When I brush my fingertips along the contours of the ancient stone that make up the Western Wall, I hope to connect in some way to what is arguably the most important remains of the most important structure in Jewish history. Yet, upon each trip to the Wall, I find that there are no tears, no extraordinary emotional encounters. To trace my fingers along the Wall is, for me, a relatively mundane experience.
Still, I talk to G-d. I pray for people who need prayer. I pray for myself. But, for the most part, I don’t feel anything particularly special.
After all, it is extraordinarily difficult to connect to the remains of a structure that existed nearly 2000 years ago.
Yet, in my time as an intern with Israel ScaVentures I have found something quite unique taking place. On an essential level, the various scavenger hunts aim to help participants recognize that they themselves are an active component to Jerusalem’s legendary history.
As I watch the teams of children and parents explore the ancient streets of the Old City, working together to complete the various mission statements, I have come to appreciate that Israel ScaVentures animates not only the city walls, but also Jerusalem’s narrative that they are so intimately apart of.
The most satisfying moment is when the teams complete the Old City tour in Batei Machseh Square. Under the shade of one of the trees, the teams gather by the wall that has etched in its stone the prophecy from Zechariah 8:5- “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Old men and old women will again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each man with his staff in his hand because of age. ‘And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in the streets.’
It is a beautiful moment when the participants become conscious that, through the scavenger hunts, they themselves have fulfilled the prophecy that has been a part of Jewish tradition for thousands of years.
It is a moment of awe, a moment of taking a step back and looking up at the magnificent Jerusalem stone and recognizing how miraculous it is for Jews to be standing, laughing, and playing in a place that, 75 years ago, was an impossible dream for our grandparents in Europe.
Yet, that impossible dream has become the most extraordinary reality.
And that extraordinary reality unfolds into the very ordinary events of daily life. It has, thank G-d, become ordinary for children to play in the streets, for tourists to navigate the alleyways, for people to conduct their lives as they wish.
For me, while brushing my fingertips along the Western Wall or any other part of the Old City for that matter may not always be filled with uninhibited emotion, I am okay with that. I am okay with the mundane. Because it is the very reality of the mundane that bears testimony to the very un-mundane circumstances that have made it possible to write about Jerusalem from Jerusalem itself.