Avi Shaked
Avi Shaked Avi Shaked (Mendelson), 7th generation Jerusalemite, married to Michal and father of 3 Tuesday 23.5.17 No comments 971 views

Returning to You Again

The final day of the Six Day War. Father came home wearing a camouflage uniform, with IDF slouch hat on his head, an Uzi submachine gun hanging from his shoulder, and his chin crowned by a five day stubble beard – the previous days of the war.

Our house was located at the bottom of Bar Ilan Street in Jerusalem, just one hundred meters from the border with Jordan. The apartment building was hit during the war by hundreds of bullets fired while we were inside, and as a finishing touch, two mortars were shot into the house, exploding on our floor, the ground floor, just two rooms away from us, while all of the tenants crowded together in the room that was farthest from the border…

Father had to knock on the front door for a long time. We were afraid to open it. We had no idea what was going on outside. After we moved the boxes and furniture that had been placed to block the entrance, our exhausted father appeared in the doorway. He hadn’t slept for a few days and nights, but his face was radiant.

“We liberated the Temple Mount,” Father announced. “Jerusalem is united again!”

Father at the entrance of the Tomb of the Patriarchs

His excitement spread to all of us like electricity. We began to spontaneously sing “Jerusalem of Gold,” the song that had been played on the radio for the first time just two weeks before the war, and now had become the anthem of this war…

Despite my mother’s protests, Father took me, a seven year old boy, up to the roof of our building.

From up high, my father and I watched the Mirage planes, our most recent French purchase, descending and dropping bombs near Mount Scopus and Augusta Victoria. The area was not far from us at all. It was the area where our convoys, attempting to reach the Hebrew University enclave at Mount Scopus, had been attacked, all of their members killed.

The show ended too soon. I went back into the dark room, and Father went back to the war.

Father during the Six Day War, with his fellow soldiers

***

The next day, the battles were over. Father came home again, and this time took me on a trip.

We passed through the open-air market of the Old City, through narrow alleyways and between scattered rolls of concertina wire. Suddenly, the houses ended and we reached a narrow plaza. Before our eyes stood the Western Wall!

It was a few days before the IDF cleared out the Mughrabi Quarter, which extended right up to the bottom of the Western Wall.

 

At first, I was disappointed.

So this is the Western Wall? This is the Jerusalem for which we yearned and longed two thousand years?

A second later, the significance of the occasion hit me.

Father, my strong, brave father, burst out in emotional tears. I was speechless.

 

In the background, solitary sniper shots still echoed.

The narrow Western Wall plaza was filled with soldiers and citizens who had started venturing of their homes.

They all clung to the stones, kissed them, wept on them, and whispered prayers. I also stood close to the stones and asked “that there be no more wars.”

***

Back at home, my mother Tzviya sat, overcome with the enthusiasm that was spreading through the unified city, and together with my sister, they tried to put their feelings into words, to express the excitement in writing. In their own song.

The news that the war was over began to spread. But with the thrill of the glorious victory and the reunification of the city, news also began to arrive of the injured and the many casualties. New words began to echo through the streets: Ammunition Hill, the Alley of Death, Rockefeller, the entry into the Old City…(during the Six Day War, 779 IDF soldiers were killed). With blood and fire – we had returned to Jerusalem once again.

Line after line, the words spilled out. Their excitement and thoughts were translated into words.

They wrote, and the words slowly connected into a chorus and stanzas.

The lyrics, emotional and powerful, fit the atmosphere of the times:

 

With blood and fire, with pain and mourning, we have returned to you again,

Jerusalem, dearest to us of all, your sons shall sing a song of praise to you.

We will never forsake you, we will never again abandon you,

Because to us, you are a ray of brightness, an abundance of light, from generation to generation.

***

During the exhilarating days after the city was liberated, and for the first years after the war, we often sang the song.

The days went by. Father had already passed away. We grew up, got married and the song was gradually forgotten.

32 years after the war, their grandson, Naveh, was born.

In honor of Naveh’s Bar Mitzva five years ago, his parents asked us – the siblings, to prepare a Jerusalem-themed blessing for Naveh “from one of the figures who liberated Jerusalem,” and present it at his Bar Mitzva.

I wrote a blessing “from Motta Gur.” My brother David wrote a blessing “from Uzi Narkiss.”

We presented our blessings to Naveh.

David, a dear man with a tremendous soul, left us just three years ago, after being diagnosed with cancer right after his 50th birthday. He ascended to heaven on his 51st birthday.

My brother, David Mendelson, of blessed memory.

On the Jerusalem Day before David died, I remembered the song. I asked David if he remembered the words.

David remembered the first stanza, remembered that there was a second stanza, and also mentioned something about a third stanza that was related to Naveh’s Bar Mitzva…

David’s illness and death caused me – and all of us – to forget the song entirely. Until this year.

On Israel’s Independence Day this year, we held a family outing to Neve Tzuf Forest in the Binyamin region, and Naveh was asked to bring the blessing that David wrote for his Bar Mitzva. Grandma was asked to also try to remember the lost second stanza…

 

Grandma remembered the words to the second stanza, and Naveh found the blessing that David wrote. In his moving blessing, we also found the words to the third stanza.

David authored the third stanza, which discusses attaining full control of Jerusalem. It expresses the dream of actually having “the Temple Mount in our hands” – with the establishment of the Naveh – a name for the Temple. It describes the return to Jerusalem, rebuilt in its full glory.

Before David’s death, he asked those close to him “to increase love and joy in the world.” Now that we found David’s message, we can release the song to the world, with all three of its stanzas.

It is a song that begins in times of war, continues to the excitement of the city’s reunification, and ends with a call for fully rebuilding Jerusalem:

***

Returning to Jerusalem

Lyrics and composition: Tzviya Mendelson

Third stanza lyrics: David Shaked (Mendelson), of blessed memory

 

With blood and fire, with pain and mourning,

 we have returned to you again,

Jerusalem, dearest to us of all,

your sons shall sing a song of praise to you.

 

We will never forsake you,

 we will never again abandon you,

Because to us, you are a ray of brightness,

 an abundance of light, from generation to generation.

 

With a beating, excited and tempestuous heart,

We shall mention your name in purity.

Jerusalem – conceals a hidden secret.

Light and love intertwined with luster.

 

We will never forsake you,

 we will never again abandon you,

Because to us, you are a ray of brightness,

 an abundance of light, from generation to generation.

 

With a song of praise, and with pride,

We have established the Naveh here again.

From your ruins – we shall rebuild the Temple,

And Levites will sing melodiously.

 

They all returned to Zion,

The exile will not repeat itself,

For here in the City of David

We shall carry the eternal fire forever.

 

We will never forsake you,

 we will never again abandon you,

Because to us, you are a ray of brightness,

 an abundance of light, from generation to generation.

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