Living the Bible
When you live in Israel, the Bible pops out for you in ways that just aren’t possible anywhere else.
When I drive to meet with a client, I follow the signs to Jerusalem. As I cross into the city limits, I pass a big metal sign that says Bruchim HaBaim l’Yerushalayim (Welcome to Jerusalem). The very word Yerushalayim is poetry in my mouth. And it’s part of my everyday life.
Right after that sign, I pass through a tunnel, named for Naomi Shemer, the First Lady of Israeli song and poetry. Shemer composed the famous song Yerushalayim Shel Zahav (Jerusalem of Gold).
Exiting the tunnel, I see Har HaBayit (the Temple Mount) on my left. Right now, the view is dominated by a gold dome belonging to another religion, but someday soon, we pray it will be the home of the Third and permanent Holy Temple. As I pass the Temple Mount, I say the Hebrew equivalent of these words:
Recently, I asked my Facebook friends what parts of their daily lives connect them most to the Hebrew Bible and to Jewish history.
A number of people responded that the street names in Israel make the Bible come alive. In the city where I live, there’s a neighborhood where all the streets are named for instruments in the Bible. In Israel, we name our streets for Biblical prophets, for famous rabbinic personalities, for the Twelve Tribes and for the spices that were used to make incense in the Holy Temples.
On our way to do errands, we drive past the burial places of the sons of Yaakov (Jacob). We look at empty hills from our living room windows and imagine they look very much like what Abraham and Sara saw. When we hike, we walk the same paths our Biblical ancestors walked.
On our way home from the grocery store, we pass the locations of Biblical events such as the Ella Valley, where David slew Goliath. On our way to work, we pass the sign for Anatot, which was the home town of the prophet Jeremiah. Many of us who live in the Greater Jerusalem area are a bus ride away from the Kotel. Twenty minutes from my apartment by car is the place where Joshua and the Jewish people crossed over the Jordan River.
The weather in Israel fits in with the Biblical holidays and with the cycle of prayer. And whether we travel by bus or car, we see signs for ancient towns like Elonei Mamre, Efrata, Nazareth, Tiberias, Tzfat, Bet Lechem, Tzippori and Caesarea.
There are over 20 cities in the United States named Shilo. In Israel, we have the original Shilo.
As Chaim David Targan wrote about living in Israel, “Every breath you take.... Every step you take... is in kedusha (holiness). There are concentric circles of kedusha - the highest from the Kodesh Kodashim (the Holy of Holies), then heading outward. Everyone, Jew or Gentile, feels it. They just don't know what hit them...”
I end with this thought. When you go to pray or study at Kever Rachel (the Tomb of Rachel), a 25-minute drive from my home, there’s a hospitality area where you can get a cup of coffee. The photo above is a disposable coffee cup with an iconic image of the Tomb of Rachel, in which you can drink your coffee at the actual Tomb of Rachel.
In Israel, we know how to combine the holy and the mundane like nobody’s business.
Photo credit: Yehudis Schamroth
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