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Israel

Jerusalemites’ song and prayer drown out the violence

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Late on Sunday night, a group of young Jewish women gathered on a hill overlooking the Temple Mount, singing “Im eshkachech Yerushalayim tishkach yemini” (If I forget you Jerusalem, let my right hand wither.)

Our shoulders, donned in Israeli flags, swayed from side to side. During a brief break in singing, shots rang off in the distance. As the sirens began wailing, I grabbed onto the hand of my friend next to me. We closed our eyes and our voices rose.

I’m fortunate enough to wake up every morning in the Old City of Jerusalem. The view from my window overlooks East Jerusalem, and my neighbour flies an Israeli flag every morning. I can hear the sound of singing from the yeshiva next door, and I feel incredibly grateful to Hashem for the opportunity to be here.

Yom Yerushalayim began here on Sunday night. My midrasha group walked along the outer walls of the Old City, singing Tisch songs and looking out over the bright lights of Jerusalem.

We played guitar and banged on drums, our voices rising joyfully every few minutes. At the end of the night, after the shots and sirens had died down, we went down to the Kotel. In spite of the late hour, there were people everywhere. Women crying, men dancing, and children playing at their mothers’ feet.

The air on Monday morning was electrified. A sea of blue and white had taken over the Old City, and as I walked down to the Kotel, beautiful prayers filled my ears.

The davening was joyous, both sections packed with people singing Hallel, praising Hashem for the miracle of the recapture of the Old City.

Possibly the most spiritual part of the day happened right there, at the Kotel. Suddenly, in the midst of our prayer, loud, terrifying bangs rang out from the Temple Mount.

For minutes, these booms didn’t cease. I watched as soldiers ran along the perimeter of Har Habayit, as policemen appeared out of nowhere, and men and women began screaming their tefillot, which were being drowned out by the violence.

We were assured of our safety, but still many people got up and ran from the wall. I was one of them. As I looked behind me, however, I noticed the majority hadn’t moved. Their davening had simply been intensified, as they shouted out to Heaven, “The Lord is for me, I will not fear, what will man do to me?”

It was at that moment that I returned to my spot near the wall. The bangs ceased while our praying continued strongly. The day was hot, but as we danced in the streets later on, the sun only intensified our singing and sense of unity.

For three hours we walked, sang, and jumped. Just as we started to advance towards the Old City, I was pushed down onto the ground by my friends.

My phone beeped 10 times in succession, the main notification reading: “Rocket Alert: Jerusalem – East, Centre, and West.” My madrichim began shepherding us through the streets, while my WhatsApp went crazy with concerned messages from fellow midrasha students and concerned friends and family.

On our way to the safety of the midrasha, we passed hundreds of people still singing, dancing, and rejoicing. We all watched in shock and relative silence, processing the events that had taken place. I remarked to my friends, “Isn’t it crazy how they’re still praising Hashem, even in the midst of this chaos?”

It was an epiphany. Walking through the streets of Jerusalem in 30° heat, and all I could think about were the rockets, the fireworks, and the tefillot. I kept thinking how, in the face of terror and fear, we Jews place ourselves completely in the hands of G-d.

Trust and faith overcame panic, and we sang to G-d. As I danced and waved Israeli flags in the crowds that dominated Jerusalem that day, I was filled with immense gratitude, awe, and love. Love for Israel, love for am Yisrael, and love for G-d.

As I lay in bed that night, thankful for my safety and so proud of my Zionism, my thoughts kept circling back to one phrase, “Thank you Hashem.”

May we merit to recognise Hashem in our lives always, and may it not take violent attacks to bring about that recognition.

L’shana haba b’Yerushalayim in health, safety, and joy.

  • Dani Sack is on Bnei Akiva’s MTA gap year programme, studying at Midreshet Harova seminary in Jerusalem.

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