From among the great myths of civilization there rises a mountain. Jewish people believe that their ancestor Abraham nearly killed his son on that mountain, the near sacrifice, a proof of the love bond between God and Israel, would continue forever. Generations later a man named Jesus pursued a life of mysticism and wisdom; he was crucified upon that same hilltop, and his death affords eternal salvation in the eyes of his believers. Generations later a man named Muhammad wrote in his Quran of a night flight where has ascended the heavens and spoke with the angels – liftoff from the mountain called Jerusalem.
For thousands of years humanity has been drawn after these mythologies of the mountain. Jerusalem has become what is called the ‘axis mundi’ – the place where the earthly realm is tied to the heavens, as above so below, a pillar for the divine realm to drip its medicine down. As quickly as we’ve moved through the Enlightenment, Postmodernism and the Death of God, the experience of being human, in all of its mystery, still produces profound feelings of gratitude and guilt, that we seek to placate by all the means available to us. There is still a profound need for the sacrificial bond espoused in the ancient myths, which bestows human beings an opportunity to offer gratitude and receive atonement. Jerusalem remains a symbol for Jews, Christians and Muslims, that God looks upon our world with favor.
At some point in history the mantle of leadership is transferred from the mythmakers and storytellers to politicians and generals. Nations draw boundaries over the earth, claiming ownership and right, as if a human being or even a nation could ever own the earth. The significance of the symbol, of the mountain, of Jerusalem, occupies unclear territory. We believe with our rational mind that we’ve outgrown the need for magic, myth, and symbol. But still, we continue to turn toward Jerusalem.
Most of those invested in the story of Palestine and Israel, the region and the world, will agree that this move has little political consequence. The peace process is a dead façade for occupation, but what Trump really puts at risk, are the lives of Israelis and Palestinians who may die in the fallout from his erroneous decision. What has been stolen though, is a symbol – Jerusalem, the city of peace, a homeland to the Palestinian people. Of all people, Jews can understand how profound the symbol of homeland can be, and the gravity of the sin of its theft.
How big is your ‘We?’ Does it include your friends and family, your neighbors, the ones you like, and the ones you don’t, those who serve your God and those who serve another? Until my neighbors have a homeland, my homeland is incomplete.
Rabbi Zach Fredman