Ben Yehuda

Illustration by Elhanan ben-Avraham

Eliezer Ben Yehuda almost single-handedly revived the ancient Hebrew language from the dead, but little could he imagine that a century later on the street called by his name in the heart of Jerusalem hordes would be again speaking that tongue of the prophets.

As the hot summer Mediterranean sun sets and the cool mountain air comforts the Holy City, Ben Yehuda Street, with its pedestrian mall lined with open-air cafes and shops, would be filled with happily chattering Israelis. Here where King David and Isaiah and Jesus walked, Israelis dwelling together eat ice cream- orthodox and secular Jews, Arabs in their traditional garb, families with children, young and old, blond Russians and black Ethiopians, Moroccan and American Jews and local Christian priests and Muslims peacefully enjoying freedom in the very face of hate-filled threats of annihilation from our perpetually unhappy neighboring nations. All this defying in sharp contrast the accusatory epithet from our enemies of ‘apartheid’.

The street is filled with music by local street musicians, young and old, one singing to God in Hebrew, ‘Thank you for all you have created’. Children are enchanted by a brave young juggler tossing blades and fire, and by creative puppeteers as life goes on in Jerusalem beautifully restored from its very ancient ruins. It is the great mercy and promises of the God of Israel manifest in our days, before our eyes, for those with eyes to see.

‘Thus saith the LORD of hosts; There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age.  And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof. Thus saith the LORD of hosts: If it be marvelous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvelous in my eyes? saith the LORD of hosts. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country; And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem’– Zechariah 8:4-8.

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Elhanan ben-Avraham, born in 1945, is a professional artist, poet, writer and father of two, grandfather of four, living in Israel since 1979. He has served in the IDF, taught the Bible internationally, published five illustrated books of poetry, painted two large Biblical murals in public buildings in Jerusalem, and most recently produced THE JERUSALEM ILLUSTRATED BIBLE, among many other works. He and his wife live in a quiet village in the Mountains of Judah.