Both the day of Yom Kippur and the Passover Seder conclude with the song, “L’Shana Haba’ah b’Yerushalayim,” Next Year in Jerusalem. The phrase has stirred Jewish hearts for centuries, reminding us of our rooted connection to Israel in general and Jerusalem in particular — past, present and future.
Ilan Greenfield, owner of the Jerusalem-based Gefen Publishing, took these words to heart when he edited and published “My Jerusalem: The Eternal City,” a beautifully designed coffee-table book that celebrates the ancient/modern city through breathtaking color photos and a collection of essays penned by more than three-dozen politicians, activists, artists and leaders from Israel and the United States. They include Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, philanthropist Ronald S. Lauder, TV sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz wrote the introduction.
“Getting the perspective of such a broad range of people demonstrates the collectiveness of the city,” Greenfield told The Jewish Week. As evident in the compilation of words and photo essays, Jerusalem is more than a city for religious Jews, it’s distinct, if not holy, to a variety of people from different backgrounds.
“Jerusalem isn’t just a place, it is the place. It is the axis of the rest of the world, for all that matters in history began there and all the hope of the rest of the world emanates from there,” wrote Rev.Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, in one of the essays.
And for those who have never been to Israel and only know the country through media portrayals, the book seeks to convey Jerusalem’s humanity. Each essay, the majority of which are written in first-person, details a specific memory or relationship the contributor has to the city.
“My feeling for Jerusalem is that of a romantic. Having been an atheist for decades, I find somehow Jerusalem sparks in me a spirituality not otherwise available,” wrote Michael Steinhardt, hedge fund manager and chairman of the board at The Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life and Taglit-Birthright Israel.
Accompanying each piece is a powerful image from award-winning photographer Ziv Koren. The pairing of photos with the stories “gives the feeling that people are actually walking through Jerusalem, feeling the stones and the spirit of the city,” Greenfield said.
Even though 2017 marked the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War and the reunification of Jerusalem, the book reminds us that Jerusalem is a treasure that should always be cherished. After all, it is one of the only remaining unifying facets of Judaism.
“For thousands of years, Jews from every continent have faced Jerusalem while praying,” Greenfield wrote in the publisher’s note. “Jews from the East and Jews from the West, from Yemen, Ethiopia, and Lithuania; from Morocco, Spain, and India; from North America, Poland, and Russia. We all share our Jerusalem.”
His book, a labor of love, reminds us of that bond.