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The HOPE  |  Academy Papers  |  The Future of Israel and of Zionism

 

MEDITATIONS ON THE NAME OF JERUSALEM

Dr. Yitzhak I. Hayut-Ma'N.

 

The Middle East (M.E.), or Arab-Israeli, conflict seems to have a logic, or illogic, of its own, which often frustrates the good people who believe in rational solutions or "realistic approaches". ("Rational" literally means "related by division", and in the context of the M.E., it refers to schemes of territorial division or compromise). For those people, our part of the M.E. is full of "Conflicts and Contradictions" 1. At the core of these lies Zionism, and at the core of Zionism, or Tsion, is Jerusalem. Conventional wisdom seems to stop at the gates of Jerusalem (Note the explicit exclusion of Jerusalem from the domain of agreements at Camp David). Jerusalem has an autonomous, even catalytic, existence within the dynamics of the M.E. conflicts and its possible solutions 2.

Israelis, as all Jews before them, swear by the name of Jerusalem. But, in a growing and perplexing way, so do Arabs (and Moslems generally e.g. Houmeini!). Palestinian propaganda, and folk art, take such growing symbolic value to Jerusalem that they are turning, in my opinion, into a sort of "Palestinian Zionism". My Aim here is to explore an alternative, or complementary, logic. This is a literal logic, (that is "Logologic" 3) that seeks to find solutions to "the problem of Jerusalem" from the very invocation of, and meditation on, her name. Results of these meditations may demonstrate how Jerusalem has an archetypal/preordained character that transcends our habitual concepts.

Many Israelis swear in the "One Jerusalem" - Yerushalayim Akhat - as a political slogan which denies the autonomy, or distinction, of the Arab Jerusalem. Hardly any of us notices the paradox! While people proclaim the one Jerusalem they admit, in the same breath, that she is two cities: the name "Yerushalayim" has the dual Hebrew form that denotes the things which come in pairs (such as eyes - enayim - etc.). THus, in the literal sense employed here, this is an admission that Jerusalem has two distinct cities. These two might mean the Western and the Eastern Jerusalem, or the Jewish and the Arab Jerusalems - almost as distinct as are Western and Eastern Beirut.

This duality would be in the political sense, however there are other types operative in this dual form of the word Yerushalayim. On the urban level there is the obvious duality of the Old City and the New City, built during the last hundred years. These are very different in appearance and temper. And, yet again, there is a more hidden spiritual duality: that between Yerushalayim shel Mata - the concrete, mundane city - and Yerushalayim shek Ma'ala - the Heavenly, imaginable, Jerusalem. The imaginary perfect city of Jerusalem has inspired Jews for over two millenia. Midrashic legends 4 claim that the heavenly Jerusalem was created even before the creation of this world. The image of Jerusalem certainly preceded the concrete and was the real cause for its transformation in the last century from a poor ruined town to the large and impressive city it is now. The image of Yerushalayim shel Ma'ala - literally "Jerusalem of superior distinction" is still operative at present, and people all over the world still expect demonstrations of superior distinction to come out of Jerusalem.

There is yet another paradox. The name of Jerusalem in the Hebrew Bible is not Yerushalayim but Yerushalem 5, which is not a dual but a unitary form. In fact, "shalem" means just that - "whole".Shalem is also the first name by which Jerusalem is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, in connection with Abraham and his welcome to the place by King Malchitzedek ("king of Justice"), the priest of the Heavenly God. Thus, from the first mention, Jerusalem is associated with wholeness, justice, priest of Heaven - and all these were promised to Abraham and his children.

The next mention of this place in the Bible is then in connection with Isaac, Abraham's son, as the site for Isaac's Akeda (binding). The story of the Akeda ends by naming the site as "Yir'e", or "Yera'e in the Mountain of the Lord". the root YREH denotes both demonstration and awe. The demonstration is apparently to (and by) Abraham, to whom God said that He will show him the place (Yar'eh) and who told his son that God will show them the sacrificial lamb. The awe and fear are, in the first instance, Isaac's. The name Yeru has generally turned to point to the Mountain of Moriah. This related name denotes both the demonstration - as in the word Moreh (a teacher) - and awe - Morah. It is possible that in ancient times there were actually two cities in that locality, one called Shalem and one called Yeru or Yoru, and the two became united by King David 6. Psalm 122, attributed to David, thus speaks about "Jerusalem built as a city that was joined together".

