One of my favorite 'hobbies' is showing 'first-timers' around Jerusalem. I used to like doing that in Wellington too (a similarly beautiful city) but there is something very special about being the 'local' in Yerushalayim.
On Thursday night, I had the pleasure to lead a Jewish friend from New Zealand through the holy streets of the Old City, down to the Kotel (Western Wall) and so on. He was of course absolutely taken in by the environment and the whole Jerusalem thing.
It enhances my Aliyah every time I have the privilege to show people my home town. There is something terrific about this city, even if it still requires a little improvement. The positive elements however are untouchable and undescribable. Anyone who has spent any decent period of time in Jerusalem can relate to what I am saying. Something hums here.
Not only is he a friend, but also one who had never been to Israel and had been harshly critical of this government, its army and their policies - loudly and widely. He has a right to do this though I do always maintain that keeping it in the family is better!
This in mind, it was peculiar and a little saddening that his knowledge of this region's conflict and current day realities is actually so limited. Sure, he, like most of the world (and many Jews too), has thorough awareness of Palestinian poverty and suffering (with which I identify) but lacks any Israeli perspective.
I'm not trying to get at him - I mean, he's a great guy with a big heart. It's just frustrating that he and others do not see the irony till they come here. Ironies like the mosques and Islamic prayer towers that still stand in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, next to the Arab-destroyed Hurva synagogue and the memories of the Kotel, shules and Holy places defiled by Palestinians and other Arabs in the last century. And yet, who is it that denies free religious practice etc? You know who? The Zionists of course!
I hope it's not my friend's final visit to this beautiful land.
Those who have been in my lectures know that I don't teach my opinion. I try to avoid extremism.
But I demand that this be 'The Last Time'. I pray that Friday's murder of 17 year old Avichai Levy (and the injuring of others, some critical) will be the last time we have to live this horrific scenario. (UPDATE: Aviad Mantsur, 16, has just died of his injuries). I hope and pray for our benefit and for the benefit of innocent Palestinian people who simply want to live.
Here, like the ridiculous attempt to blow up Soroka last week, we see Palestinians taking advantage of relaxed Israeli travel restrictions and passage in order to murder Israelis. So now, like Gaza last week, the Palestinians around the Hebron area will now be placed under closer surveillance, all to their detriment.
Of course, Israel has no choice but to increase restrictions in the face of this 'calm'. Even as Islamic Jihad threatens to "shake Tel Aviv" and terror continues its upward spiral of the last few weeks, let's hope that today's tragic funeral for Avichai Levy z"l will be the last time this nation mourns, and that more people take up the challenge of an eye-opening first time visit to Jerusalem.