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Jerusalem Forest

May 23, 2012

For a former American,Jerusalem Forest is more like a grove. Having hiked the back-country Sierra Mts, this little collection of trees and bushes, boulders and trails clustered around a hilltop, does not quite qualify, in my mind, as a forest. And yet, a forest it is. In deep spring, everything is alive and growing. The spores waft through shafts of light, wildflowers flash their splendor, the insects are so busy. In my favorite glen, the tall weeds reach their many greens into the clear Jerusalem evening. Heading into Israel’s long summer, the pines and cedars are still drinking deep in the late winter mud down below the hardening crust above. A lovely little forest, one would think.

Yet all this is the setting for what this forest is really about. Jerusalem Forest contains within it three kinds of pain. Yad Vashem, the Mount Herzl military cemetery, and the ruins of a small, nameless Arab village at the crest of the hill. All three have earned their place here. All three have a story to tell, weaving into this braid three strands of a tale we are hard-pressed to embrace.

 There is the valley of the communities, documenting the hundreds of villages that were emptied of their Jews during the holocaust. Outside the communities’ memorial, the Righteous Gentiles’ pines reach up toward the cattle-car suspended on the cliff above them. In among the pines is the broad stump of a tree, brought over from Poland, in which one of the Gentiles hid three Jews for a time.

I run through the forest on the winding trail that leads past the cemetery, then towards Yad Vashem and the decimated communities-plus-one (the Arab village) and pull over towards Mt.Herzl, Rabin and Golda’s graves just up over that ridge. A bearded man who never speaks lives in a cave in the forest for years now, his belongings neatly arranged around him as he reads and prays. After exchanging silent glances over the years, as I run pass his cave, he now often returns my wave. 

 From high in the treetops, the ubiquitous blackbird’s song is unique, two-part, with myriad varieties of a melodious opening and a rapid-fire chirping to close. Complex, unpredictable, utterly charming. The possibility of hearing both parts of her song, if I am open to enjoying and not merely identifying her. The possibility of including all this loss, these losses, with which we all must live, as we revel here in God’s little forest.  


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  1. Marcia Kreisel permalink

    Yoav, please keep writing, for my heart is expressed also in your words

  2. Anne Kaufman permalink

    Yoav – thanks so much for letting me know about your blog – I was finally able to sit down and read all the entries. You are a wonderful writer with a gentle heart and observant eye. I look forward to many other posts. Anne

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