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The View from Bible Hill

Weekly Vid Recap of Below the Bible Belt

“The  basic  doctrine  which  fills  the  Hebrew  Bible  is  that  our  life  is  a  dialogue  between  the  above  and  the below.”

Martin Buber

This week I was back on Bible Hill in the middle of Jerusalem, on the last day of Passover (and yes, with an eye infection, no worries, it’s taken care of!) to pause in between the protests and the anguish, and to take a breath in the between. In between East and West Jerusalem, in between the above and below that Buber reminds us is what we are all about. 

Bible Hill is a empty field overlooking the Old City, where David Ben Gurion wanted to build the Bible Museum. Realtors are still after it but so far its a place for pausing and reflecting on the vast vista that has dominated people’s fascination for so many generations. From where I stand I can see Mount Zion, also known in Arabic as Jabel el Daoud - David’s Mountain - where according to tradition King David is buried. It’s also the original Zion - where all of the yearning for Zion comes from and the modern Zionist movement got its namesake. 

The yearning for this place has been in the hearts of Jewish people for thousands of years, and it goes along with messianic yearnings for the return to live here and to once again benefit from the sovereign rule of David’s dynasty. What was but a dream for 2,000 years is now on some levels a reality -- but at what cost? And how can we counter the more messy aspects of the messianic dreams while still maintaining a safe home for Jews who live here alongside Palestinians who’ve also called this holy land a home for many generations? 

That’s the challenge and the hope of our time. Can we re-imagine and redefine our messianic hopeful dreams in ways that cause less harm and honor all who call this place their home? Can we be grateful with our lot without greed for more land than we need and enough for all of us to share and live with? 

One of the kernels of the messianic yearnings in Jewish thought appears in this week’s chapters of the psalms - and is recited at least once a day by many pious Jews who bless after each meal. I grew up singing these words that made it into the ‘grace after meals’ and when I found them in psalm 18 this week - it felt like meeting an old friend: 

מַגְדִּל֮ יְשׁוּע֢וֹת מַ֫לְכּ֥וֹ וְעֹ֤שֶׂה חֶ֨סֶד ׀ לִמְשִׁיח֗וֹ לְדָוִ֥ד וּלְזַרְע֗וֹ עַד־עוֹלָֽם׃ 

Extoll great victories to Your king,

You who faith with Your anointed,

For David and his offspring evermore.

Ps 18:51

‘Your anointed’ is the messiah, and this idea of longing for the return of the Davidic line and the future appearance of a messiah who will make everything alright is deep inside our tradition. Whether it’s what we seek or not, the deep wish for futures of dignity and pride, justice and freedom are ours to own - and share. 

Whoever curated the various verses from Scriptures that became the prayer post each meal included this hopeful peace prayer that comes right after this verse from the Psalms: 

“May the one who creates peace above, help us create peace below.”

May it be so. 

Thank you for joining me below the bible belt. 

Shabbat Shalom.