There is yet a more important, a symbolic, sense to this "joining" of Yeru and Shalem which follows from their Biblical mentions. As father and son are two aspects of a unity that overcomes time, Yeru- Shalem gives us an intimation of a unitary meaning of demonstration with awe as a whole (shalem). In the Jewish symbolic tradition (the Kabbalah), Abraham represents the qualities of Hesed and Ahava, whereas Isaac represents the qualities of Din (judgement) and of Yir'a (awe). Hesed and Din are divine measures whereas Ahava and Yir'a are the human modes of approaching God. Thus the very name "YeruShalem" makes a compact formula that reiterates the essential Kabbalistic teachings about the unification (Yikhud) of the divine attributes that is at the basis of all that is to endure, and which was secured to Israel through the trials of the Fathers.

The esoteric doctrine of the unification of opposites is not limited to the Kabbalah. It is, for example, the core of Taoism, whose symbol of the union of Yin and Yang decorates the Korean Flag. It can be shown that also the Israeli flag, carrying the symbol of "the Star of David" is just such a visual expression of the union of opposites, and the most ready illustration of this would be the union of the "earthly Jerusalem" (which is constructed from the ground up) and the "Heavenly City" (constructed, or which flows, from heaven to earth).

I would go further in this Midrash: if the union of the heavenly and of the earthly is to be seen on the flag, then the call for the union of opposites must be found even closer - in our sacred names. It is known that Israel-Jacob represents, in the Kabbalah, just that balance of Hesed and Din, called Tiferet or Rahamim (compassion). Now our insistence to call Jerusalem by the name of "Yerushalayim" with its strange twainess will show - yar'eh - the workings of the concept of "Shalayim" - of that whole (shalem) which is made of the union of two equal and opposite parts joined together. By our daily mention of Jerusalem we constantly evoke, even if unaware, the expectation that she will demonstrate to us this unification, the making of peace and of wholeness out of full conflict.

The reader is likely to comment now that there is no need to go to such an involved Midrash to say that Jerusalem should be "the City of Peace". It is quite commonplace to say that the "Shalem" of Jerusalem (and forget that confusion "Shalayim") really means "shalom", that is, Peace. I would agree, but my point is that this message is coded in the name of Jerusalem, both in that more esoteric way and in another, more blatant way; so much so that we usually refuse to hear the words that come to our ear. These two modes, together, give a prescription for a peace-making process based on Jerusalem.

The most literal meaning of Yerushalayim must begin with uttering the word "Yerusha" - inheritance. It follows from this that the city is the inheritance to (le) or of (shel) "the two", as undeniably indicated by the dual form discussed above. So whose inheritance is Jerusalem -- and to which two? I need not go much into Jewish tradition to say that she is the inheritance of Abraham.

The Kor'an and Christianity 7 will also concur in it. The point, however, is in that curious twainess upon which we unconsciously insist. The holy city is Abraham's inheritance for the two. These two are surely his two sons, Isaac and Ishmael, as well as their mythical offspring - the Jews and Arabs. This, I claim, is the most literal meaning of Jerusalem. This may come as a surprise, even a shock, to some, but it must be said in times when there are Jews who claim that Arabs must not live in Jerusalem (and vice-versa).

