Last week, in the Morasha district of downtown Jerusalem, a group of Canadians attended the dedication of a newly renovated community centre that will be a hub for social, educational and cultural services for all of the residents in the area.
The centre has been called Canada House by the Jerusalem Foundation, the non-profit agency started by the late former mayor of the city, Teddy Kollek, that spearheaded the project. The name attests to the fact that Canadian philanthropists have been the catalysts for the project and instrumental in providing its funding. (Please see the story on page 3)
It is fitting that the dedication of the new centre occurred merely days prior to Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day), the day set aside to commemorate and celebrate the reunification of east and west Jerusalem, the Old City with the new city, on the 28th day of Iyar, June 7, 1967.
The Jordanian army had expelled the Jewish community from the Old City 19 years earlier, during Israel’s War of Independence, and brutishly tried to destroy all vestiges of Jewish life and history there. Synagogues were destroyed; burial places were desecrated. Disfiguring barbed wire fences cut the city into its two parts. Large, ugly cement slabs blocked any movement between the areas.
The barbed wire was taken down and the cement blocks were removed 46 years ago. The city was physically, geographically and municipally reunited. Since then, its modernization and beautification have continued unabated.
As poets, songwriters and travel writers have noted, Jerusalem is a golden city of unique, arresting beauty.
Its diverse peoples fill the streets with the sounds of movement, commerce, music, laughter, learning, discourse, argument and shouting.
But despite the city’s sheer physical beauty, it aches and throbs with intra-communal tensions – Jew against Jew – and inter-societal tensions – Jew against Arab.
The city is not yet fully at peace, although that is our dream and our hope.
And that is partially why the Canada House project is so worthy of our commendation. It will become a meeting place where Jews and Arabs, haredi and non-haredi Jews, will come together to advance and improve their own respective lives. In the process they will meet each other. They will talk to each other. They may even befriend each other.
The millennial dream of the Jewish return to Zion has been fulfilled.
The millennial aspiration of Zion’s restoration, however, is still unfinished. In truth, in a real and symbolic way, it must always be thus if we are to allow each generation through eternity to add its measure of love and devotion to that wondrous place.
Despite the ongoing task that remains, on the 46th celebration of Yom Yerushalayim, we shall take the prophet’s words to heart and celebrate. “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her all you who love her.”