During one of my first visits to Jerusalem, on Tu Bishvat, the early spring New Year of Trees, my then fiance Avraham and I climbed the stairs to a rooftop on a building in Mount Zion, in the Old City.
The feeling evoked my childhood ascents to “the bluff,” a small hill near our Ranch in the Texas Hill Country, where I could turn around and see a 360 degree panorma of hills in the distance surrounding the hill upon which I stood. Here again, I experienced that “peak” feeling of standing at the center of a circle.
We stood as if in the center of a series of concentric circles—the rim of the rooftop, the ancient walls, Greater Jerusalem itself—its many slopes covered to the east with stone hoses and sheep, with innumerable graves of Muslims, Christians, and Jews; to the west with a modern city; and everywhere dotted with study pines and fragile blossoms. The outermost ring was formed by the Judean hills. Over all arched a sky of the most delicately pastel, powder blue particular of Mediterranean countries; techelet as it is called in Modern Hebrew, echoing the word for the deep royal blue fringe of the biblical tallit.
Why, I wondered, to innumerable generations of my ancestors who had faithfully recited, “Next year in Jerusalem,” at every Yom Kippur and every Seder, were those hills and impassable wall, while to me they were a gate? Why was I the one privileged to be in Jerusalem now? I stood there in the center of Jerusalem for all the ancestors before me, for all the descendants to come.
Although I remained dry-eyed at the monuments and historic places in Israel, at this simple rooftop spot my tears of awe and gratitude flowed freely.
–Rabbi Julie Hilton Danan
Featured Image: Mount Zion, 1849, by George Williams via Wikimedia