Yerushalayim shel zahav shel nehoshet v shel or Jerusalem of Gold of Copper and of Light.
Jerusalem was my home for a dozen years between my student days on Mt. Scopus in 1976 till my mom kidnapped me in the summer of 1990.
“If I forget thee O Jerusalem may my right hand lose its cunning.” In the woods of Tres Piedras I have had to bury my love of Jerusalem in favor of dogs and cats.
When my katkaz girlfriend, Tal, asked me, “What if your mom asks you to go back with her to America?” I laughed. “Are you kidding? I have nothing to do with that country!” How do women know things before men do? “Please carry my bags back to Cleveland,” mom pleaded. I said goodbye to Jerusalem as I stared in bewilderment at Tal.
Shortly before taking me hostage, Mom and I were enjoying a coffee on the Pedestrian Mall, the Midrachov. She turns and asks, “Where are all the Jews?” “You are looking at them, Mom,” I assured. She thought we were sitting in a sea of Arabs.
I spent thousands of hours drifting in that river of people, my gaze part of its current. A few thousand more hours I spent cleaning the windows of its stores, hauling a tall ladder, buckets and paint brushes to spiff up the signs.
“Hello, Shalom, Ahalam,” passerbys would greet me all day. Enthusiastically, I would shout back their names in glee, except when bumbling tourists with their big cameras would obliviously bump into my ladder practically toppling me. “You know everybody,” I would often hear. Often, it seemed I did.
Jerusalem’s streets were my stomping grounds. Stealthily like a gazelle I would carve through her hills and valleys. From the figs of Lifta to the grapes of Ein Kerem to the olive orchards of Bethlehem, I knew Jerusalem as well as anyone.
Through Jaffa Gate up King David’s citadel an expansive panorama of God’s Holy City would unfold. My feet would stroll towards Damascus Gate through the Arab Shuk with visuals, sounds and smells to reverberate a lifetime.
Onward to Abu Tor and Arab Jerusalem my feet would churn beckoned even further to Rachel’s Tomb.
Then back through the German Colony and Rechavia for a glimpse of the Prophet Jason’s tomb and maybe Golda Meir.
Every Friday night my feet would be dancing on the tables at the Cinemateque where an American singer named Libby roused the crowd like roaring lions to her soulful beat.
For a half dozen years my feet were in Ramat Eshkol crouched behind the plate playing for the Promised Land, Jerusalem and Israel’s perennial second best fast pitch softball team.
Every Sabbath they plowed through tackles in Rock Em Sock Em no pads football with a bunch of Americans in Sachar Park just below the Parliament Building.
My feet stood in front of the hot ovens at Rickie’s New York Pizza feeding the throngs stretching down King George.
They dashed at the King David Hotel as Israel’s president is assassinated. Portrayal as his top bodyguard in the scene was just one of a dozen movies I acted in.
My feet helped lead Hebrew University to its first National Rugby Championship at the stadium in Givat Ram. During my military service as a paratrooper I solemnly stood in Honor Guard overlooking the Old City with my rifle to salute yet more of Jerusalem’s fallen. For the better part of a decade my feet were, well, just below my knees clasped between my arms, sitting long hours into the night in the smoke-filled room of Beit Hakerem pondering the human condition with my friends who founded the pioneering kibbutz Neot Semadar.
“From Zion shall go forth Torah and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”
Jerusalem has been the political and spiritual heart of the Jewish people ever since God’s ordained servant King David claimed it 3,000 years ago. It was part of God’s Divine Covenant with Abraham. By the mid-1800s more Jews lived in Jerusalem than Muslims and Christians. Under Jordanian rule after the 1948 war of Independence no Jews were allowed to enter or live in the Old City. In 1980, the Israeli Parliament proclaimed all of Jerusalem its capital.
There will be peace in the Middle East only when the peoples of the region and the world and Jews themselves acknowledge Jerusalem as the Hebrew birthright.
Trump, you finally nailed one!
Botzer lives in Tres Piedras with his dog, Tzilah, and cat, Yedidah. He is a massage therapist and Hebrew teacher.