THE HEART OF THE HEART

Prior to Trump's visit to Israel, this is a text that is well worth reading again.

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Sivan Rahav Meir,

Sivan Rahav Meir
Sivan Rahav Meir
self

1.

In 2010, the tension between former US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu rose to new peaks. In an exceptional move, noted writer and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel took out a full-page ad in the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.

Personally addressing Obama, Wiesel explained what Jerusalem means to the Jewish people. Obama was a close friend and admirer of Wiesel and when he passed away last year, Obama eulogized him and said that "we have lost the conscience of the world."

Below is the text that the 'conscience of the world' wrote to the President of the USA.

The newspaper headlines said that Wiesel "called on Obama to stop pressuring Israel about construction in Jerusalem." However, the letter contains much more and it is interesting to read it ahead of Jerusalem Day and on the Shabbat that we read Behar-Behukottai, which deals with our special connection to the Land of Israel. It is also especially interesting to read the letter when we are faced with uncertainty about the nature of the current US administration, when we are unsure if it is hostile or simply in total disarray.

For Jerusalem

It was inevitable: Jerusalem once again is at the center of political debates and international storms. New and old tensions surface at a disturbing pace. Seventeen times destroyed and seventeen times rebuilt, it is still in the middle of diplomatic confrontations that could lead to armed conflict. Neither Athens nor Rome has aroused that many passions.

For me, the Jew that I am, Jerusalem is above politics. It is mentioned more than six hundred times in Scripture - and not a single time in the Quran. Its presence in Jewish history is overwhelming. There is no more moving prayer in Jewish history than the one expressing our yearning to return to Jerusalem. To many theologians, it IS Jewish history, to many poets, a source of inspiration. It belongs to the Jewish people and is much more than a city, it is what binds one Jew to another in a way that remains hard to explain. When a Jew visits Jerusalem for the first time, it is not the first time; it is a homecoming. The first song I heard was my mother’s lullaby about and for Jerusalem. Its sadness and its joy are part of our collective memory.

Since King David took Jerusalem as his capital, Jews have dwelled inside its walls with only two interruptions; when Roman invaders forbade them access to the city and again under Jordanian occupation. Jews, regardless of nationality, were refused entry into the old Jewish quarter to meditate and pray at the Wall, the last vestige of King Solomon’s temple.

It is important to remember: had Jordan not joined Egypt and Syria in the 1967 war against Israel, the Old City of Jerusalem would still be Arab. Clearly, while Jews were ready to die for Jerusalem they would not kill for Jerusalem.

Today, for the first time in history, Jews, Christians and Muslims may all freely worship at their shrines. And, contrary to certain media reports, Jews, Christians and Muslims ARE allowed to build their homes anywhere in the city. The anguish over Jerusalem is not about real estate but about memory.

What is the solution? Pressure will not produce a solution. Is there a solution? There must be, there will be. Why tackle the most complex and sensitive problem prematurely? Why not first take steps which will allow the Israeli and Palestinian communities to find ways to live together in an atmosphere of security. Why not leave the most difficult, the most sensitive issue, for such a time?

Jerusalem must remain the world’s Jewish spiritual capital, not a symbol of anguish and bitterness, but a symbol of trust and hope. As the hasidic master Rebbe Nahman of Bratslav said, “Everything in this world has a heart; the heart itself has its own heart.”

Jerusalem is the heart of our heart, the soul of our soul.

— Elie Wiesel

2.

Jason Greenblatt, Trump's special envoy for Israel and the Palestinians, arrived here early this week, in advance of the President's visit. In addition to this role, Greenblatt is involved in another project which doesn't involve making peace between us and our enemies, but rather keeping the peace within the family. He is married to Naomi, a well-known psychiatrist and they are parents of six children. The religious Greenblatts set up an educational website, "Inspire Conversation," to encourage dialogue. The site posts articles written by Jason, Naomi and their children – Noah, Julia, Anna, Sophia, Avery and five-year-old Vera who "loves ballet."

The site mentions Israel in positive and emotional terms – there are posts about the three kidnapped boys, about the charitable organizations in Israel, and about the medical treatment given to Syrian refugees in Israeli hospitals. However, the main focus of the website is the family unit. Before his current appointment, when he presumably had more spare time, Jason wrote:

"We both have very demanding jobs, yet in spite of this we are both very active and involved in our children’s lives and education. I frequently get invited to speak on a variety of topics in my professional life such as 'The art of negotiations' and 'Ethics in the workplace and beyond.'

"The vision for Inspire Conversation was sparked on a family vacation when we were browsing a local market in Europe. Our children noticed there was a great deal of brand name clothing, including Gucci and Prada available at unbelievably low prices. This was an opportunity to have a conversation with our children about counterfeit goods, and why it was wrong to buy them.

"After returning from the vacation Naomi and I attended a lecture about how to raise teens in today’s world, and to our astonishment the majority of the words and descriptions thrown out to describe teens by the participating parents were negative. Later that evening we wrote out a long list of words that described our children as helpful, exciting, curious, kind, generous, sweet, considerate, etc. Once we understood that many parents are struggling with the same issues we have, we decided to do something about it and help others.

"We made this site where we could collect and chose specific and relevant tools that will help you become a great parent, and help your kids become great people."

The main recommendation of the site is to hold meaningful conversations with family members during everyday family meals as well as on festive occasions. They recommend that children interview their grandparents, that each family writes its own book which tells the personal story of a particularly inspiring historical event. The site quotes a large number of studies all showing that when a child feels part of something big and meaningful, he will be more successful. In one of the articles about sibling quarrels, Jason writes "Act as a mediator, not a lecturer. Let the children speak, encourage them to voice their opinion and share their thoughts. Even though it may be difficult, be patient, and let the others speak."

Based on reports about relationships within the White House, it seems that his words of advice should also be heeded there.

*This article was pubished in "Yedioth Aharonot." Sivan Rahav Meir is a broadcaster on Israel's Channel 2 news station.