After the sadness and hatred of the last week we need something sweet to take us into Shabbat, so here is my latest Good News Friday installment.
My first item is so perfectly timed for the week of Yom Hashoah, and is particularly heart warming. A group of German Christians are on their way to Israel by boat, bringing with them a replica of the golden Menorah depicted on Titus’s arch in Rome, the Menorah that was looted from the Bet Hamikdash (the Holy Temple) by the Romans almost 2,000 years ago.
What makes this project even more relevant for this week of remembrance is that, according to the Hebrew article in Ynet (via Pini), some of the members of the Menorah Project are descendants of families belonging to the notorious SS who felt they wanted to make amends. From the JPost:
A group of 11 German Christians left on a boat for Israel on Monday, bringing with them a 120-kg. gilded menorah.
The full-size replica of the Temple candelabra measuring 150 cm. is being shipped from Germany to Haifa port via Rome to the port of Haifa. It will arrive on May 5, and be presented on May 9 at a ceremony in Jerusalem.
The group of independent Germans, who call themselves simply “The Menorah Project,” said they have been working on the piece for a year and a half. They raised €120,000 in private donations to fund the initiative.
“The seven-branched menorah is a symbol of the State of Israel,” said Luca-Elias Hezel, who initiated the project. “For us, it is a symbol that speaks louder and more meaningful than all words.”
He said the menorah, modeled after the menorah depicted on the Arch of Titus in Rome, is being given to the Jewish people with “a broad heart and in solidarity” and as a gift on Israel’s 71st Independence Day.
On its website, the Menorah Project explains its vision: “As the Jewish people need to publicly deal with injustice and robbery, we want to publicly bring back the menorah from Rome to Jerusalem.”
Today, in Rome, one can still see a replica of the menorah at the Arch of Titus, which serves as a reminder of the Roman Empire’s triumph over the Jews in Judea and their conquest of Jerusalem. The Romans destroyed the Jewish Temple in 70 CE.
Watch this short, heart-warming video:
As the project members explain, the destruction of the Temple 2,000 years ago was the start of the current Exile and dispersion of the Jews (the Diaspora) which was accompanied by expulsions, torture, persecution, forced conversions and mass murder, culminating in the Shoah. Thank G-d the Exile is coming to an end as the State of Israel was established and gets stronger by the day.
This Menorah is yet another symbol of the times of Atchalta d’Geula (“footesteps of the Redemption”) in which we are living.
A huge kol hakavod to this great group of Christians for their wonderful project.
And now for something completely different, but also extremely uplifting.
A new member of the Knesset, Gadi Yevarkan of the opposition Blue and White party, who is of Ethiopian extraction, welcomed his mother to the Knesset in a most extraordinary and touching way, when he was sworn in:
Lawmaker Gadi Yevarkan of the Blue and White party on Tuesday kissed his mother’s feet in a show of gratitude upon taking the oath of office as a member of the 21st Knesset.
“I swore allegiance today to the State of Israel, as a Knesset member and to serve the people of Israel faithfully,” Yevarkan wrote on his Facebook page. “I was so moved today to see my mother at the Knesset and for me it’s a coming full circle.
“Words can’t describe her nobility. The least I could do was to kiss her feet and bless her: ‘Happy holiday, Mom,’” he wrote.
After kissing her feet, Yevarkan hugged his mother and escorted her into the Knesset, greeting Blue and White party No. 3 Moshe Ya’alon on the way”
This was such a touching moment it brought tears to my eyes. Sivan Rahav Meir, in her usual inimitable and inspiring way, brought a deeper understanding to this beautiful gesture:
Why is the photograph of new Knesset member Gadi Yevarkan kissing his mother’s feet so moving? Why, after a full day of ceremonies and speeches honoring the opening of the newest session of the Knesset, is this photograph especially seared into our memory? In the photograph you see a lawyer, a Knesset member, wearing a suit, kissing the feet of his elderly mother who is holding a stick and dressed in traditional Ethiopian garb. At the gates of the Knesset, Gadi did something that is not connected to political parties or legislation, but rather to spirit, culture, values, tradition.
It’s true, most of us don’t kiss our parents’ feet like that, and that’s not exactly what must be learned from this photograph. In this era of crumbling boundaries and defiance of authority, the main message this photograph sends is this: we shouldn’t forget where we came from. We shouldn’t be ashamed of our roots, of our ethnic traditions. We owe a big thank you to the previous generation (as Gadi said yesterday: “All of this is thanks to my mother.”) Gadi is reminding us to behave towards the traditions of previous generations with humility rather than arrogance, with love rather than embarrassment. To speak not only about children’s rights, but also about children’s responsibilities.
“Be holy,” these are the words that open this week’s Torah portion, and what follows after is a series of instructions explaining how to attain that holiness we yearn for. Among others, these instructions include: “Every man should have awe for his mother and father,” “Rise up in the presence of a person with gray hair,” and “Show respect for the old.” It turns out that the way to the holiness, first of all, passes by way of our relationship to those who came before us.
Translated by JewishMOM.com
Kol hakavod to MK Yevarkan on his respectful attitude to his mother, and even more for his pride in his culture and heritage which will enrich Israeli culture and hopefully inspire all our Knesset members to act more respectfully to each other and to us!
And with these heart-lifting items I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!