Amber Massey, an intern with the Ethiopian National Project (ENP) through Israel By Design, reflects on Jerusalem Day as a unique opportunity to recognize the cultural diversity of global Jewry.
“Why is the Remembrance Day held on Jerusalem Day?” someone asked me after I informed them of my plans to attend the ceremony on May 8. Why? I didn’t have an answer for her, since I am neither Ethiopian nor Israeli. However, I did recall a conversation I had with an Ethiopian-Israeli not too long ago.
Being both of African descent and hailing from two different sides of the world, we were curious about each other’s unique cultural experiences in the Diaspora. Then, the discussion moved to Jerusalem, and what it meant to be here, the land of our ancestors of whom we mention during prayers every Shabbat. It was one of those rare and honest interchanges that connected two strangers, fluent in two different languages, from two different cultures to a singular perspective: that our connection to the land was not necessarily influenced by the philosophies of Theodore Herzl; that our “Zionism” was less a political construction, and more a spiritual one based on prophesy and a promise… a promise of return to the Promised Land, to Zion, to Jerusalem.
To be here in Jerusalem, to feel the Jerusalem stone beneath our feet as we prayed at the Kotel, to breath the mountainous air of Mount Zion – just to be here was a blessing that only a few generations ago was an impossibility or just a dream.