The earthly facts are clear enough for those who would open their eyes and minds: Providence has seen fit to place us, Jews and Arabs, in a kind of a bind - an Akeda - tied to Jerusalem. This time, at last, we Jews are strong enough to be the dominant and active factor, yet not so much as to be able to act unilateraly and in disregard of the Arabs. Jerusalem is so enormously dear and important to us that none of the "solutions for the problem of Jerusalem" that any Arab party has yet mentioned would be acceptable. Still it is a mistake to assume that the Arabs will simply forget about Jerusalem or come to accept any peace treaty that gives Jewish Israel complete and exclusive sovereignty over Jerusalem. There is a need for new types of solutions which transcend the current conventional wisdom of either side. Such solutions must realize (i.e, make into reality) the promise given to Abraham and his inheritance.

The promise of Abraham cannot be realized by brute force or negligence lest history become a futile joke. The inheritance of Abraham becomes real, when it is realized through the union (Yikhud) of opposing sides. Whatever ideas I may have about such transcendent solutions are those that reflect the meanings and values that I see as inherent in Jerusalem/Yerushalayim, tsion, and Yerushalayim shel Ma'ala. I shall give thus briefly the meanings of the latter two.

Initially Tsion/Zion means the ideational/ideological reference point (Nekudat Tsiun) for us as Zionists. What would prevent Zionism from becoming Ziunism ("screwing" or base exploitation in vulgar Hebrew) - which is how the Palestinians view it? Surely the answer would be by Tsion being true to what it means - referring to something which is above and beyond basic egoistic interests, something which points towards excellence. In the elaborate system of Jewish symbols, the Kabbalah, "Tsion" is indeed on of the symbols of the Sephira of Yesod - the base. This is a stage "above" that of Malkhut - symbolized by Jerusalem, and that transfers to her (the femininity is very marked here) the divine Shefa (plenitude/Prana) which she is to distribute to all sentient beings on Earth. The connection between Tsion and Jerusalem is at times severed, which results in her abasement and exile. The Kabbalist explanation of the operation of this Yesod/Tsion is replete with sexual allusions no less than in that vulgar connotation noted above. The difference is that, through Tsion as Brit Kodesh, this union is made in holiness and can endure without giving place to evil and parasitic impulses. The equation of Tsion with excellence is made explicitly in the introduction of the Zohar. Quoting the prophet's exclamation "to erect Heaven and to found Earth and to tell Tsion: you are My People" (Isaia, 51:16), the Zohar reads "Imi" - with Me - rather than "Ami" - My People - making a midrash in which those who are Tsion are specifically those who make excellent innovations and "gates" in the Torah. Such "Zionists" become thus God's own partners in founding the New Heaven and Yerushalayim shel Ma'ala is that same Jerusalem discussed above, but of pronounced distinction or value - ma'ala. She can also be seen as lifting up -again the Hebrew word ma'ala - the Earthly Jerusalem to her proper distinction, that of reflecting or even manifesting the divine attributes implied by her name as discussed above.

In the system of the Kabbalah, Yerushalayim shel Ma'ala is usually identified with the Sephira of Binah 8 - also known as Olam Haba - the World to COme. This equation of terms allows a finer appreciation of the qualities that Jerusalem is expected to manifest. Literally, Binah is Understanding. According to some Kabbalistic systems the root of real hearing (such as in Shema Yisrael) is in Binah. This is the kind of hearing that is necessary for understanding the other. We get thus an image of "the city that was joined together" coming from heaven as Understanding (and "havannah"/understanding also rhymes nicely with "heaven") - an image of a vast structured and variegated collection of understandings. The english word "under-standing" merits some meditation too, implying a curious mixture or reversal of levels entailed in reaching an understanding. In order to understand another, one needs to assume the other's point of view; to do so one has to stand under the other's and his/her concerns. Reversal of roles may be needed, especially in cases of domination/submission, to under-stand the other's position and for both to build a common understanding. On the other hand, having built an understanding between the two, this understanding is "superior" to any particular agreement they might have reached. The understanding can reproduce agreements or build new ones, but without understanding a broken or even modified agreement can bring open conflict. Therefore Understanding is needed for a whole, lasting, peace (shalom-shalem) and a characteristic of the better World to Come. The mutual "standing-under" of opposites is probably symbolized in the Taoist Yin-Yang symbol. In it, both sides actually also stand under each other. This conjunction is portrayed, to my mind, even better in our own traditional symbol of the Magen David.

