Friday, July 14, 2023

Connecting to Jerusalem

Every year, International Quds Day is celebrated on the last Friday of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The event's underlying principle is renewing support for and solidarity with the Palestinians. Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day (translated in English), has become a rallying cry around the world to liberate Palestine from what it calls the illegal Israeli and Zionist occupation. Of course, it is a popular and widely celebrated holiday in Iran, where millions of people march in many cities chanting "Death to Israel." The reality is that Quds Day demonstrations are not limited to Iran or even the Middle East. This year on Quds Day, there were demonstrations in many American cities. As has been the case for several years, event attendance ranged from approximately a dozen to 100 people, including cities such as New York City, Detroit, Seattle, Houston and Sacramento. Protesters at the Fremont Quds Day protest called for an end to Zionism and claimed: "that if Zionism were to cease existing, there would be peace, no racism, and an end to terrorism." That comes from a swanky city in the Bay Area of California, where one is hard pressed to find a home for less than two million! I think of this now as we are in the period leading up to Tisha B'av and are required to reflect upon our connection to Zion and Jerusalem. Are we strong enough in our connection to Jerusalem? There appears to be a gap between where we ought to be as reflected in the Torah and liturgy, and our reality. For example, one of the blessings in the Haftorah (translated) reads, "Have compassion on Zion as it is the house of our lives." Do we think of Zion as the home of our lives? Shmuel Agnon from Israel received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1966 in Stockholm and said the following in his remarks. "As a result of the historic catastrophe in which Titus of Rome destroyed Jerusalem and Israel was exiled from its land, I was born in one of the cities of the Exile. But I always regarded myself as one who was born in Jerusalem." One has to have Zion and Jerusalem as top of mind to utter such words. Our liturgy in the daily Shemonei Esrei prayer has multiple blessings that reflect the Jewish soul yearning for the complete redemption of Zion! The Three Weeks leading up to Tisha B'av are important to reinforce our inner connection to Zion and Jerusalem. Let us not squander the moment. Have a Peaceful Shabbos, Rabbi Yaakov Fisch

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