There is an ancient Jewish belief that each soul is a special “pearl of life”’, a necklace of jewelry that shines through the darkness of history and adds beauty to the world.
Yesterday, the last night of Chanukah, the feast of lights, was such a day. It was a day of beauty and prayer. The sun shone in Jerusalem adding rays of physical and spiritual light to the city’s beauty.
We started the day at a place called Yvel: A jewelry factory that recruits Ethiopian and other immigrants teaches them a trade and helps them to become master jewelers. Many of these people came to Israel by walking hundred of miles barefoot through the wilderness until the reached a pre-set rendezvous location. Today the poverty of their past has become their success of today.
Ideals, however, do not always exist in a vacuum. For this reason, we next had the privilege of visiting an Israeli army base. Meeting young soldiers, both male and female, who at the age of 18 or 19 must make split-second adult decisions is not only a lesson in patriotism but also humility. Many of the soldiers we met had immigrated here from Latin America. They are parts of the interwoven tapestry of Jewish and Latin American cultures and historical experiences.
Meeting these young soldiers one sense immediately how much they yearn for peace for all Middle Eastern peoples, how sensitive they are to issues of ethics and morality placed against the backdrop of geopolitics, and how similar they are too young adults who live in less complicated regions of the world. Meeting them one begins to understand the complexities of the Middle East not from afar but from the personal. Here five-thousand years of history are reflected by the simplicity of individual human stories. Chatting with these barely post-teenagers ones realizes our common humanity and how each life is a precious jewel.
We experienced the light of humanity once again at the Biblical Matriarch Rachel’s tomb.
Here people come to seek protection, to ask for healing of broken bodies and souls, to open the womb, and to sanctify life. The thousands of prayers rising to heaven serve to remind us that each of us is a precious jewel, a moment of light, placed in a precious setting we call “history”.
Candles lit shining light upon our individual pearls of history
The Center for Latino-Jewish Relations is a proud member of the Jewish Historical Alliance and thanks to the JHA for helping us not only in organizing this trip but also to turn “pearls of life” into jewels of human history and harmony.
Shalom from the city of peace, Jerusalem