Most of you don't know Melissa, but the truth is that it doesn't matter. You know the Melissa's of this world. They are the ones who take the world and make it their own, the ones who don’t wonder where the wonder of living disappeared to, leaving only with the memory of what you wanted your life to be.
This week's Parshah includes Bircat Kohanim, the ancient triple blessing that is still recited by Kohanim today. The last one is, "And may He give you peace". It's so easy to confuse peace with complacency. They are very different. In Hebrew the word shalom has the same root as the word shalem, which means "whole". Peace is wholeness, not passivity. The two are very, very different.
Today Is Yom Yerushalaim, meaning it is anniversary of the day in which the Old City was recaptured from the Jordanians who had taken it in 1948, destroying its synagogues and sending the women and children to an uncertain fate. The men were taken as prisoners of war and suffered for months in the desert until they were traded. Most of the families ended up in what is today Katamon and adjacent areas, unless they had families who could take them in. They started their lives all over again and with the courage and optimism raised their families. They were helped to rebuild by the rest of the Jews living in Israel at the time.
Who were they? Mostly impoverished refuges themselves! The scar of the war in 1948 was a barbed wire fence that ripped the city apart, separating its heart, the Kotel, from its body. In 1967, all of our neighbors declared war against us. The impetus was the Egyptian leader, Gamal Abdul Nasser dreaming of a gigantic pan-Arab nation, and our presence was a thorn in his eye. No one thought we could survive. In less than a week, everything changed.
I read a published fragment of a diary written by a young soldier. He studied in yeshiva, but since his childhood, he dreamed of being a paratrooper, when the time came he enlisted in that branch of the army. It was the Monday of the war. He gathered his courage an approached the commander, Motta Gur. "Are we going to take the Old City?" he asked. "I don't know yet, it depends on how things develop." "When the time comes, can I be one who goes in?" "I'll do my best", Gur answered. In the meantime, the soldier was sent to the area around the tomb of Shimon Tzadik, near where Ohr Sameach is today. Then the command came. He led his group street by street. He was ahead of the others, checking out what they were going to face. Suddenly he found himself facing the Kotel. The plaza that we have today was not yet built. It was part of the warren of tiny streets that you see when you walk through the shuk. He could barely take in what he was facing. He had put his tefillin in his pack and now took them out. After putting them on, he said the Shma, and then stood and said the silent Amida. Only when he came to the blessing "Blesssed are You who builds Yerushalim", something in him broke, and the dam that was holding back his tears broke, and he found himself weeping. Suddenly he heard steps. Four Arabs were heading towards him. "Put your hands up over your heads," he found himself shouting in Arabic. They did, which he immediately knew was a miracle. Suddenly there was more noise. It was his men, and then others, and then tens and tens more who stood in awe at what they lived to see.
This past Friday I found myself saying "It's so, so hot. Maybe I'll just skip the Kotel."
Hashem make me more like Melissa!