I’m not really Left or Right wing. More of the in-between wing. The In-betwing, if you will. Because, after all, it takes two wings to fly.
There are few days when I feel the tensions of living in the political ‘inbetwing’ more than Jerusalem Day. Today there will be tens of thousands of blue-and-white banner carriers making their way through Jerusalem’s thoroughfares. There will be epic endless dance-circles of white-shirts and spinning skirts. The dancing will shift and stream into a song-lit march through Damascus Gate and spill out into the Western Wall Plaza.
This, my friends, is the kind of day I made aliyah for. The kind of day that fills in the details of a long-recurring national dream. It is a day that celebrates the time the miraculous bled through the mundane. The way it did in 1967 when a military miracle swooped through this country and allowed us to reclaim our most treasured city. The day, mind you, that Temple Mount was gifted straight back into our awe-struck hands. It is the day we gifted it back to our Muslim cousins, as well. But that’s a whole other article.
I have rich store-houses of memories build on this day. Memories that I cherish as my life’s most meaningful. Memories of pushing my twin babies in a double stroller through Damascus Gate and being literally carried along a water-way of tears of gratitude that let out into the sacred spinning pool of the Kotel. This has been my day of celebrating with my feet the fulfillment of the Biblical promise of Return to the Land of Israel.
But now it is also a day when I am conflicted.
For today, I am reluctant to make this march through Damascus Gate. Not because I am scared of Arabs. But because I am horrified by my own people’s darker side. Utterly ashamed of the small Jewish faction which has marred this march with their hateful words – and actions. Last year I skipped the march altogether. You could say I was led by my left-wing side; refusing to be lumped together with those Jews who have hate in their hearts.
But I have a right-wing to me as well. Not a gloating right-wing, but a rightfully deserved, finally-arrived–home kind of right-wing. The side of me that says, “Yes it is our RIGHT to march through all quarters and corners of this city, be it Arab or Christian or whatever religion.” The side of me that says it is our right to not shirk away in guilt or shame or fear from any Jerusalem thoroughfare. But to claim our rightful historical place here.
This year, I want to be both sides. Not hateful, not fearful.
So I turn to the way laid out by Rav Frumin obm, who redefined peace-activism with a real spirit of ‘the in-betwing’. It is told that he once went to the dedication ceremony of a new building. When he arrived he refused to enter said building for above the entrance was a sign that read, “The Land of Israel belongs to the Jews”. He demanded that the sign be taken down, insisting instead, “It is not that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jews, it is that the Jews belong to the Land of Israel.”
This expresses the ideal. A truly holy orientation to living in the Holy Land.
Our goal today is to belong to the Land. To belong to Jerusalem. To honor that it does not belong to us. We belong to it and are called to behave in a way that befits that belonging. If G!d wanted the Old City to be peopled by Jews only, then G!d would’ve done just that. But G!d didn’t. This is the reality we have been gifted, in all of its G!d given complexity. This Yom Yerushalim I celebrate the gifts of that reality in all its forms and colors.
So this year I will be making the march through Damascus Gate. Not scared off by the Arab shop-keepers and even their most menacing gaze. Not scared off by the misguided Jewish youth chanting hate. But courageously carrying my own flag of the In-betwing. A banner that reads, “Salam – Shalom. I am walking in peace.”
Yerushalayim means ‘City of Peace’. If we want to live up to the honor of inhabiting this glorious metropolis of peace, then we must behave accordingly – behave peacefully. To belong to Jerusalem is to strive for, pray for, march for and raise banners for peace. Salaam Alekum, Shalom Alechem, today may we BE the peace we seek.