which has been used in the city for 3,000 years. In sunlight and at sunset, the stones have a golden glow. Thus the title Jerusalem of Gold. It makes even new buildings fit into the ancient city. It’s almost impossible not to be affected by the beauty and history of this holy city.

I remember when I was 20, living in Jerusalem and spending lots of time with Lee and Mira and their kids. They turned 30 that year and I couldn’t even imagine being that old. This year, Lee and Mira are 80. We took them out to dinner last night to celebrate and made them promise to take us out for our 80th birthdays in ten years. May it be so!

It was a cold, windy, rainy day in Jerusalem today, so we headed with Lee and Mira to the the Israel Museum along with everyone else visiting the city!

In addition to all the tourists, there were numerous groups of young soldiers, soaking up the art and the history of the country as part of their army training.

Yes, art and history are part of military training here. Israelis enter the army at age 18, and they become serious soldiers, too often experiencing combat and danger. But the army in Israel is more than that. It brings together all segments of society- rich, poor, those from long established families as well as immigrants from so many different countries, colors, and ethnicities. The army educates, socializes and acculturates these young people to develop and enhance their love of the land of Israel and their identity as Israelis.

One interesting exhibit was called The Wanderer which explored that concept in art through the ages. One theme of the exhibit was the wandering Jew. In my family, we always used that term endearingly to describe relatives who loved to travel. Apparently, the term comes from an antisemitic legend that Jews were condemned by Jesus to wander the earth homeless, tired, and unwanted. The wandering Jew is depicted in many artistic media as an unattrative peddler, as seen in these selections from the exhibit.

Tomorrow is the Jerusalem marathon, so we headed back to Tel Aviv tonight. When we walked into our apartment, it felt like coming home. So nice. We’ll back in Jerusalem at the end of the month and we’re hoping for better weather so we can wander (that word again) around the city and visit our old haunts.

A few minutes ago, we heard warning sirens and loud noises. Two rockets were fired at central Tel Aviv where we live! We’re fine as is everyone else in the city, but now our concern is what Netanyahu will do in retaliation. Life seems so normal here, but this reminds us just how fragile that normality is.

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “And then there’s Jerusalem

  1. Barbara Akre

    Soldiers soaking up the art and history of the country – fascinating! Do all Israelis enter the army at 18? How do politics fit in?

    May you remain safe…

  2. Thanks Barbara! All Jewish Israeli citizens are required to serve 2 years for women, three for men. A number of Muslim Bedouin and Druze citizens serve voluntarily, some Christian Arabs do and very, very few Muslim Arabs do.

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