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“Many of us who travel to Israel frequently risk becoming jaded,” writes Menachem Z. Rosensaft in the Washington Post‘s On Faith section. “We lose sight of Israel’s true significance.”

Rosensaft is an adjunct Professor of Law at Cornell Law School, a Lecturer in Law at Columbia Laws School, a Distinguished Visiting Lecturer at Syracuse University College of Law and Vice President of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants.

He describes a recent trip to Jerusalem to participate in a bar mitzvah at the Western Wall. The service is “simultaneously moving and more than a bit chaotic. The plaza is filled with different family groups each calling a 13-year-old to the Torah for the first time.” 

Rosensaft writes:

On Friday morning, we go to the museum at Yad Vashem, Israel’s national memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. Warsaw Ghetto cobblestones. A model of the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Reflections and echoes of murdered Jewish children whose ghosts haunt the galleries and, henceforth, our subconscious.

After visiting elsewhere in the City of David, he notes:

It is also far too often forgotten that during close to two decades of Jordanian rule, from 1948 until 1967. Jews were forbidden to set foot in the old city of Jerusalem and much of the Jewish Quarter was destroyed and desecrated.

Emerging into the sun-lit Judean hills, we have a new appreciation of Israel’s critical role as a haven for any Jew threatened by persecution anywhere in the world.

We return to the Western Wall where Rabbi Jay Marcus, a Staten Island rabbi who settled in Israel a few years ago, guides us through the tunnels that have been excavated alongside what had been one of the retaining walls of the Temple Mount in Herodian times.

Of course Jerusalem is sacred to Christians and Muslims as well as to Jews. But the city is central only to Judaism.

He adds: “Jerusalem must be experienced, not just visited, to be absorbed and understood.”

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