Niney-three million miles. That’s the distance between planet Earth and the sun. This fact is on my list of things to thank Hashem for on these sweltering days of summer. I shudder to think what would happen if the Earth moved just half a mile closer to the sun, placing us just 92,999,999.5 miles away. One thing is certain: Oven companies would be out of business as they would be rendered obsolete relics of the world as it existed before climate change. People would be able to cook anywhere and everywhere in the great outdoors, posing a challenge to keeping milk and meat separate. Members of the new generation seeing old-fashioned ovens on display in museums would wonder why there was ever a need to put a second oven inside an existing one. It would be similar to placing an aquarium inside the ocean. Superfluous. We are so lucky that our planet is positioned where it is. It’s not that hot. We just melt a bit here and there. This is what I keep telling myself during our current global broken weather situation that has led to record-breaking temperatures worldwide.
My husband and I spend a few days visiting Yerushalayim every summer, but this year, we walked around less than usual. Despite the intense heat, we still enjoyed ourselves.
As we stood on King George Street in the city center, we didn’t need to go far as fun and excitement came our way. In recognition of the 30th anniversary of the Oslo Accords, two girls representing a local right-wing organization were preparing a TikTok video about how people view the agreement today, with 30 years of hindsight. The girls stopped random people on the street and asked if they considered the accords a success or a failure. They approached us and asked our opinion. As they tried to convince us to be recorded, I noticed Jonathan Pollard walking down the street. Forgetting the heat, I abruptly excused myself and took off after him. Even though the outdoor oven was on the highest broil setting at that moment, I would not give up my chance to meet this man.
When I caught up with him, I thanked him on behalf of am Yisrael (which I decided I represent even without having been voted into this position) for all he did for us. He responded that it was a pleasure. Based on all I had heard and read, his experience did not sound like a walk in the park, and I told him so. He believes it was worth it. Now that’s m’siras nefesh. How commendable!
We had a nice little shmooze about a variety of topics: the kind of treatment he had received from the Israeli government during his 30-year incarceration and why that was the case, current events, the state of affairs here in Israel, and, of course, the judicial reforms and their accompanying demonstrations. He did not need to be convinced when I told him how incredible Esther, his first wife, had been. I added that I had written an article about her (for The Queens Jewish Link, by the way). Jonathan told me that shortly before Esther passed away, she suggested he marry Rivka, his current wife. Rivka was Esther’s friend. Jonathan laughed about the fact that he is now getting to experience the challenges inherent in raising teenagers. Rivka is the mother of seven. I wished him luck in his new role and stage of life.
After my talk with Jonathan, I returned to the videographers. I have no idea what came over me (it must have been the sun), but I allowed them to record my statement. Hopefully, I won’t make the cut and will get cut out.
I highly recommend the new tour of the Western Wall Tunnels. The lack of tourists during Covid allowed for uninterrupted and productive excavation. The recently opened Great Bridge Route takes visitors to a level below the Old City to see the bridge that led to the Har HaBayis. In addition to the newly excavated rooms that are part of the tour, a simulation of water flowing over the stones shows how olei regel were able to purify themselves before they ascended the Har HaBayis during the days of Bayis Sheini. The stones of the newly excavated area of the Kosel are not the same color as the ones we are used to.
Archeologists believe the area was used as a casino during the British Mandate. The tour guide showed us an encased set of dice that had been dug up in the area. He told us that a woman on a tour he had led was acquainted with the archeologist who had unearthed the dice. He told her that the dice had six dots on each side. It seems that cheating is not only a recent phenomenon. A full-functioning Sephardic shul operates daily in the newly excavated area. An ornate aron kodesh in the shape of a rimon (pomegranate) holds the sifrei Torah.
As often as one visits Yerushalayim, there will always be more to see and experience, no matter what the weather.