What a week! Spent in the holy city of Yerushalayim as we celebrated 50 years since reunification. A week I will never forget.
I will never forget that Shacharit on the morning of 28th Iyar at the Kotel with tens of thousands of people at the exact time when we returned to our spiritual home.
I will never forget dancing and singing with hundreds of thousands of people, waving their flags and giving thanks to Hashem on the march of the flags.
I will never forget the feeling of pride and joy at the singing of Hatikvah at the end of day of learning with Rabbi Sacks, Rabbi Mirvis, Rabbi Lau, Natan Sharansky and the three paratroopers in that iconic photo.
Unfortunately, not all Jews felt the joy and gratitude that I and many thousands of others did, and regretfully some of my time in Israel was spent replying to their accusations. Here is my side of the story:
Twitter is a remarkable means of communication.
Last week, I was heavily involved in preparation for our momentous Mizrachi UK mission for Yom Yerushalayim 50, when the chair of Yachad decided to mention Rabbi Sacks and me in a tweet he sent highlighting an article in Haaretz that he liked.
My interest piqued, I opened the article and was greeted with the following headline.
‘Rabbi Sacks, Why Are You Cheerleading for anti-Palestinian Provocateurs?’
The subtitle: ‘ As a key modern Orthodox leader, think again about joining Jerusalem Day marchers who scream ‘Death to Arabs’, promoting one of the most contentious of all Israeli settlements, and the consequences for Diaspora Jews’
I was genuinely puzzled, the article was referring to the mission that was being organised by World Mizrachi and which Mizrachi UK and Rabbi Sacks are proudly taking part. I had no idea what on earth the writer was talking about. There is a flag march which hundreds of thousands of celebrating Jews of all ages march from the Great Synagogue on King George Street to the Old City of Jerusalem. Rabbi Sacks will be joining in the singing and dancing at the Great Synagogue and Mizrachi UK along with World Mizrachi will be singing and dancing all the way to the Jaffa Gate which is where the march for Mizrachi officially ends.
The fact that some idiots will use this opportunity to act and speak in a vile way is in no way reflective of Rabbi Sacks, the Mizrachi movement or Mizrachi UK – and it is offensive to make such a connection.
Rav Doron Perez, the head of World Mizrachi correctly said earlier this week in the Jerusalem Post ‘ I can say unequivocally that any provocation of any citizen of Jerusalem, Jew or non Jew, Muslim or Christian, is absolutely anti-thetical to core basic Jewish values and we would totally distance ourselves from it’
So instead of focusing on this inaccurate distraction, let’s remind ourselves why this week was such a momentous and proud one for the Jewish people. We celebrated the Yovel, our 50th anniversary of the sovereign return of the Jewish people to the ancient and Holy City of Jerusalem for the first time in over 1900 years. The vast majority of Jews who were in Jerusalem proudly and correctly celebrated the 50th anniversary of one of the greatest days in modern Jewish history – the day we got back our soul – Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish nation.
As I stood by the Kotel on Yom Yerushalayim, surrounded by thousands of Jews from all over the world, I felt a connection to my faith and heritage unlike one I have ever felt before. Here was I standing in a place where just 50 years no Jews had been allowed to enter, yet where today we can celebrate a modern day miracle that bought Jews back to Jerusalem. I saw pride and emotion in the faces of those around me, young and old, and had a renewed and profound sense of the centrality of Jerusalem to our Jewish identity wherever we live in the world.
Of course, there are those who have different opinion. We are a people, as Rabbi Sacks has said, whose texts are “anthologies of arguments”. But less us not lose fact of the overwhelming sense of achievement and pride that we feel for all that the remarkable people of Israel have achieved – both in times of war and in those of peace.
Mizrachi UK and World Mizrachi made sure that this Yom Yerushalayim was unlike any other, connected to Jerusalem in a way that we have never done before. Over 1000 people came to Jerusalem as part of our global delegation, including Rabbinic and community leaders and our 35 Mizrachi high school students. It was an historic moment and provided all of us privileged to be there with a memorable experience of the positive, inspirational, life affirming events in Jerusalem.
Now that is something worth tweeting about!