What exactly is Jerusalem to your future anyhow?
By Miriam Lottner
By the time reciting this part of the Passover Seder comes, you are probably asleep, or maybe you just skip it entirely.
If you live anywhere but Israel, it is all too easy to gloss over these words,“Next Year in Jerusalem” and think “Jerusalem, maybe for some other Jew, but never for me.”
I mean really, what exactly is Jerusalem to your future anyhow?
Next Year in Jerusalem was my key that it was over. It wasn’t, at least to my 8 or 9 year old mind, any indication of my future as an Israeli or an indication of an aspiration to making Aliyah.
Jerusalem conjured up images of camels, golden stones, secret markets and hidden alleyways. Even though I spent 8 years living in Jerusalem after making Aliyah and learned many of her secrets, thinking of Jerusalem still gets me excited. But instead of camels, and stones, it brings up different images when I commute in for work or to meet friends for coffee or spend the day wandering. As I drive in, I invariably think of my Aunt Lil’s famous matzoh ball soup, High Holidays in temple, debates in public High School about my “right” to wear a Jewish star, and of course, my trip to Poland at 16 on the March on the Living. I think about all I’ve learned on the road to get here, the unbroken chain of thousands of years of Jewish history that brought me and my family to where we are today -where commuting to work in an office in Jerusalem is as normal as driving to Miami or NYC to go to work and live and play.
My Jerusalem story has one ending, fairytale like perhaps for the child of 4th generation assimilated Americans. But yours and your children’s story with Jerusalem will have other endings and they are equally important. Assimilation, bullying, campus anti-semitism, fear and acts of terror push kids away from Judaism and from the idea of Jerusalem at an alarming rate.
So what does “Next Year in Jerusalem” really mean?
I can’t say I know for sure. I’m certainly not a famed scholar of ancient religious texts, and my Hebrew is still woefully inadequate (even after 20 + years), but this year, like in years past when I hear my children and their cousins sing Next Year in Jerusalem, I know what I want it to mean.
I want it to mean that Jerusalem, will have peace. That Jerusalem will be a Light Unto the Nations. That Jerusalem will be a spiritual home for anyone who wants or needs it. That Jerusalem will help us refocus on what is, and what is not truly important. That Jerusalem will continue to shine as a place where hope and possibility meet history and tradition and blends into the future. That Jews can build a life in Jerusalem, work here, visit here -and all will be welcome, safe and free.
My Jerusalem of today is a place where tech meets tradition. Where teenagers stay up all night working (and winning) hackathons in the former dungeons of the 3000 year old Citadel. Where street vendors in wooden carts still sell fresh bread and rolls made in fire pits as young school children make their way to school. Where tourists find inspiration, hope and faith in little shops passed down from generation to generation. Where the annual Western Wall cleaning for Passover is a televised news event. (Yes, those notes in the Wailing Wall get removed and receive a holy burial twice a year). Where the words of the prophet Zecharia come true and ring louder every year.
“Zacharia, Chapter 8: And the streets of the city shall be filled, with boys and girls playing in its streets.
וּרְחֹבוֹת הָעִיר יִמָּלְאוּ יְלָדִים וִילָדוֹת מְשַׂחֲקִים בִּרְחֹבֹתֶיהָ:”
However, in order for that to happen, Jerusalem needs to remain important. It needs to remain free. It needs to remain in each of our hearts all year round. Not just as a forgotten passage at the end of the Hagaddah signaling another Jewish holiday is over. Jerusalem needs your support. Not just in thought, but in act and deed. Without it, we lose our ties to everything that binds us together.
After 20 years in tech, starting a company making physical kids games was not the next step most people expected of me. But “Next Year in Jerusalem” is exactly what inspired me. Creating Reveal Cards was my chance to establish a new business in the heart of the Holyland and bring more employment to the city.
The chance to hire staff from around the world to to inspire and engage with children and families everywhere. Watching kids play Reveal Israel has been rewarding on so many different levels. SInce the first prototypes arrived, kids have arrived at our doorstep on Shabbat afternoon asking to play. Yes, kids are asking to play games about Israel, Jewish history, geography, science, culture and art! This seems impossible to me as someone who dreaded every minute of Hebrew School along with my peers. I watch with such wonder as kids light up when they get exposed to new places and trips to take and things to learn about their homeland and the history of the world.
This vision of a Jerusalem filled with faith, possibility, commerce, innovation, and hope is my “Next Year in Jerusalem”. I hope you and your family will join us.
Miriam Lottner is the proud mother of twin girls, and the creator and founder of Reveal Cards. After making Aliyah from Los Angeles, Miriam spent the next 20 years working in senior roles in Israel's hi-tech sector. She is now a frequent public speaker, mentor, business consultant and advocate for women in technology. An avid photographer, Miriam loves to explore and makes sure to schedule travel adventures somewhere in Israel at least once a week.
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