I met a girl who was a mixture of Mexican and Sephardic Jewish. She went on a trip to Israel to connect with her heritage. I asked her where she went in Israel and she said Tel-Aviv. I was a little surprised. Diaspora Jews have said for the last 2000 or more years — “next year in Jerusalem”. But, after being outside of Israel for 1900 years and then her mom spending one generation in Israel and then coming to America and then going back to Israel, she did not even go to Jerusalem? How can you not go to Jerusalem? Even if you are Christian or Muslim it is still a holy city for you. Even Hindus find it holy. According to Hindu legend, Sri Rama Rama Rama Rama spend a day recovering from a long camel ride several thousand years ago in Jerusalem which is not a very well documented fact.
The fact is that Jews have always regarded their spiritual capital as being in Jerusalem, and any other city in Israel or the Middle East with Jewish history (which is most of them if you go back far enough) is secondary. No trip to Israel is complete with a trip to Jerusalem (or El-Uds as the local Palestinians call it.) Jerusalem is the spiritual home of all Jews.
So, based on my recent experience, I think that the saying, “Next year in Jerusalem” should be changed to , “Next year in Tel-Aviv…. or Jerusalem, whichever I can get a better hotel rate on one of those websites where you can get the best hotel matching your specifications for the lowest price.” or perhaps, “Next year in Tel-Aviv… or Jerusalem… whichever is cheaper… or whichever is closer or more convenient.” Speaking of cheapness, I just cheapened a 2000 year tradition. What will people say?
If you go to Shanghai, you could get Shanghaid. If you go to Hong Kong you could get Hong Konged. But, if you go to Jerusalem could you get Jerusalemed? What would that even mean? Would that mean that you get kidnapped by ultra-orthodox bearded men, pass out, and when you awake you find yourself in dark room wearing a long black coat, a furry black hat, a tsit-tsat (biblical garment with four white strings hanging down from the pelvic area) with peyeses (hair that hangs from your sideburns) hanging off your hair in front of your ears with a Torah in your left hand and an Ari in your right (and a chess set not far away either) while others around you are reading the Ana Be-Koach? And then when they finish their prayer they tell you,
RABBI: “Octavio, you thought you were Mexican, but you are one of our people. You were accidentally switched at birth, and we have spent your entire life looking for you. Finally we found you (as you were dancing cabradita) and have brought you back to your real people and your true calling. You are one of us… Baruch ha-shem!”
OCTAVIO: “No wonder. I always saw myself as somehow being different. Every time we hit the pinata with sticks, I always thought — this is not really me. How can this be my tradition? Why do we do this? What is the deeper meaning of life? Now that I have been ‘Jerusalemed’ I know who I really am. Let me redo my hat so there are little balls hanging from strings on all sides of the brim like they do in Espana… there we go… perfect. Now it is time for lunch. I will have cochinita pibil like I always do…”
RABBI: “Cochinita pibil? You may never eat that again for the rest of your life. That is pork and it is forbidden!”
OCTAVIO: “In that case, you might be my people, but I cannot live with you. If a man cannot eat, then a man cannot live!”
RABBI: “Try some of our food. Persian blackened rice and cous-cous.”
OCTAVIO: “Hmmm. I’ll eat this today. But, I must go back to my people in Mexico. After all. I have kids!”
So, now we know why Jews return to Jerusalem and why it is such an important city. We also know what it means to be Jerusalemed. But, we do not know what it means to be Tel-Avived. Maybe we will find out in our next episode.