Good Shabbos! Ten years ago today, I toured the Old City of Jerusalem on Christmas Day with Mom. My film “When Do We Eat?” was playing in the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival, and Mom seized the chance to visit Israel with me – something we’d never done together.
Folks who’ve been following this page for a while will recall that Mom now has frontal temporal lobe dementia (I wrote about it at hevria.com/salvador/mom-dementia-good-news). She’s still in good spirits, but every day she’s a little less connected with this world and – I believe – a little more connected with the next world.
Ten years ago, however, she was herself and we had a fantastic time in Israel. The Christmas Day tour was one of the highlights.
Christianity is so embedded in American culture that it’s hard for many Christians to imagine how little Jews know about it beyond the public displays of Yuletide joy.
We Jews are often skittish about anything Christian because we’ve been on the receiving end of some pretty horrific events over the last 2,000 years.
And yet, three-quarters of the Christian Bible is the Jewish Bible. And Jesus walked, talked, prayed, lived, and taught as a Jew.
I am grateful that we now live in an age when our peoples are coming closer every day for the purpose of sharing wisdom and breaking bread together, without needing to convince each other that “my way is best.”
When Mom and I toured the Old City on Christmas, we visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and walked the Via Dolorosa. We didn’t connect with those sites the way a pious Christian might, but we did connect powerfully with the story of a Jew who was martyred by Rome, just as many of our Sages were.
In the attached photo, we’re standing in the Jaffa Gate of the Old City. Just two days ago in that spot, terrorists murdered Rabbi Reuven Biermacher, a beloved rabbi of the Aish HaTorah Spanish program – may his memory always be for a blessing.
From time to time, Israel experiences a wave of violence designed to grab headlines. During such periods, Jews living in the diaspora often curtail or cancel their visits to the Holy Land.
Christians, on the other hand, still come in large numbers. Now more than ever, these visits matter. It’s always a profound, transformative, personal experience to visit Israel, but the effect extends beyond the individual.
Visiting Israel is good for Israel, good for the Jews, and good for all people who love God and peace. It can absolutely be done safely, and it is vital that terrorists not dictate when and how we connect with the holiest place on Earth.
So, on behalf of my mom and me, it is with deep feeling and great love that I wish all of our Christian friends a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!
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