The two triangles (which we characterized earlier as the "heavenly" and "earthly" figures) interpenetrate. Neither loses its identity in this union, but it is hard to determine which is above and which below. The 'earthly" based one reaches higher, though its greater bulk is below, while the "heavenly" figure reaches lower.

The political aspiration of the Rav Kook was to raise "the Flag of Jerusalem" by founding a spiritual-political "Jerusalem Movement" 9. The religious parties objected and he had to shelve this vision. But the vision is here now, implied in the Israeli flag, and the meanings are coded in the sacred names of Jerusalem and Tsion. We can make it real and reach for Yerushalayim shel Ma'ala by building understandings. Those who dare build, individually and together, understandings between Jew and Jew, between Jews and Arabs, between the many different people gathered in Jerusalem, will really bring peace and show wholeness (Yoru-shalem). Such understandings can be connected, as was done before by the Talmud sages 10, to build a whole "city of havannah/heaven", and the reader can be an agent of this.


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Notes:

  1. Benveniste, Miron (1986): "Conflicts and Contradiction".

  2. Just a few instances of Jerusalem's quasi-autonomous influence: a) For Herzl, Jerusalem was not particularly important (e.g.- omitted her from his Tel Aviv/AltneuLand), and he proposed a non-Palestinian- based Zionism; but his heretofore obedient Zionist Congress rejected it. b) The Arab-Jewish conflict in Palestine started in Jerusalem, over Jewish rights in the Western Wall; the conflict was instigated largely by the Moslem Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Emin el-Housseini. c) Until 1967, hardly any Israelis had any practical designs to unify the divided city of Jerusalem, but when Jordan joined the war, this unification became inevitable. No Israeli who later offered to return any, or even all, of "the territories" suggested re-dividing Jerusalem.

  3. the term "Logology" was coined by the American literary scholar Kenneth Burke who showed in his studies of rhetoric how much the inherent literal meaning of words work to shape political and social movements as if autonomously. Modernclinical studies by Jung and his followers (and by Freudians as Lacan) are showing how the root meanings of words, of which a person may be totally unconscious appear in the person's imagery and phantasy (e.g.- Russel Lockhart(198 ): "Words as Eggs".).

  4. In Jewish apocalyptic literature (e.g.- Baruch 4,1-6), Heavenly Jerusalem was built when Gan Eden was conceived, referring to Is.49:16. A. Aptovitzer (Tarbitz 2,1931) shows that Heavenly Jerusalem is indeed mentioned in Isaia. According to many Talmudic sages, the Earthly Jerusalem will be built up in glory and virtue (ma'ala) and rise up to the heavens, referring to Jer.3:16-17. At that time the earthly and heavenly Jerusalem will join together. See also E. E. Urbach: "Yerushalayim shel mata viYerushalayim shel Ma'ala" in Yerushalayim ledoroteha 1969.

  5. There are only three Biblical references of Jerusalem with the letter Yod (Jer.26:18; Esth.2:6; 2Ch.25:1) against over 600 references without Yod.

  6. See p. 46 & 60 in Aryeh Kaplan: "Jerusalem, the Eye of the Universe". N.Y. Nat Conf. Synag. Youth, UOJC. 1976 & 1984.

  7. In Christianity, Augustine identified the Heavenly Jerusalem with The City of God (e.g. Civitas Dei Book 16,31) founded by Abraham and symbolized by Sara (following Gal.4:22-26).

  8. See Cordovero's Pardes Rimonim, the term Ir (city). Ashlag also identifies her with Binah. There are, however, other Kabbalist equations

  9. See Zvi Yaron "Mishnato shel haRav Kook" and other biographies.

  10. There are emerging cybernetic methods for building and joining together understandings. The seminal work is probably Pask's (e.g. his Conversation Theory, Elsevier 1976). Such methods are applied by Flores and colleagues in Palo Alto and others as practical tools.

 

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