Walls come in all sort and kind of forms, matters and shapes. The obvious ones are physical, others are spiritual, mental, religious, cultural, hereditary, political and intellectual. Some, these too come in a range of diversity, keep others or the unknown out, while some keep them contained, still others, even captive. One way or another they are conceived to offer protection, for those inside or the outside. However such protection can, especially over time, solidify into a false sense of security, even a way of life that is being taken for granted as a norm, instead of artificial or forced oddity, one to be questioned and even fought against. Walls can limit the risks but can also result in a lack or break of a dialogue, it in turn, leading to unavoidable narrowing of perspectives and mutual understanding or contraction of visions and minds.
Jerusalem, this is a land that has inspired legends, myths and mysticism which have not just impelled the course and evolution of our humanity, its religious beliefs, cultures and politics but also, throughout our history, been the source of endless dreams, desires, conflicts and conquests. Throughout history, every major empire has made a point of conquering this city, not just for its riches but for its multidimensional symbolism. They came from around the world, they saw and they conquered, often at truly devastating consequences. And yet it has survived. Maybe it has done so precisely thanks to and because of these numerous walls upon walls and walls? It has rebuild over and over, still continuing as the very soulful essence, the core and pride of our humanity, all that we believe in and despite our disparities also share.
The issuing reflections are probably the most complex of all of those I have written until now, difficult and troublesome for me to reflect upon and even more so verbalize. Nonetheless, I feel a deep need to face a challenge of distilling and then sharing my personal thoughts and observations on this perplexing topics. At the same time I am well aware of the displeasure and anger, even wrath of those readers who, for their own personal reasons, will differ, disagree, be infuriated by or dismissive of my ideas, opinions, perspectives and analyses I am about to express. But intellectual discourse is not just healthy and crucial but moreover vital to our evolution as human and social beings designed to coexist with each other.
And so, following are my reflections on the encounter with both the Israel as well as the West Bank, the Jews and the Palestinians, both of whom, for the most part, were willing to share their perspectives and visions of their current situation as well as their sense of what the future may hold for them personally and for their respective lands and countries. Given so many facets to each and all of the issues I have found myself exposed to, the issuing thoughts and observations will most likely seem spontaneous, reflective of not just an overloaded brain but one in a turmoil. Nevertheless, I trust that some of you will find reading of this blog thought provoking. It was a rush for me and I hope that this will come through.
It was a wonderful thrill to be invited to conduct my creative workshops for the Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, a country I only vaguely recall visiting as a boy who did not yet understand the deeper meaning and symbolism of this land. And so now, for me, for many reasons, it was also the most meaningful and self probing journey. First of all, I am Jewish. Furthermore, since that first visit, I myself became a political refugee from a country, one of many, which has had centuries old history and tradition of oppressive anti-Semitism. Some say such is passed on from a generation to generation in the mother's milk. I elected to leave my former homeland due to its sudden and explosive intolerance, its willingly to, without questioning, permit it communist government to manipulate them without offering much, if any, resistance or thought, at least back then. I refused to be treated as a second grade citizen. So instead, I resigned from being a citizen and embarked for the unknown, becoming a yet another “wandering Jew”.
Much time has passed since, and while I have elected to continue the journey of this wandering Jew, I have also learned that many countries, if not most, have experienced or themselves practiced some form of prosecution against either its own people or a minority within, or another country under its dominance. In other words, humanity faces many issues we are determined not to face. It makes it so much easier.
Thus, just as it is in the case of most Jewish people, whether religious or not, going to Israel has a much greater a meaning than just a trip to another country. Israel is a symbol of the “Promised Land” Jewish people have been dreaming, praying, dying and fighting for over millenniums. Despite the fact that many have died for it, or maybe rather as an outcome of it, it came to being. Then, over a fleeting time since its 1948founding, it has evolved from an idea into a potent reality. In essence, at least for me personally, this dream is so potent, so meaningful because so many Jewish people perished for it in the Holocaust, as well as throughout ages and long into the distant past. Amongst those who did were family members of my own parents. As a little boy I recall being shocked by their stories of my ancestry, of hearing that a majority, around 95%, of their, and by default also my families, have perished during the war, including both of my father's parents, executed by Nazi as hostages. My mother’s family fled to Siberia. Grandma and her one brother were the only ones who, out of the 12 children, survived the last Holocaust.
Therefore those who endured such an insanity and such an inhuman persecution, deserved a meaningful recognition. Such was granted to them by the UN when it announced formation of Israel in the lands and deserts of the Middle East. Back then who knew what this action will result in. Or maybe they did, but yet were not sufficiently uneasy about it, or aware that the eventual outcome of their action will not surface till they were long gone? While some survivors of the Holocaust elected to remain in, or even return to the countries they lived in prior to the war, many others followed the millenniums long dream, packed the little they still owned and departed for Israel, the “Promised Land”. There, in this new land, one that was bestowed to them by the world’s dominant powers, they struggled and they fought against diverse and numerous elements, whether political, social, geographic, economic and any other one can think of. Against all odds, there they build their country of promise, transforming sand into a intoxicating reality.
Now, and for as long as this city stands, Jewish people from around the world will continue coming to its famed and ancient Praying Wall, doing so as a form of pilgrimage, a homage to pay to their mighty G-d.
Here they pray, many leaving behind the little scrolled up thoughts and wishes, maybe even hopes and dreams, squeezed in each and every cranny and crevice within this ancient, one and only, the Holly Wall.
And yet, even this Western, Holly, Praying Wall, one that is of such deep meaning to the Jewish people, this very Wall also continues to separate Jewish men from Jewish women. Some things never change…