"LET'S play school and I will be teacher," said Miriam, a dark-haired little girl.
"No, no, play making bricks in Egypt."
"Oh, I don't want to think of the Jews in Egypt."
"Better play 'Going to Jerusalem,'" said Judah, a little boy of ten.
"Don't you ever get tired of that game, Judah? After all that playing and marching, you could be in Jerusalem by now."
"I am going to Jerusalem some day," Judah answered proudly. His eyes filled up with tears. Oh, how he wanted to go to Jerusalem! "All right, let's play 'Going to Jerusalem.' You know how the game is played."
The children began to march around chairs. At the end of each round some child was left out. Someone stayed behind. Someone did not reach
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[paragraph continues] Jerusalem. Who do you think did get to Jerusalem? Who do you think won the game? No, it was not Judah, not yet. Not even in the game did he get his wish fulfilled. Miriam won the game.
That evening at the table his father asked Judah kindly:
"Well, Judah, did you get to Jerusalem yet?" Judah hung his head.
"No," he answered sadly, "not yet, but I will some day."
Many days passed. Then many years. Judah grew up and went to college in Spain. One day Judah, now tall and handsome, was sitting on a big rock, facing east and writing a poem. He looked up and recited:
[paragraph continues] Some of his college friends came over and listened.
"Well, Judah," said one, 'care you studying hard for the doctor's exam?"
"Oh, bother! Exam!" replied Judah angrily. "I'm writing poetry to my beloved."
His friends drew back, surprised. So Judah had a girl! They didn't know that.
When Judah saw their surprise he asked:
"Want to hear one of the poems? How do you like this one?
The friends all agreed that the poem was beautiful. They saw their mistake. Judah had no real girl. His girl was Jerusalem.
"Please read us another one," they begged. And they didn't have to coax Judah. Immediately he began:
When he finished reading, one of the boys said:
"Beautiful poems--but how will that help you pass the exam?"
"That's true," sighed Judah. "Thinking and dreaming and writing of the Holy Land won't help me pass the exams. And I do want to become a doctor. I shall earn a lot of money and then I shall go to my beloved city, Jerusalem."
Judah was graduated from college. He became a very successful doctor. He was so busy that he hardly found time to write poems to his beloved.
Years passed. Judah married and had one daughter. As soon as she could speak she, too, sang songs about Erets Israel.
One day when she was about eight years old, she suddenly turned to her father and said:
"Father, I've heard so much about Jerusalem, and I know so many songs and poems about it, but I have never seen Jerusalem. Won't we ever go there?"
Then Judah took her on his knee, and told her at her age, he had always played "Going to Jerusalem,"
and how he, too, had made up his mind that when he grew up he would surely go there.
"Oh, how I long to go there now!" he ended. "But all my brothers and sisters are here and my dear friends, too. I hate to leave them all. And besides, your mother doesn't want to go."
More years passed. Judah already had a grandchild, and even his grandchild kept on singing:
At last the day came when Judah could wait no longer. He tore himself away from his beloved family--his wife, his daughter, and his only grandchild. He left his many, many friends. He gave up his work as a doctor, and started for Jerusalem.
When Judah's ship was well out to sea, a strong wind arose which soon became a storm. The waves kept dashing higher and higher. The boat was tossed hither and thither. It seemed as though they would
never reach the holy city. Days passed before the storm quieted down. At last, tired but hopeful, he arrived in the Holy Land.
Judah had worked, and worked, and waited. But at last he had his reward. Was this really Jerusalem? Was this really Judah in the streets of his beloved city? It didn't seem possible. It didn't seem true!
Judah visited the Cave of Macpelah, the Wailing Wall, Rachel's Tomb, and all the other places he so longed to see. He touched each building, each stone, with his hands to make sure that he wasn't dreaming. While on the boat, Judah had begun to write a book about Judaism, and many new poems. He was now able to finish his books in the place where he had always longed to be.
But Judah wasn't lucky enough to enjoy his beloved Jerusalem very long. Only a few months after he had reached the city, he was kneeling outside the city walls, chanting a song to Zion. While the great poet of Zion was singing his song, a Mohammedan horseman came along. When he saw Judah, a Jew, praying at the Wall, it made him very angry. So angry did he become that he fell upon Judah and killed him.
Now, I know you feel sorry for Judah. But don't forget that he did reach Jerusalem, his beloved city. And even to this day his poems to Zion are sung.
155:1 Adapted from the translation by Emma Lazarus.
157:1 Adapted from the translation by Emma Lazarus.