There are days at the office, and there are days at the office. Then there are days when you get to run around in period WWII clothing, firing WWII Ukrainian-made rifles at Nazi Zombies.
If you like it, show some love on youtube and visit Group935 for more info!
This would be a great little series to shoot. <hint> <producers> <hint>
This blog was written for the RJCLP Program and the Jewish Federation’s Centennial Mission to Israel.
In spacetime, the separation between two events is measured by the interval between the two events, which takes into account not only the spatial separation between the events, but also their temporal separation. — Wikipedia, “Spacetime”
We are walking the streets of Tel Aviv. I feel at home here. I always do. It’s my fourth time in Israel. I’ve done this before. I’ve seen this before. I’ve been here with my family, I’ve taken tours, I’ve been on Birthright. I am not easily impressed. But something is different this time. It’s just a feeling.
We go to Neve Tzedek, where Tel Aviv began. We go to Rothschild Boulevard and The Dizengoff House, where modern-day Israel began (declared by a Russian Jew named David Grun and I stand just feet from where he stood, listening to his words). We walk from the ancient port of Jaffa to our hotel in Tel Aviv; it takes half an hour, but we traverse a history of nearly 10,000 years.
I’m starting to feel it, the density. But no, not yet. It’s just a fleeting feeling and I return to my escape, hiding safely behind my camera. I take pictures.
An hour on the bus, and we’re in Caesaria, in the Roman Empire at its height. Our guide, Boris, points out the Cardo – the Roman “heartline” of the city. Another hour and we’re in Haifa, where my grandfather lived under Turkish rule in 1914. Then back to Jaffa easily in time for dinner. Israel is small. I know this. It’s nothing new. Two hours and we’re in Jerusalem.
It’s starting to form, this feeling. I take more pictures. I take 2,000 in the course of 8 days.
We walk to the Old City, where the first Jewish state began. I touch the Western Wall, but it does not touch me. I’m too far removed by generations of Sovietization. Too logical and skeptical. After all, this now-holiest site is but the outer wall to the complex built for the actual holiest site which is forever lost to us. Just a few yards away in one tiny spot fought over by nearly every major power in the name of their god and empire, lies the first piece of land created by God — a rock, if you will. I turn to go. Then I see the soldiers. Their large black automatic rifles bounce against them like toys as they dance and sing joyfully in a circle with ultra-orthodox men in their long black coats. I am touched.
There is no bus tour today. This day is Shabbat, the holy day of the week observed by our nation for millennia in this very city. Today we walk Jerusalem. Every quarter, every corner, every angle I can point my camera at has it. That feeling. Every story Boris tells us brings it into sharper focus. Construction-Destruction-Defiance-Survival-Reconstruction-Repeat.
It finally hits me. Not at a holy site, although every square inch here is holy to me. Rather, at what might look like a ditch with columns. I take picture number 1,462. It’s not a ditch, Boris tells us, it’s the Cardo some 15 feet below “ground level.” In between where we walk and that ditch 15 feet below us is 1500 years of Jerusalem on top of Jerusalem. Of Jewish people living, building, suffering, surviving, rebuilding. 100 years of time per foot of space, with many more centuries below it. That’s density. That’s the feeling I’ve been relegating to the back of my mind and can no longer repress.
My physics lessons flood to my mind. Einstein taught us in the theory of relativity that time itself can appear to slow down dependent upon the velocity of the observer and the gravity (a function of dense mass displacing the fabric of space-time) of the area. He hadn’t been here yet, but surely he would have felt it here as I do now. In space, distance is measured in light-years – the 6 trillion miles that a beam of light traverses in the course of a year. In Jerusalem, one foot is equal to 100 years. Coincidentally, Einstein too, was a Zionist.
Now it all comes together. When we first arrived, someone told us that the distance between us and our ancestors – our families – that were driven from here in to the Diaspora is approximately 120 generations. My family may have left and returned multiple times, others stayed the entire time, but WE have been here for thousands of years. No. I take it back. We have not been here for thousands of years. This is not ancient history. We have only been here for 15 feet. Close enough to touch, see, feel and breathe the entire history of our people.
From the birth of our nation in Jerusalem to Mossada – where the last Jewish state officially ended in a heroic stand of defiance against the greatest power in the world – to the birth of our new state at Independence Hall – where proclaimed our right to have a home, not just some arbitrary place on this planet but in the place we created, built and lived in for thousands of years – we not just from here, we are OF here.
As the Romans had their Cardo – the through line of their cities – we have Israel: an unbroken continuum, the through line of our nation. Once again, and in a much, much deeper way, I am home.