In 1857, the British philanthropist, Moses Montefiore financed the construction of a windmill at the center of a new community just outside the walls of Jerusalem, a neighborhood known as Mishkenot Shananim. Today, the neighborhood has been reconstructed as a village for artists, writers and intellectuals, and the windmill has been restored. Nina and I were invited to stay in that beautiful village this summer.
The windmill is the most popular place for bridal photos in all of Jerusalem. So every afternoon, we were met by a parade of brides in beautiful white gowns, and bridesmaids in pastel chiffon, with perfect hair and makeup, lining up to take pictures. Jewish girls, Arab girls, visitors from abroad, giggling together while their grooms fidgeted nervously in the park nearby.
One afternoon, there was an air ride siren. That means 20 – 30 seconds to find a shelter. Turns out, there is a shelter beneath the restored windmill. So into this tiny room we all retreat. It’s amazing how much taffeta, chiffon and lace you can squeeze into a small space if you need to. Three pops, indicating the miracle of Iron Dome’s protection, the all clear is sounded, and everyone piles out and lines up and resumes the photos.
I watched with tears in my eyes. This is the miracle of Israel: Life goes on. Couples marry and celebrate love. New families begin, children will be born. Life triumphs over death. Love over hate. Hope over despair. In answer to a tragedy centuries ago, the Prophet Jeremiah offered a pledge:
Od yeshama, b’ari Yehuda, u’b’hutzot Yerushalayim,
Kol sasson, v’kol simcha,
Kol chatan v’kol kalah.
I promise you, declared the prophet,
That one day again, the hills of Judeah and the streets of Jerusalem
Will ring with the sounds of joy and gladness,
With the song of the bride and the groom.
Jewish history is made of such miracles. Not seas that split or manna that rains down from heaven, the miracle of Jewish history is a people that has never succumbed to cynicism or despair, never surrendered its soul to tragedy, never given up. On the contrary, the particular genius of the Jewish people has been our uncanny ability to wrestle moral vision out of impossible circumstances. The Jewish people has always found the spiritual resilience to draw new revelations of purpose and morality out of moments of catastrophe. This is the gift of Israel to our generation.