By HaRav Yisrael Rosen
Dean of the Zomet Institute
“And I lifted up my eyes and I saw a man holding a measuring rope... To measure Jerusalem, to see its breadth and its length... Saying, Jerusalem will be populated beyond its walls, because of the multitude of people and cattle in it. And – G-d says - I will be a wall of fire for it all around, and I will be within it for My glory.” [Zechariah 2:5-9].
Here is a question for you: What can you say about the following concepts: Beit Orot; Beit Hachushan; Beit Hashiv’a; Kefar Hateimanim (the houses of Yehonatan and the honey); Nachalat Shimon; Maaleh Hazeitim; Nof Tzion; Ir David; Kidmat Tzion; Shechunat Shimon Hatzadik; Abu Tor (evidently this is the only name it has).
Reply: These are flashes of light in the eastern wall of East Jerusalem. They are names of isolated and dispersed settlements which were part of the vision for the future of the Prophet Zechariah (as quoted above): “I will be a wall of fire for it all around.”
Breaching the Walls
In the last half of the nineteenth century, a policy was started of “breaching the walls” and establishing new neighborhoods of Jewish settlements outside the boundaries of the walls of Jerusalem. The first one, in 1860, was Mishkenot Shaananim, which was built from money provided by the “generous philanthropist,” Moshe Montefiori. Only a decade later was Mei’ah She’arim added, followed by other neighborhoods and areas. The act of “leaving the walls behind” always went towards the west, because of practical reasons of the need to maintain contact with the main traffic artery that came from the west, from Yaffo. Perhaps there were other topographic considerations too.
The liberation of Jerusalem in the Six Day War, placing it at the center of awareness as the capital of Israel, moved all the subsequent governments of Israel to adorn Jerusalem as it was then, both the old and the new, with walls made up of neighborhoods to the north, to the west, and to the south. The city is surrounded on these three sides by hundreds of thousands of residents, who are the population of “greater Jerusalem.” (“Greater” Jerusalem is “rabati,” as in the first verse of Eichah: “The greatest city among all the nations.”) But the eastern side was breached, and foxes (Gentiles) took it over as their own.
About twenty years ago, the government of Israel decided on Plan E1, which also goes by the name “Mevasseret Adumim.” This provides for the creation of a continuous band of Jewish neighborhoods east of Jerusalem, near the area of Maaleh Adumim. The letter “E” stands for “east.” The plan was met with difficulties stemming from external objections by the other nations of the world, to the accompaniment of internal informing and strife, led by the “extreme” leftist organizations. The Peace Now movement and all of its junior offshoots are working day and night against this plan, which it claims “will forever block any possibility of dividing the city between the Palestinians and the Jews.”
This “traitorous” behavior reminds me of the actions of Sanvalat of Choron, Tovia the Slave, and Geshem the Arab who tried to prevent Nechemia (Chapter 2), the “Pasha of the Land of Yehuda” and the leader of the Olim from Babylon, from rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. They even resorted to informing the kings of the other nations that the Jews had staged a “revolt” against them. Nechemia ignored their threats, “and the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul” [6:15]. History is repeating itself, and only the names have changed, and we will quote the words of Nechemia and put our hopes in heaven: “Let G-d remember Tovia and Sanvalat (for their evil), and also Noadeha the Prophetess,” [6:14], and we can add Ofran, the head of the Peace Now surveillance team (the granddaughter of the late Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz). These people come with a “measuring rope” in their hands, “to see its breadth and its length,” like the man in the quote at the beginning of this article.
Let us Sing the Praise
We return to the flashes of light which have been placed in the eastern wall of Jerusalem, even without implementing Plan E1. Hundreds of families have taken positions in small and medium-sized courtyards that were constructed by the blessed NGO’s Elad and Ateret Kohanim, using contributions given to them in order to donate for this worthy cause of redeeming private property along the “eastern wall” of Jerusalem. The “eastern arc” is much more than good news in terms of Zionistic and settlement goals, it includes a messianic message of faith. As is well known, the front of the Temple was in the east. The rays of the sun rising over the Mount of Olives passed through the Shushan Gate in the wall of the Temple Mount, leading to the Nikanor Gate – the magnificent entrance to the Temple area. And the beam of light fell directly on the curtain of the Holy of Holies. When the Temple was destroyed on the Ninth of Av, we were separated from the “east,” and all during the years of our exile all we had left was the “Western Wall.” This is a back wall which was not part of the Temple but was rather the outside wall of the Temple Mount. It is “the back” and not “the front,” which was denied to us because of our sins. The next step for us is to return. This, then, is the messianic message: We have come back to the east! We are once again on the high road which leads to the Temple Mount, from “the front” and not from “the back.” Our next step will be to ascend to the Temple!
Let us sing our praises for the NGO’s and all the organizations which labor to raise up these sparks of light in the eastern sections of Jerusalem, in order to maintain the heritage of the “east.” And most important of all, let us sing our praises to the families who “climb the palm trees and take hold of the moment” (see Shir Hashirim 7:9), in spite of physical hardships and possibly giving up a better lifestyle.
“I will be a wall of fire for it all around, and I will be within it for My glory.”