Middle East 3:45 AM
Inside Israel 12:16 AM 3/7/2014
Middle East 4:15 AM
Life Lessons with Judy Simon
As a veteran tour guide, most of my clients come to me via recommendation. I never knows when a request will come and who I might be guiding.
Today I guided a lovely young man from San Fransisco. I knew that he was from the US but his name,, Abhay Puskoor, threw me a bit - . it sounded like an Indian name, and I was right.
His parents are from India and he is, i guess an Indian - American, part of the great melting pot, here for a business meeting with an Israeli high tech start up company in Petach Tikva. He wanted to tour the old city for a day and left the planning to me. I wondered how" my" Jerusalem would be received by this first time visitor - to a very different world than his.
We took a cab up to Mt of Olives where we stopped first at the entrance of a building, home to a number of young idealistic Jewish families - in a sort of enclave in the midst of the hostile Arab neighborhood of Atur. The families have a huge Israel flying from their roof - letting all know that the area is no longer "Judenrein".
We also passed the large "Orot" housing complex near by, which will be home, please God to many more Jewish families. Down the road is the "Ma'ale Hazetim" neighborhood with another hundred and fifty families. It is just amazing, how the demographic landscpe is changing before my eyes.
Rule of thumb: Where Jews live, others will feel free to visit.
Even before we took in the famous breath taking view of the Temple Mount, and surrounding areas. he was moved by the idealism, faith and guts of these spirited young Jews. We were to meet more of them when we toured the "City of David". There we passed a little Jewish boy running by,, payot and tzizit flying in the wind. He owned the place. He was no stranger in the oldest part of Jerusalem, despite its majority hostile Arab population. He was not aware that his presence upset the world's leaders and media. He doesn't know who Obama or Kerry are. He won't know much about the NBA or Hollywood stars. His parents chose to raise him where our kings and prophets walked. He knows them intimately. There is no doubt in my mind that tommorow's leaders will be these youngsters.
I did not have to beat around the bush about the"challanges" of having lots od Muslims as our neighbors. His parents told him all about their experiences with them in the "old country"..I did not have to be too "politically correct" with him. When I told him that in opinion polls, Europeans list Israel along with Iran North, Korea and Pakisatn as the least popular countries in the world, he exploded, "Pakistan is a crazy country!"
Indeed, the prophesies about the entire world coming up against Jerusalem is unfolding before us. If Israel is put in the same catagory as Pakistan by the "enlghtened world", my guest understood that something is very wrong with this picture. He began to take a deep interest in the Jewish faith and history. He was amazed that Israel is at once a high tech power, a food exporter, disease curer.. and at the same time the repository of the Bible and its echoes. In short, the miracle of Israel stared him in the face. He could not get over the intertwining of the vast incredible contrasts in one small country
I told him that I suspect that hi very "practical"s high tech Israeli colleagues in Petach Tikva might not share my views about the sanctity of the land and its Torah/God connection. He thought that was likely and would like to ask them how indeed do they feel about their connection to the land. I would ove to be there when he does.
Often times it is through the eyes of total strangers that one gains a sharper focus on what one has. I may have taught him alot today , but he has given me a renewed appreciaition of God's Hand at work in our little miraculous land.
What a country!
Shalom Pollack lives in Jerusalem where he is a tour guide and writer.
I know it is not a new subject and has lots of good Jews rather upset, but the situation in the heart of our nation smacked me in the face again today.
I guidied a mom and her twelve year old son in the Old City, making the connection betwen our land and us.I suggested that we take a peek at the Ttemple Mount from outside the "Cotton Gate"
And so we approached the steps leading up to the gate and a peek onto the holy mount. As I suspected , the police stationed there did their job just as I have seen before.
It was clear to them that the three people approaching were Jews, worse the religious kind..For the Isaeli police , we were a looming and very red flag. We might provoke the peace by our mere presence too close to our holy mount. The Temple Mount is a rallying cry for Muslism in their challange to Jewish legitimacy any where in the land of Israel.
