If you plan to go into Jerusalem this week, be forewarned: there’s trouble afoot.
This is the week before the Jewish holiday of Passover. In Israel, Passover is not a minor holiday. It’s not even a major holiday.
It’s a gigantic holiday.
When you walk the streets of Jerusalem this week, you might deduce that every Jerusalemite has chosen to rush onto the city’s sidewalks at the same time. People are everywhere. You cannot avoid them. They rush. They don’t stroll. They don’t lounge. They are not in ‘vacation mode’. They are on the streets with a purpose. They march—each to his own beat. They have stores to go to, things to buy, shopping lists to attend to.
If you watch these crowds and listen carefully, you can guess what they’re shopping for: dish racks, glassware, plasticware, tableclothes, towels, linens, clothing, the Passover Haggadah—you name it and everyone’s either looking for it, talking about it or carrying it.
Even shopkeepers join the crowds: they arrange displays out in the sunlight. They hang ‘SALE’ signs on each display rack. Everything you need for the holiday is before you. Indeed, if you don’t buy it today—right now-- it will be gone tomorrow; just don’t linger too long outside a store fingering merchandise because you’ll attract an elbow or two from the stream of people pushing past you on narrow sidewalks.
This is a week of preparation. In this, the most Jewish of the world’s cities, Jews rush to complete their duties much as they have done for more than 2,000 years. There is excitement in the air. There is an energy you can feel. Everyone is animated.
Passover is the celebration of freedom. It is, as our liturgy says, the ‘Time of our Redemption’. It is the time for joy—and you can feel that sense of joy growing from day-to-day as the week unfolds and the holiday pulls closer and closer.
This is our time. We work at it. We enjoy it. Today, you might see people shopping. But this is no ordinary shopping. It’s shopping with a purpose—a Jewish purpose.
When we compare the prophecies of our Tanach (Jewish Bible)with actual events of Jewish history, we learn that this is exactly the energy and spirit that the enemies of Israel want to destroy. These enemies have always had one goal: to come into Jerusalem to parade as conquerors. In modern parlance, that means driving through the city of Jerusalem in some kind of parade or motorcade that blocks and disrupts the Jew in order to show the world who wields power over the Jew. The Jew may want to celebrate. But the enemy of the Jew aims to invade Jerusalem to spoil that celebration.
So it is written. So it has happened: The Crusades. The Christians. The Muslims. The pagans.
So it is today yet again. You see, this is not only the week Jews of Jerusalem crowd into their city streets to prepare for their Passover celebration; it is also the week that United States President Barack Hussein Obama has chosen to drive into Jerusalem on his first Presidential visit to Israel. So it is that, along with advertisements and announcements about sales and Passover family activities, Jerusalemites must now deal with warnings: your shopping could be disrupted. Your preparations for joy could be interrupted or curtailed altogether if you don’t pay attention. Streets will be closed. Pedestrian and vehicular traffic will be re-routed or even stopped completely. Neighbourhoods could be blocked. Business deliveries and distribution routes could be changed or stopped—all in order to accommodate the President’s motorcade.
You better get to Jerusalem before Wednesday. After that, good luck getting to where you want to go. If you are in the wrong street at the worst hour, your three most important pre-Passover shopping days could be devastated.
In our Tanach, there is one future scenario where Jerusalem is blocked off. No one is able to leave. Jews are trapped as those who wish to conquer the Holy Basin shut down the city.
As it is in our Tanach, so it is today: if you plan to leave Jerusalem in order to get to the airport during the President’s visit, you might not make it. The highway out of Jerusalem could be shut down. You could be trapped, unable to leave the Holy city. The leader of the west’s most powerful nation, a descendant of the ancient Edom, will have caused Jerusalem to be shut down.
So it is that we see a miniature ‘attack’ of Jerusalem by the leader of Edom. He will motorcade as if triumphant through the Jewish city. He will ride as if a conqueror while Jews will be trapped.
As your Passover Seder begins, let this be your holiday lesson: Edom lusts for your Jerusalem.