Earl Shugerman, will bring every week a serie of stories about Anglo-Saxon immigrants to Israel. This project is aimed to promote a more realistic view of life in Israel.
Chaya is a form of the Hebrew word for life. It is also the name of my favourite cousin in Jerusalem.
She is Orthodox and by the age of thirty has six wonderful children. She is also an American Oleh. Her family immigrated to Israel, two decades ago. Their intention was to be in the holiest city of the holiest nation on earth. My pride and joy is her three year old son El Chanon. El Chanon is a handsome, brilliant, and very precocious young man with dark hair, brown eyes, and a very enchanting but somewhat sly smile. His mom refers to him as a walking Chamsin (turbulent storm), and his proud grandma jokes that he is Israel’s greatest threat to stability.
Needless to say, life has special meaning to the Jewish people considering the struggles of the past five thousand years culminating with the Holocaust. The heart of Israel is the holy city. For two thousand years Jews living in exile annually chanted “Next Year in Jerusalem”. Jerusalem is the soul of Judaism, the heart of the Jewish homeland.
“Without Jerusalem there is no Israel“. David Ben-Gurion stated emphatically to Mickey Marcus, Israel’s first Aloof (General) during the 1948 battle for the city.
Marcus was an American volunteer. Chaya, like most residents of the holy city takes great pride in giving guided tours of her beloved metropolis.
During my last visit, we enjoyed touring the city on Israel’s double decker bus 99. El Chanon managed to get into everything and talk to everyone to the merriment of all, including our bus driver Haim, a resident of the city for forty years and proud grandfather.
The 99 bus navigates a route of both scenic and cultural interest. Mount Scopus boasts a visage encompassing the Old City, the Temple Mount and Bethlehem. As the Old City passes into the remote distance, the New boasts iconographic sites. The Knesset houses Israel’s parliament. The Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial is a poignant reminder of a lost world – the 6 million Jews that perished in humanities most insidious crime. However, the Israel Museum is a testimony to Jewish endurance. It exhibits Judaic items both past and present.
By the end of the tour many of the travellers felt like old friends. Next year in Jerusalem is now.
About the author: Earl Shugerman is a retired American Government public relations specialist, currently spokesperson in Haifa for The Jewish Agency and a writer specializing in interfaith relations. He has worked together with the Catholic and Southern Baptist Movements, the Reformed Jewish Movement and Muslim groups in interfaith activities.