Police the world over, seek one thing quiet and calm( and an early and full pension). It should be achieved by enforcing the law and not ignoriing it. No need to rehash the leagal arguments and court decisions ackowledging the rights of Jewish worship on the mount.
The police are permitted to use discretion when allowing (all Muslims, any time , any gate) and non Muslims (religious Jews) to enter.
Today, this twisted eality hit my tourists in the face full force. She could not believe that in Israel's Jewish democracy, principals of equality and Jewish rights and pride seem to vanish in the wind.
The police man moved to block our way very quickly. Poor guy, he seemed lke he was burdened with preventing the next Muslim riot or perhaps it is his superiors who are following an established albeit not officially acknowledged policy. Juden Raus! Jews get out of the way and keep the Jew haters happy and quiet - on our holiest place on earth.
Absurd , we all agree. However it was the simple adament "why" that my tourist kept asking of the cop that threw him off and reminded me of how far we have yet to go in this period of redemption. The cop saw that she was not budging and so he turned to me in Hebrew and said , you are the guide, explioan it to her"
I told him I would first have to understand it myself. At this point our young defender of national humiiation was trying to avoid all eye contact with the three fellow Jews who perhaps reminding him how low he has fallen What one choosed to do to "make a living".Humiliating his peopl and serving the interest of our enemy means a pay check. I wondered if they just get used to the job of supporting Does he enjoy getting out of bed f or another day of humiliating his own people. I always wonder about waht t hat does to a Jewish soul.
It is ironic that most likely,his parents or granparents fled to Israel from Arab persecution to live as free and proud Jews in our homeland. And what does the Sabra son of these true and proud Jews do? What has the Jewish government done to these Jewish souls? To our collective Jewish soul?
I was reminded today.
This past Shabbat I took part in what I sense is a growing trend , "Shabbat of the Torah portion Vayishlach" in Bet El.
Bet El took the idea from its sister bibical site and pioneer community - Hevron, where tens of thousands gather each year on the "Shabbat of the Torah portion Caye Sarah" commemorating the purchase of that famous site by Abraham.
It was in Bet El that our patriarch, Jacob, on the run from his vengeful brother Eisav, lied down to sleep placing a stone under his head. That is where he had the famous dream of ladders and angels. When he awoke, he received God's promise for his safety while in exile and a guranteee of the Land of Israel for his descendents.
As a tour guide, I encourage my guests to visit these sites, cradles of our history, faith and pride.
Part of the Shabbat program included a tour of the archeological remains uncovered near the place where Jacob slept. Not bad. Where were you on Shabbat ? Oh , I visited the place where Jacob was visited by God. How many centuries was this just a page in our Bible? Today it is an accessable and integral part of our renewed home land and renewed people.
Ah, the people of Bet El.. True sos of Israel/Jacob
I was hosted by an amazng family, early pioneers of the renewed Jewish presence in this ancient site.
If Jacob protected himself from the wild animals of the night by surrounding him self with stones, his children today also live within fences as the dangers lurk just beyond - where the houses of Ramallah and terror loom.
My hosts were a poster family for the miracle of Israel's rebrth. He, light complexioned , from LA. She, very dark from India. Their seven beautiful - (none resembling their dad ) either in elite amy units or preparing themselves to serve the people of Israel - the leaders of tommorow no doubt. At the table, we were discussing a particular incident in the Bible. Their eight year old son helped us with the source we were looking for. They truly live their Bible form a very early age. Yes, these are the one's who stand in the way of peace in the Mid East and perhaps the whole world. Just ask Obama and Kerry..
Did you know that the Temple of Yeroban Ben Navot was found near the site of Jacob''s dream .Makes snse. Yeroban broke away from the Kingdom of Judah and set up his own competing temple next to the holy and popular site. With the golden calf in Bet El on his southern border, he challanged the authority of Jerusalem. Those temple remains have been found!
It is no surprise that the Christians and Muslims have buit their shrines next to the site where Jacob slept.And because it was holy to so many, they all left the lone oak tree nesr by standing - for over one tousand years - the oldest in Israel!
First and Second temple period burial caves , and wine vats and oil vats are icing on the cake.
