I’ve waxed poetic about Jerusalem in almost every post I’ve written since I moved here, 11 months ago.
The way she buzzes with energy from dawn to dusk. The way the sun blankets everything in blazing heat. How slippery her stones can be in the rain. How she twinkles at night, from lights in thousands of homes, on every hilltop.
How she is noisy, and messy, and chaotic. A contradiction, ancient and brand new. Conflicted in her politics and perspectives. Breathtaking, in her serenity, in her assuredness, and her station in the world.
For the last eleven months, I have climbed up her hills, and walked till I could feel my feet no more; a different and opposing vista every few blocks. I have watched how she shifts and morphs into another place, in every neighborhood. She drips with foliage and is solidified in stone.
Her ebb and flow mirrors the lives of her people. Her people that have returned to her.
I think about the centuries that she waited for us.
She stood loyal and patient. Always existing, refusing to be lost under the sands of time. Rejecting attempts to be erased from the future, even as she had succumbed to flames in the past.
Jerusalem and the Jews. Both people and place, resisting the push and pull of the world, to force us into becoming relics.
We prayed for her. We whispered her name under our breath in our holy synagogues, in our homes, in the darkest moments of our persecution. She heard us and held our place; in this place, for this time. Our connection to Tzion has been passed down on a soul level, through generation after generation.
Jerusalem is the heart of our people. She had been beating, just enough, to be brought to life when her children returned home.
Today on Yom Yerushalayim, we celebrate the reunification of Jerusalem that occurred 52 years ago. The beginning of the mass return of Jews from all over the world to their eternal capital city.
This morning I prayed the tefillah of Hallel, of thanksgiving, with a community of olim, and my husband and parents, overlooking Jerusalem and Har Habayit- The Temple Mount.
I stood, with tears streaming down from my eyes, the sun blasting what felt like blessing on my face. I prayed with the most intense feelings of gratitude that here I am, living the fulfillment of prophecy. Thanking God for the privilege to live with my family in Jerusalem, and for all of us all over the world, to have access to this holy city.
As I look out onto the Temple Mount, I feel that though there are still prophecies yet to be fulfilled, we are so deep into the process of redemption. So many steps closer than any of our other generations before us.
So close, that I can see it with my own eyes.
I am reminded that it was not just Jerusalem that waited for us, and allowed us into her gates, prepared to thrive once again.
We too, took responsibility and action to make that dream a reality. We returned, as refugees or immigrants from all over the world. We fought for her. We dreamed of her. We prayed for her. We donated to her.
So many laid down their lives. So many families made the ultimate sacrifice.
Others filled her till she now, swells with life.
The connection between Jerusalem and her people is as strong as ever. But we still need to take action.
Come visit this holy city. Donate money to the causes you champion here. Shop in the shuk. Pray at the Kotel. Patronize her shops and restaurants. Settle here.
Continue to pray for her. There are always those who would take Jerusalem from us. Who would hound us while we live our lives here. Who would prevent her children from visiting by causing fear and terror.
But they don’t understand, the eternal nature of our symbiotic relationship.
As long as Jews can recognize who we are, where we come from, and where we are going-
we will always be yearning to go home.
Am Yisrael Chai.
Shira Lankin Sheps grew up in New Jersey and went to Stern College for women. After graduating from Hunter College School of Social Work with her MSW in clinical social work, she worked in the clinical field, in marketing and photojournalism.
She decided to start The Layers Project to help break down stigma and promote healing within our Jewish community.
She feels strongly about presenting women, who are so often shown as shallow characters or fully removed from Jewish media spaces, as three-dimensional individuals whose lives are full and rich with resilience.
Shira made aliyah with her family two years ago to Jerusalem.
Headshot taken by Tzipora Lifchitz.