As a veteran tour guide, most of my clients come to me via recommendation. I never know when a request will come and whom 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 sounded Indian and it was.
His parents are from India and he is, i guess an Indian - American, part of the great melting pot, here for a business meeting. 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 breathtaking 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 category 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 his very "practical"s high tech Israeli colleagues 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 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 a lot 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.