Actually the cherry on the cake are the amazing pioneers who have returned to this hallowed ground after two thousand years. This is more than proof of the past, this is prophesy, this is the fututrre today.
On the bus from Jerusalem to Bet El, the driver , who was a local resident took a personal interest in the passangers who needed to get off at a particualr address. Jolly, patient , he was the calling card of the spirit of the destination and final port.
He took good care of me and let me off where he believed I needed. As I alighted from the bus I was greeted by a stranger (turns out he lived a few blocks from me in Brooklyn before we both came home to Israel). He saw that I was looking about , seeking direction. He asked me for the name of my hosts - and said hop in to his car. Next thing I knew I was in the lap of the most gracious hosts.
After shabbat dinner ( it was really a pity to have to swallow the food ..) . I went to the synagoge for study. Upon leaving - I got lost.. Lukily ,three local girls were chatting and i told them I was lost . What do you think they did? Of course, like our Matriarchs... showered me with kindness and accompanied me back to my hosts safe and sound. These are the settlers, threats to peace! Remember the Bizzarro world comics? This is it The world is topsy turvey. But do you know what? This too is a prophesy. The prophet said " In the time of redemption, good will be called bad and bad will be called good"
I have indeed experinced the good - and the bad? A mere stone's throw from the fence of Bet El , and God's promise to Jacob.
Worth a visit
What a country!
It is far too often that I consider "putting pen to paper" when experiencing frustration with those running our beloved country. We all know how many of those opportunities knock on our doors. don't we?
However, as a veteran tour guide,. I am blessed with the opportunity to see lots of our land and its special people .I would like to share some encouraging observations from the field.
It gives me pleasure to acknowledge and spread the exciteent that is happening in the earliest biblical parts of our land. These days almost every Jewish tourist makes it down the hill to the "City of David". It is interesting that many non Jewish groups do not visit what is basically a wholly Jewish/Old Testament site in the heart of Jerusalem. The Evangelical and "Old Testament" connected sects however, are wild about the place. They can not get enough of the Bible coing up around their feet. I often wish that some of our own would feel as connected to our Biblical roots... but I wlll leave that for another time.
Yes, one of my favorite spots is indeed the "City of David" just down the hill from the Kotel Gate or Dung Gate. It is steep walking all the way down...and up, up , up.. but it is worth every kvetch!
My purpose is not to describe the details of a tour at this special site but to share some thoughts about the visit.
First of all, it is the only site in Israel which is an on going, intensive dig and yet hosts thousands of visitors daily. I am certain that when the feverish infrastructure developement is completed, this will be the number one site to visit in Israel - even for "the less Zionist" Christian sects. It will simply be too famous and popular to miss.
It is one of the few sites that every IDF soldier visits during the course of their service to the country. It is breath taking to see themroaming the ground where their ancestors stood and defended Jerusalem. Really, what is cooler than conjuring up the spirits of ancient Jewish warriors accompanying our current young men and women defenders.with and a gap of only three thousand years!
Ther are two big dramas developing in that place at the same time.One is the on going excavations all over the place. It seems that the archeologists simply can not announce an official end to "the dig" because of the treasures that keep popping out of the ancient soil. Names that we identify from the Book of Samuel and Kings have been found, Do you know how unique and ming blowing that is? The figures we know literally jump out of the ground where they lived and won their place in the Big Book. The scribe that saved Jeremiah from the pit and the pit it self was found! That ancient water cistern was probably the one that King Zedkiyahu had Jeremiah thrown into to perish, The court was not happy about the rebuke and warnings of this amazing man of God. I stood down in that pit and read the words of Jeremih, Does it get better!?
An entire parking lot disappeared in favor of more digging. To look down deep under that old parking lot and to watch the excavations is better then the original time machine movie.
I can go on about the site but perhaps another time.
I want to return to the second drama unfolding in tis ancient ground - this one way above the surface.
The first place i stop with my tourists is next to a wall with about ninety mail boxes. These serve the Jewish community of the "City of David". Imagine your address - the City of David"! Well lots of beautiful , brave Jews have proudly made it their home.
