by Emily Bernstein
I often say I made Aliyah to Jerusalem. I chose Jerusalem. In my eyes, Jerusalem was home. It was a place of mythical proportions. In Jerusalem, I could not forget that I was living in the Jewish state filled with my ancestor’s history.
In my eyes, Jerusalem was romantic.
The city, which is Israel’s capital, is romantic. It is mythic.
To go to Jerusalem, is literally to l’alot (go up) – physically and spiritually. In Jerusalem, a person is on a higher plain. From certain viewpoints, it is majestic – offering a peak into a narrative and collective identity that stretches back thousands of years. It is the epicenter of monotheistic religions.
But, it is also a modern city and a uniquely challenging one at that. While it is easy to be swept away by the Disney-esque scenery and to be engulfed by the emotional experience of being surrounded by so much history, the international Jewish community (in partnership with their fellow Jews living in Israel) needs to dig deeper, to take a walk down the path a little less taken, and discover the very real Jerusalem of today.
Jerusalem is Israel’s poorest city. It has the highest property taxes and receives the least amount of funding from the national government. Only 21.7 percent of its residents have a higher education. 5,101 young adults left the city in 2011. The population leaving the city is exactly the population with whom the majority of Diaspora Jews can identify and with whom they can feel a sense of camaraderie. However, signs of change can be seen and negative migration from the city decreases each year. The pluralistic residents of Jerusalem care enormously for their city. Jerusalem fosters activists.
Approached by Elisheva Mazya, CEO of New Spirit, and Dr. Elan Ezrachi, Educational Consultant and founding Director of MASA on behalf of the Yeru-Shalem Coalition, I was tasked with the goal of creating a newsletter that would expose Jerusalem’s active civil society and would give people a way to connect with Jerusalem from afar. The newsletter is intended to expose Jerusalem’s heartbeat, to highlight the people who work tirelessly to improve the city, to place a spotlight on the organizations that step up to the plate and meet the needs of its residents and to give expression to the culture that brings the city to life.
Excited by the prospect of meeting, interacting with, and writing about the wealth of people and organizations in Jerusalem who are taking ownership of the place they live and advancing its unique character, I quickly agreed to the opportunity. Indeed, all the opportunity Jerusalem offers and the unique qualities to be covered in the newsletter are exactly what made me fall in love with Jerusalem after making Aliyah four years ago; what made it my home.
Yet, it wasn’t until I actually started working on the newsletter that its true significance hit me.
Jerusalem is incredibly rich, but its richness, beyond its religious and historic significance, is often hidden to the untrained eye. The newsletter is a way to expose the Jerusalem of its residents, the day-to-day Jerusalem. But most importantly, it is an opportunity to find connecting points where the interests of people meet and sparks of change and partnership can begin. It is a step towards creating a greater sense of mutual ownership. Jerusalem, like Israel, needs its international family.
Join us on our journey and take ownership of Jerusalem.
If you are interested in receiving the newsletter, sign up here.