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Israel has been opening up, but mass public gatherings are still not happening around the world. So how can we celebrate Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, you ask? We celebrate together, away from each other.
Here are some traditions of my home town of Jerusalem and some ways you can celebrate Yom Yerushalayim either at home in Israel or at home in the Diaspora.
Sing Songs About Jerusalem
“Jerusalem of Gold” is a classic Hebrew song, written in 1967. Singing songs you don’t understand is a great way to celebrate Jerusalem. Singing in your not native tongue is a beautiful Jewish tradition, as it makes it more meaningful when you don't understand the words. It feels like shul.
For even more meaning, write your own song about Jerusalem. Don’t be scared. None of the two-thousand guitar carrying people I’ve met in Jerusalem, have shied away from this. It’s not complicated. I will teach you the secrets. Play any chord on the guitar and say “Jerusalem.” Any chord is fine, as long as you repeat the word "Jerusalem."
Other words that can be added are “peace,” “gold,” and “city of.” How you organize those words is up to you. “Flowing with” also works, even though it’s hard to find something that rhymes with “flowing," and it's hard to find a body of water in Jerusalem.
As any decent folk singer would, make sure that you enunciate the word “Jerusalem” correctly, with an emphasis on “lem”; otherwise, your song will not touch the heart.
Kotel Services in Your Home
Pray with a lot of noise in the background. That will help you feel like you’re at the Kotel with its 100 simultaneous Minyanim.
As you may have seen, at the Kotel, they're taking the social distancing very seriously, with closed off areas. The new quarantined areas have been set up so that people in groups of a hundred are six feet away from other groups of a hundred people.
Israeli Dancing Socially Distanced
This makes for much less injury during the Hora. The arm raise section can be quite dangerous. Countless times I have been hit by long armed people at four feet, with happy intention at Bar Mitzvahs.
Six feet is the key. This is also a more religious way of doing Israeli dancing amongst men and women.
There is nothing more meaningful than walking the sidewalks of Jerusalem, made of its own stone. A feeling of holiness that cannot be duplicated without slippery floors. To bring this Jerusalem neighborhood feeling to your home, find any decently tiled kitchen, pour water on it and walk in your socks.
If you get severely hurt, that is on you. I am covering myself legally here. I would also not suggest you drink OxiClean for health.
Visiting army bases and bunkers that were active during the Six Day War is a beautiful way to spend the holiday. In quarantine, you can relive the bunker experience in your basement with live streaming and Amazon Prime.
Translated into English, this means ground up fruits and sweets in ice cream. You can celebrate this Jerusalem favorite, frozen yogurt that tastes good, by going to a decent frozen custard style dessert establishment, such as Carvel. Putting on weight is the root of all holiday traditions. This holiday, you can finally enjoy yourself knowing you will get heavy.
I would suggest falafel, but all of you in the Diaspora already making it. In Israel, falafel is not a celebratory food. It's something you eat in the middle of a hard day, where somebody is underpaying you, when you have no time to eat. But, when you're in America, it's a delicacy. That's what happens when they call it a falafel sandwich and charge $10. See the Dead Sea products you bought for other staff that is of elegance and value because you paid way too much.
Parade with Cars
Probably no walking parades this year waving flags. Instead, lineup cars throughout your city. Built up traffic is a great way to celebrate and get people mad. Be sure to beep your horn. That will add to the festive experience, also bringing the downtown Jerusalem experience of waiting at a red and getting beeped for not moving.
The best part of beeping outside of Israel is that you can bring the anti-Semitic tradition of beeping at Jews to your festival, yourself.
And this year, hang a real flag out your car. The mini flags are pathetic. If you’re going to have something flying off your car when you open your window by accident, it might as well be something big. If you’re going to litter, do it right.
No Jerusalem Day event would be replete without a protest.
You can’t socially distance a parade, but you can socially distance a protest. You do this by treating people as protesters, having them stand off to the side of the road. If we can’t walk together, we can at least successfully protest together. If you’re not in Israel during these times, you can stand by the curb and yell at cars passing. Words like “shame,” “why are you walking?!” and "Jew" added to any sentence, can bring the full Diaspora Yom Yerushalayim experience to your town.
Descend Upon the Street in Song
If singing songs of peace causes shouts of “oppression,” you’re celebrating right.
I just caution you to be careful. Jews singing “Jerusalem of Gold” can easily be misconstrued as political tyranny.
It’s going to happen again, soon. I believe we celebrated last Yom Yerushalayim with elections.
I am not sure if this is a Yom Yerushalayim tradition yet. It might be a new way of celebrating the monthly moon of our lunar calendar.
Buy a Jerusalem Product
I just bought one last Yom Yerushalayim in the shuk. It said “made in China.” I’m sure you can join in supporting Jerusalem’s unity by purchasing a couple of these products on eBay. They send to Israel as well.
It may take some time to ship the flags and Menorahs from Shanghai. This makes for a good chance to celebrate Yom Yerushalayim Sheni (second), allowing you to commemorate properly, with Jewish artifacts from China.
In Israel, parents have a tradition of taking their children to see this every Yom Yerushalayim, as we are sure Mitushelach would’ve enjoyed going down this slide. It’s a shame he didn’t live long enough.
Known in English as “The Monster,” this is the famous slide of Jerusalem. That’s what kids get when their city has no amusement park. A slide that gives them nightmares. A three tongued monster that allows you to slide of its mouth.
For Yom Yerushalayim, be sure to scare your children with fun activities. I’m not suggesting to reenact the Six Day War. Bring them games they’re afraid to play. The new Armistice Line game I created, where you have to balance yourself on a beam and get pelted if you fall off the wrong side, will definitely bring them a sense of connection. It’s kind of like freeze tag, but played with people that genuinely hate you.
You can even take the Jerusalem lion and chase the children around the house with it.
Even scarier, take them to the Mifletzet. I can’t tell you how many people who grew up in Jerusalem that told me, “I haven’t been to the Mifletzet since I was five.” Why? Because they got scared.
If you really want to share in the Jerusalem experience this Yom Yerushalayim, go to any store that doesn’t mark prices on their products, where the staff is yelling, and you will feel like you’re at the shuk.
I truly hope that you now feel more connected to Jerusalem. Come visit us soon. We look forward to yelling at you again.
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We don’t play Connect Four. We play Four in One Line. In Israel, we explain the games. Otherwise, I'm trying to figure out how these things connect. They're supposed to connect in a line. And I know that now...
And there is a sale on it too?! Fun doesn't get better.