May 28, 2024
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A Christian’s Cry for Jerusalem and a Lesson for Us

Shlomo gives a tour to Lev HaTorah students. (Credit: The Temple Institute)

“Shlomo, you should know that we are with you on this tour.” With these words, Rhonda, a Christian woman who appeared to be in her mid-50s, began to speak the most meaningful comment I have heard in my young career leading tours in the Jerusalem Temple Institute (מכון המקדש).

I had just finished giving an overview of the significant events that have occurred on Har HaBayit—from creation itself to Akeidat Yitzchak, from the first and second Batei Mikdash to hopes of its rebuilding. Depictions of these biblical events were arranged throughout the room, helping the tourists relive each one as I told its story.

As Rhonda spoke, the room of more than 30 Christains from Utah fell silent.

“We have been on a journey for the past month, traveling to all the sites you just described. We went to Mount Sinai and to Shiloh, and now—” Rhonda’s eyes began to swell while she choked back her tears—“and now, we are at the pinnacle of our trip: here, learning about the Temple itself! We are so happy to be here with you.”

At the Temple Institute, I have collected many stories. There was the woman from Atlanta who donated a large box of her jewelry for the sake of rebuilding the Beit Hamikdash. Another highlight included a Christian mission from Brazil asking for the Jewish people’s priestly blessing (in an apparent reference to “ממלכת כהנים וגוי קדוש”) to prevent Lula da Silva from taking office as President of Brazil once again.

Yet, no story was quite as meaningful as that of Rhonda a few weeks ago. Her emotional connection to the Beit Hamikdash was palpable to everyone present. And, it was that emotional connection, I told her, that I wished my Jewish brethren would be able to feel as passionately as she did.

 

Rhonda’s Lesson for Us

What led to Rhonda’s cry?

As a devout Christian I am sure Rhonda read all Scripture could offer her on the Jerusalem Holy Temple. But she finally had an emotional connection once she saw would-be Temple vessels in person. It was firsthand experience of Jerusalem that made her Bible studies touch a chord.

Many of us visit Jerusalem but don’t experience it with the same emotion that Rhonda did.

For Rhonda, it was her first time in Jerusalem. Surely, our first visit to the Kotel was inspiring as well, but how many times can the same place bring one to elevated feelings?

Actually, the answer is many, many times, if an Old City visit is done right.

A trip to the Old City doesn’t need to have the same itinerary for every visit (the Kotel, the “Rova” and other classic sites). The Old City is a labyrinthine city—there are so many nooks and crannies, hidden sites and off-the-grid gems; there’s a host of history and religious significance waiting to be tapped into that a typical Jerusalem visit often misses!

The more we expand our Jerusalem palate, the more we’ll appreciate the city—both as a city of the past and as the city of our future.

 

Living the Dream;
Let Me Share It With You

Over the last two years, I have been blessed to live inside the Old City walls and explore many of its twists and turns. Without these experiences, my connection to Jerusalem would not be the same.

To sit by a gate of Har HaBayit on Tisha B’Av and lament over a razed Jerusalem as Arab women chant “Allah hu Akbar” and to descend the same Kidron Valley that is mentioned in the Mishna (Yoma 5:6, for example). To dance through the streets with the yeshiva-student-soldiers of a once occupied Jerusalem from ‘48 to ‘67 and to travel further back in time to the 1800s and see the communities of the students of the Vilna Gaon and the students of the Chatam Sofer. And, of course, to learn about the Beit Hamikdash itself and gain a sneak peek at what may soon be its vessels—these are experiences that books cannot fully convey.

I do not want to keep these experiences to myself. All Jews who come to Jerusalem should have an exhilarating visit.

Therefore, I recently launched Old City New Story, a project that includes a new traveling seminar (similar to a tour, but different) packed with Old City attractions and rooftops, secret gates and special guests that you are unlikely to find on a standard Old City tour.

But even if you don’t plan to come to Jerusalem soon, I’ll do my best to bring Jerusalem to you. In the coming weeks, look out for entertaining, educational and inspiring articles to connect you with lesser known Jerusalem—including a piece in The Jewish Link’s travel edition in August.

Yirmiyahu haNavi laments, צִיּ֣וֹן הִ֔יא דֹּרֵ֖שׁ אֵ֥ין לָֽה, Tzion [i.e., Jerusalem], no one seeks it out. If no one seeks out Jerusalem, it is our job to do so (Rosh Hashanah 30a). May it be Hashem’s will that our seeking out of lesser known Jerusalem helps bring the geula sheleima.


Shlomo Deutsch grew up in Teaneck, NJ, and now lives in the Old City. In his free time he enjoys learning from his students at Aish HaTorah and interacting with the many characters of the Old City. He recently launched Old City New Story, a project that shares the Old City’s less known attractions to make us feel more connected to our city. He wishes to share his Old City passion with you and can be reached by email at [email protected]

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