‘I went to Rome and Found Jerusalem’


ed note–underscoring yet again how integral to understanding the present situation the entire Rome/Judea paradigm is.

Times of Israel

Sometimes, you encounter Jerusalem in absentia.

It happened to me once. I was walking through the Pantheon in Rome.

The ceiling curved above me, the gilded walls loomed all around me, and I knew that I was supposed to look up at that marvel of Roman architecture, and feel awed.

But I didn’t feel awe.

I didn’t feel admiration.

I looked at that beautiful building, and laughed.

The emperor who commissioned the Pantheon — Emperor Hadrian — ordered the execution of one of our greatest sages, Rabbi Akiva.

Rabbi Akiva supported Bar Kochva’s rebellion and the bid for Jewish independence.

Bar Kochva lost.

Rabbi Akiva was executed.

Hadrian won.

Or did he?

I looked around again at that glorious relic, that beautiful monument to Hadrian’s grandeur. And all I saw were dead stones and dusty, stale accomplishment. But when I closed my eyes I saw Jerusalem, where Rabbi Akiva’s heritage is still very much alive.

I saw children reciting the prayer “Sh’ma Israel” in their classrooms. Rabbi Akiva uttered the same prayer with his last breath. Jerusalem’s children are repeating it in the mornings, as they embark on new adventures and harbor new dreams.

I saw Poetry Slams where sophisticated young Jerusalemites mention Rabbi Akiva’s sayings, finding new meaning in his ancient words.

I saw young mothers inspiring their children to live by Rabbi Akiva’s edict that you should “love your friend as yourself, this is the most important rule in the Torah,” by taking them to volunteer in Jerusalem’s hospitals. I saw the same children giving up their seats on the bus to let a pregnant women sit comfortably. And I saw the same pregnant woman helping an elderly Russian-speaker step onto the curb.

I saw the descendants of Rabbi Akiva’s generation shopping for groceries in the shuk and eating falafel downtown and dancing in Safra Square on Independence Day.

I saw the dream of Jewish sovereignty, the very dream which Rabbi Akiva championed and died for, come to life.

The Roman empire crashed the Bar Kochva rebellion. But it didn’t crash the spirit that inspired it. It didn’t crash what Rabbi Akiva stood for in his life.

“Sorry, Hadrian,” I whispered to the gilded walls when I opened my eyes. “This building sure is nice, but you lost.”

And then I walked out of the Pantheon, humming “Na na banana” under my breath.

  1. #1 by stlonginus on 05/15/2017 - 12:02 pm

    The person who wrote this reminiscence is Rachel Sharansky Danziger.

    According to Ms. Danziger’s bio which appears in the side bar of the blog, she “is a lifelong resident of Jerusalem and a keen observer of its colorful spiritual and human scene. She recently completed her M.A in American History, and continues to explore questions of religion, emotions, and social relations both in history and in real life.”

    So why is she focusing on Hadrian? Since Ms. Danziger has an M.A. in American History, one would think she would apply herself to writing about American history, such as the lives of the American Presidents. Perhaps the life of ‘honest’ Abraham Lincoln would interest her.

    According to Naphtali J. Rubinger, in his book titled, “Abraham Lincoln and the Jews” Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise gave a eulogy on Lincoln wherein he stated, “Brethren, the lamented Abraham Lincoln believed himself to be bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. He supposed himself to be a descendant of Hebrew parentage. He said so in my presence.” (pg. 42, Jonathan David Publishers, New York 1962)

    On that same page also appears the following: “Another interesting insight into Lincoln’s regard for the Jews is evidenced by a conversation that he had with a certain Henry Monk, who approached the President on the idea of establishing the Jews in Palestine. Lincoln’s response was: ‘I myself have a regard for the Jews. My chiropodist is a Jew, and he has so many times ‘put me on my feet’ that I would have no objection to giving his countrymen a ‘leg up'”.

    According to the American Jewish Archives (dot org), “Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise (1819-1900) was the leading organizational genius behind the rise of American Reform Judaism in the late 19th century. He played a central role in the founding of three major Reform Jewish institutions that still exist today: The Union of American Hebrew Congregations [1873], now the Union for Reform Judaism, the parent body of Reform synagogues; the Hebrew Union College [1875], the Reform movement’s rabbinical seminary; and the Central Conference of American Rabbis [1889], the Reform rabbinical association.”

    As for Henry Monk, I presume it is Henry Wentworth Monk described by Wiki as a “Canadian Christian Zionist, mystic, Messianist, and millenarian. Some have credited him with predicting the formation of the United Nations and both World Wars, although these claims are of questionable scholarly merit.

    Perhaps this era of American history would be more suited to Ms. Danziger’s erudition.

    Here is an article dated Feb. 23, 2015, from Israel Today on which Ms. Danziger may wish to expound.
    http://www.israeltoday.co.il/NewsItem/tabid/178/nid/26112/Default.aspx

    Or perhaps this article on the sayanim would arouse Ms. Danziger’s interest:
    http://www.shapell.org/exhibitions/with-firmness-in-the-right-lincoln-the-jews/issachar-zacharie/

  2. #2 by 5 dancing shlomos on 05/16/2017 - 5:47 am

    ‘i went to jerusalem and found it turned into hell’

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