As I came around the corner, two Israeli policeman told me in an aggressive tone that I had to go and stand on the side - in the garbage - to let this loud group of people holding Yoshki-on-a-stick go past uninterrupted.
Now, if I’d been told to stand in the garbage for someone really important, like a revered Rabbi, Rebbe or Rosh Yeshiva, that would be one thing. But to have to stand in the garbage so a bunch of idol worshipers could pass by without having to deal with walking around a Jew coming in the other direction? That was something else.
As I closed my eyes and started ‘blessing’ the congregation under my breath (while standing in a cardboard box in the middle of the garbage by the side of the alleyway) I started wondering how much longer God is going to tolerate these sorts of affronts to His honour that are going on all the time in the Holy City of Jerusalem (and in Israel more generally).
How much longer is He going to let a situation continue where observant Jews are forced to stand in the garbage by the side of the road in the Holy City on Shabbat afternoon so a parade of idol-worshipers can pass by with full honours?
This Shabbat, the question returned again, because now it was the turn of the Russian orthodox ‘Yoshki on a stick’ people to have their turn doing a Palm Sunday idolatrous parade. There were so many of them crowded up by the Jaffa Gate entrance into the Old City that the police had penned everyone in and was only letting a few groups pass at a time, after a really long wait.
I try and walk into the Old City most shabbats, either to go pray by the Kotel, or to go pray at the tomb of King David. Yet again, a group of ‘Yoshki-on-a-stick’ people had taken over the Old City, and all the religious Jews were being politely (and not so politely…) turned away from entering.
As I walked around the longer way to King David’s tomb via the outside of the Jerusalem walls, I watched these groups of Russian orthodox idol worshipers lighting their big clumps of candles, then go crazy with their i-Phones taking pictures for all of the folks back home to see.
Between the i-Phones, the buses, the cars parked all over the place, the police barking orders - it SO didn’t feel like Shabbat, let alone Shabbat in the holy city of Jerusalem, on the holiday Jewish festival of Pesach.
What’s wrong with this picture?
All I can tell you is that I was waiting to see if anyone would set themselves on fire with their bunches of flaming tapers. They didn’t, which only goes to prove that Hashem was definitely still there performing open miracles, because 500+ people each holding 10 lit tapers and jostling in a crowd is enough to give any health and safety inspector a heart attack.
God, when do things start to turnaround, really, for the Jewish people in the way it really counts? When do things really start to turn around for Jerusalem? When are we going to see the prophecies about the Temple being rebuilt, and Jerusalem returning to the pinnacle of its holiness start to happen?
Because I just can’t take the Yoshki-on-a-stick stuff anymore.