I remember when tis was not even a dream.
The story of how this began is a whopper but , not for now. I always say that there is a rule of thumb about touring in Isrtael - where Jews live, other Jews will feel free to visit. Think of how true this is. When I began guiding over thirty years ago, I would take visitors to this site... There was very little resembelence to what it is today. Then, I would quickly and quietly pass through a narrow, dirty alley in an all Arab neighborhood to steal a quick look at the famous "Canannite Wall" uncovered in the early nineteenth century by British archeologists. It is a very impressive wall with great stories from David on. And today? You would have to have been there then to understand the comparison and how excited I am.
The beauty and extent of the site does not compare to the pure "nachat" I get when I meet the beautiful Jewish children walking happily and confidently through their nighorhood as if it was just any other. These children are being raised in the city and spirit of the greatest Jews in our history
I am certain that they and hundreds of tousands like them in similiar redeemed Biblical areas will lead our country when the generation of ("We are tired of winning"- Ehud Olmert or "If I were an Arab , I too would be a terrorist" - Ehud Barak) failed "leaders" finally leave us. Yes, visit the city of David where the half cup that is filled - is simply brimming over into the past and future.
What a country!
Once again, once again, we are reminded about the never, never land in which we live.
Today, five Israeli soldiers were wounded on the Gaza border, one very seriously. They were searching for some of the hundredes of tunnles that the Gaza Arabs have created at great expense ( though Israel supplies much of the materials - I know, hard to believe).
We left Gaza in 2005 because PM Sharon and all his yes men assured us that iin fact the policy that has always been urged by the Far Left has been correct all these years afterall . So Israel destroyed twenty five flourishing and heroic communities and delivered them to the Arabs of Gaza. Sharon literally turned plow shares into swords - and this was considered sophisticated politics... No need to dwell on the painful and absurd details. This morning we paid yet another "price for peace" , that hateful phrase coined by Shimon Peres, architect of the Oslo debacle and the high priest of national delusion ( and thus suicide).
When Peres and Rabin sprung the Oslo accords on Israel and the world, Rabin was warned that if Israel does indeed leave Gaza there will be rockets fired from there into Israel. His retort was, "There never has been a rocket fired from Gaza (true) and there never will be one (not so true). You are just afraid of peace!" I wonder if he is still able to count the thousands of rockets that have been fired since that very confident insight back in 1993. I wonder if Sharon is being informed of the price of HiS bold and sophisticated policies?
The "peace of the brave", was another phrase concocted to confuse and subdue the public. Another cute one used by Peres and friends was "one makes peace with enemies not friends" Hughh..? If one declares they are your enemy ( as in, they incite against you and don't recognize your right to exist and glorify those who kill you.. they should be treated as such.. or am I missing something?
Why am I bringing up these points which is not hot news today ? I guess the thought of yet more families consumed by worry over the fate of their loved ones jarred me into sharing my frustration and pain with our totally self created slippery and dangerous slope and I wonder along with many who did no buy into the thought control spinnners - when and how will we stop the slide?
While "Palestinian" society appears mobilized for total and protracted religious war, ours wishes it away as a "situation" . As one buffalo is shot , the others raise their heads for a moment and return to chewing the grass until the next shot rings out to disturb their feeding . Appeasement corrupts the most basic self preservation instincts.. Israel seems to have has lost its moral certitude.
There was a time when our leaders understood at least a thing or two about the reality of this conflict with our neighbors.
Golda Meir, was not always right but she did understand that "There will be peace when the Arabs love their children more than they hate ours". Period.
When our leaders rush to shake the hand of those who want to take our house away and teach their people to hate us, we have lost something that can not be replaced with any amount of planes, tanks or money - or promises from "friends" .
Like many , I grasp for hope. Its a good idea to look at our sources and the inspired words of the prophets for hope and comfort.
Isaiah,"The Philistines will finally be sent to other countries on the wings of birds and by way of ships of the seas..."
Now THAT is sound policy! May we merit it speedily in our time .