Jerusalem has often been in the news this year.
After prolonged waiting, America has placed its embassy in it. It was appropriate given the fact that it is Israel’s capital. We had waited and waited for the Palestinians to agree to negotiations that would settle the “Jerusalem question.” We needn’t have.
The Jewish people have now been returning for over a century. Jerusalem is their center.
In this Christmas Season, those who are familiar with the oratorio, “The Messiah,” know these phrases:
“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people says your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem.”
That was in the time of Jewish exile.
The following prayer has been in the Jewish prayer book for centuries….and it remains there (from The Koren Siddur, Prayer Book, 2015)
LEADER: “Reveal Yourself from your place, O Our King, and reign over us, for we are waiting for You. When will You reign in Zion? May it be soon in our days, and may You dwell there forever and all time. May You be exalted and sanctified in the midst of Jerusalem, Your city, for generation to generation forevermore. May our eyes see Your Kingdom, as is said in the songs of Your splendor, written by David Your righteous anointed one.”
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Let’s go to late 19th century Russia where persecution of the large Jewish population was merciless. In that environment where the longing for Jerusalem was deep and strong, a movement sprang up in many cities. It was known as--get this: “Chibbath Zion,”—“LOVE OF ZION.” Jewish authors began issuing the call with the slogan “Oh house of Jacob, let us go forth.”
Fast forward just a couple of decades to Theodore Herzl, founder of the Zionist Movement in Eastern Europe and then beyond. Early on as head of this movement, Herzl the European travelled to Jerusalem, hoping to meet the German Kaiser, hoping to get support for a Jewish land company there.
Herzl was shocked and disheartened!
The Condition of Jerusalem Just Before the Modern Return
Herzl wrote in his diary:
‘Shouts, smells, tawdry colors,’ he wrote in his diary, ‘people in rags crowding the narrow, airless streets, beggars, cripples, starving children, screaming women, bellowing shopkeepers. The once royal city had indeed sunk to the lowest depths.’
Yes, it was in the lowest depths of squalor and tyranny.
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But the wars of the 20th century brought about the opportunity for….
THE RETURN OF THE JEWS TO ISRAEL AND JERUSALEM
And the war of 1967 to exterminate Israel brought about the opportunity for…
THE FREEDOM AND UNIFICATION OF JERUSALEM
Abraham Joshua Heschel, in Jerusalem when the Jewish forces in the Six Day War of 1967 took the holy sites in East Jerusalem:
"Jerusalem, our hearts went out to you whenever we prayed, whenever we pondered the destiny of the world. For so many ages, we have been lovesick….In our own days the miracle has occurred. What happened on June 7, 1967? God’s compassion has prevailed. So many devastations. Thousands of communities wiped out. Synagogues burned, people asphyxiated. No tombstones, no graves… In its solitude, the Wall was forced into the role of an unreachable tombstone for the nameless dead.”
IN THAT WAR OF 1967, THE WALL WAS TAKEN BY THE ISRAELI ARMY
“Break forth together into singing,
You waste places of Jerusalem,
For the Lord has comforted his people.”
-- Isaiah 52:9
The Wall was redeemed, in a way of speaking. Jerusalem was one!
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And now…. now the condition of Jerusalem? It is now ranked—get this--
Jerusalem, ranked as the fastest-growing tourist destination in the world!
And now, in our time, Jerusalem is becoming the world’s fastest-growing tourist attraction, according to the UK business intelligence company, Euromonitor International, reports. In the year 2018, the city entertained 3.93 million tourists from overseas. In 2019, it is expected to have a whopping 38 per cent growth to 4.8 million. (Michael Raz-Chaimovich)
The magnetic power of this city is now growing more and more powerful. We might reflect on the prophet Isaiah’s ancient but increasingly relevant portrayal of this magnetism:
It shall come to pass in the latter days
That the mountain of the house of the Lord
Shall be established as the highest of the mountains…
And all the nations shall flow to it,
And many peoples shall come and say
Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob,
That he may teach us of his ways
And that we may walk in his paths.
-- Isaiah 2:2-3 (ESV)
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