Sunday was a glorious day for Israel. It was Jerusalem Day – the day on which the Holy City was reunited with the Jewish people after nearly two thousand years of separation, after its Jewish population had been driven out, persecuted, and terrorized for simply being Jews.
Instead of venturing into Jerusalem for the day’s celebration, I decided to visit the Tomb of Samuel the Prophet on a hilltop overlooking the ancient city of Jerusalem like a guardsmen. It’s not that I was trying to avoid the large crowds in Jerusalem; there were thousands of worshipers at Samuel’s tomb, as well, because the date of Jerusalem’s reunification and Samuel’s day of passing coincide. I made my decision because I simply felt moved to pay a visit to the Prophet’s grave.
It is no coincidence that Samuel’s day of passing would be the day that Jerusalem would be liberated thousands of years later. Samuel anointed King David, who captured the city in ancient times, and whose son King Solomon erected the Holy Temple.
It was also Samuel and King David who traversed the Judean mountain range in an effort to locate where the Temple –the holiest site in Jerusalem – would eventually rest. This hilltop where both Temples once stood is the same spot where Abraham bound Isaac and where Jacob dreamed that a ladder stretched all the way up to the heavens.
Of course, King David and Samuel had to guide them to the exact location. Divine inspiration led them to the site which serves as Judaism’s holiest place, the city of Jerusalem and its Holy Temple.
Samuel the Prophet never saw the building of the Holy Temple of Jerusalem; he died before its construction. But his resting place overlooking Jerusalem has witnessed all the city’s highs and lows – its construction, destruction, rebuilding, devastation, and in 1967, its reunification.
For thousands of years, Jews from far and near would travel with their young sons to give them the traditional first haircut at Samuel the Prophet’s grave on the day of his passing. I, too, took my son when he turned three, and cut his hair at Samuel’s grave. It’s an ancient tradition that has given thousands of Jewish worshipers their first encounter with Jerusalem at the Prophet’s grave. This is another direct link between Samuel and the reunification of Jerusalem, as the Prophet has reunited these thousands of pilgrims with their eternal capital.