There are times when you are expecting the future to arrive at some point and there are other times when the future becomes the present, when time catches up to you. Today was one of those moments when past, present, and future combined into a unitary continuum.
Two weeks ago the rest of the Old Yemenite Synagogue the heart of the Old Yemenite Village in what is today Silwan had once again restored to its rightful owners. I merited to be one of the first people back at the newly redeemed synagogue. Despite my arrival I did not get to go inside.
Today I traveled once again into the winding streets of what the world considers Silwan to enter into the Beit Knesset. Besides Daniel Luria, the Executive Director of Ateret Cohanim, I was joined by Tommy Waller and Ken Groat of the HaYovel Organization. The four of us made our way and witnessed the beginning of the demolition of the illegal walls that hide the old walls of the synagogue. The revealed outer walls are like a time machine, drawing the viewer back to 1883 when it was built. The four of us were awestruck at the history and profound sense of redemption underway in front of our eyes.
The Yemenite Jews who came to Jerusalem believed they were coming to witness redemption, yet their redemption was cut short in the Arab riots of 1929 and 1936, with the community ultimately being abandoned in 1937. Now we have come full circle, the aborted redemption has been renewed 78 years later.
Despite the inside of the synagogue in a state of disrepair, volunteers from Ateret Cohanim seemed focused and joyful in beginning the restoration. My two friends from HaYovel, an organization founded by Tommy Waller and dedicated to bringing pro Israel Christians here to aid vineyard owners in Samaria, left renewed, with a sense of purpose and a deeper connection to the redemption and closeness to their mission.
I myself feel a sense that we as a Nation are beginning to realize that the redemption is not a fairy tale. We are living in it. With each new house we buy and property restored we are rectifying a historic wrong and coming that much closer to the day when “And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets. (Zechariah 8:5)”
I have been in Israel for over 14 years now. I still remember my second Shabbat in Israel spent in Hevron where my friends and I were shot at with a spray of bullets as we walked back from our Shabbat meals. That Shabbat I spent in doors as the IDF and the terrorists from the Palestinan Authority battled back and forth. It was an eye opener for me. The 2nd intifada continued. Suicide bombings increased and my wife and I, newly weds willing to grit it out here made our peace with the idea that our lives would be a simple extension of our relatively peaceful upbringing.
Numerous terror attacks and few wars later Israel is at it again. Jerusalem is also once again at the heart of this current round of violence. Arab claims that some sort of status quo has been broken are ridiculous once one studies the issue. If anything the breakers of the fabled status quo are the same Arabs threatening everyone else who dares utter a prayer or even walk on the Temple Mount. Arabs continuously deny our connection to Jerusalem, rewriting history as if they have been here for centuries.
The key to settling this conflict is Jerusalem. The Arabs know that if we the Nation of Israel succeed in returning to our property that has been taken from us over the last century and we succeed in getting over our fears and really reunite and redeem our former Jewish neighborhoods, then their claims on the rest of Israel fall apart.
This is why neighborhoods like the Old Yemenite Village located in what the Arabs have renamed Silwan as well the Flowers Gate neighborhood in the Old City, among others are so important to redeem and settle. By restoring the rightful heirs to their land, the unjust actions of the past can be reversed. Peace flows from truth.
Below are some images of the Yemenite Village as it was a century ago. The hill Silwan is on now is empty save for the Yemenite Jews that lived there. Those Arabs that have claimed to have been there for centuries are nowhere to be found. That is because they cannot be found in the vicinity.
It is not every morning you feel that the redemption is unfolding around you. This morning I had the merit of witnessing the final 2/3 of the Yemenite Beit Knesset in the Old Yemenite Village of Jerusalem return to Jewish hands. When I arrived at the scene riot police were all around and kept a tense peace in one of the most violently anti-Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem. The Beit Knesset has been the central focus of this violence and with its lawful return to Jewish hands a rebirth of true Jewish sovereignty will certainly return to a once historically thriving Jewish neighborhood.
The Beit Knesset stood out for years as a three domed structure. One third was returned a few months ago and subsequently renovated, but the other two domes were a mystery. Now with the removal of the final Arab squatters a true renovation can begin.