YERUSHALAYIM – 3000 km – „A call full of love for freedom for man. That we recognize the fences in our dealings with one another and do not seek our life in the past". This is the current* inscription on the Stone of Encounter. This first confirms positively the existence of boundaries for outer peace. Without their recognition, there is no encounter and no cooperation. Without a framework for living together, there is no freedom. Without a protection for the sacred, it loses its power and beauty.
Yerushalayim (Jerusalem, foundation of peace) is written on the Stone of Encounter at the border to the European long-distance path E8. The Hebrew name has been chosen as a reconciliatory acknowledgement (Numbers 24:9) of also a Jewish root of the European culture. Values of the Torah have been anchored in culture through Christianity, for example the Ten Commandments. The hurt root "Jerusalem" needs healing. The name stands for more than a religious idea. He designates an idea of life: It is like the hope of waking up from a dark dream and find yourself in a world where people live together in peace, freedom and goodwill for each other; a world of beauty, hope and light.
A greeting“Jerusalem is more than a location. Jerusalem is a condition of beauty. Jerusalem is everywhere where there is beauty. Now, some of this beauty is with you, in Bensheim; and Bensheim can therefore choose to be in Jerusalem as well. In order to get into the Jerusalem from above one has to go through the Jerusalem from below. Everyone would have the opportunity in Bensheim now… more” (Rabbi Andrew Steiman of Frankfurt on the Main for the inauguration).
Peace and fences (September 2015)
However, this new world, in which everyone may bring their beauty, the closeness between the people, is not possible without healthy boundaries.We would lose ourselves. We have to recognize the borders in order to be able to respect them. We erect fences and devise borders to protect values and the diversity of ideas and structures. Matter itself is structure, thus demarcation. Without demarcation there is no life. The more a culture approaches spiritual maturity, the more the healthy boundaries and values are realized in the inside, the more the external borders and fences can actually fall within this culture. A natural demarcation of this culture to the outside remains.
A “heavenly Jerusalem on Earth” cannot be enforced by tearing down fences. Boundaries are human because man is limited in his possibilities. The ideology of boundlessness speaks of overconfidence and presumption. The results of it are even more conflict and war. In the recognition of the "fences" - recognizing the differences how people understand and see the world - we are freed from making our own point of view an ideology for all people. That is a culture of freedom.
Boundaries (fences) can only be overcome in close cooperation, with mutual understanding. However, “overcoming” is not the same as “tearing down” or ignoring boundaries. There is a peaceful way to deal with boundaries. This path can only begin with ourselves. The path of peace to the inside again leads to the outside into a responsibility in the world. The political events in Germany, especially since 2015, clearly show how important it is that a healing of the cultural roots of the Germans and their identity can take place and how important it is to establish a culture of freedom that comes from within.
The fence at the Stone of EncounterMake a fence around the law! - (Proverbs of the Fathers, 1st chapter, 1st verse). The law, the Torah is a Tree of Life it is said in Judaism. In the Friedensmal (monument), the Tree of Life is the central element. A Garden of Freedom and the fence at the Stone of Encounter form the frame around the Friedensmal, meaning the fence around the law. The word "garden" comes from the Indo-European word "ghorto" that means ring fence. The "fence around the law" was not included in the original planning for the Friedensmal. The fence and thus the Stone of Encounter and a Garden of Freedom as a frame was unexpectedly brought by life. The story went like this:
The local authority issued a special permit in 2012 for the construction of a paddock fence on the neighbouring property. Our monument shows theTree of Life that breaks through a dark ring (for the dark past) towards Jerusalem and is thus a symbol of freedom. The new fence was to be built directly before the breakthrough of the Tree of Life. This counteracted the artistic message of the monument. It also meant that the originally planned memorial design with approved 33 large memorial stones lacked the freedom in order to be able to work in the intended way. A monument that feels overwhelming is not suitable for transporting a message of peace and freedom and attracting visitors.
The artist removed 22 stones in the monument circle and replaced them symbolically in the sense of the artistic message of the monument design by aStone of Encounter at the border of the property. With that, he opened the "dark ring" of the monument to the other side facing away from the fence. These measures were able to bring a relieve to the overall appearance of the landscape again. On the Stone of Encounter, the message of peace reads: „That we recognize the fences in our dealings with one another...". In addition, with the design of embankments (angel wings) on the sides of the monument area and a levelling around the monument circle the fence got a different aesthetic function: from a blockade in front of the Tree of Life, the fence became part of a frame; a safe space and "interface with the outside" for the Friedensmal. That's how a Garden of Freedom as a frame came into being.
With the Stone of Encounter and a Garden of Freedom as a frame, the fence was successfully integrated into the monument design as a new, clearly visible border. It was an artistic response to the problem and it eventually led to a different much more developed design, both in terms of content and aesthetics. The design was thus created in a process of dealing with life. At the beginning of the year 2019, during an internet research, the artist came across the passage "Make a fence around the law / Torah" (Proverbs of the Fathers). Life itself made this instruction a reality at the Jerusalem Peace Memorial. But there was even more: It should turn out later that on the side facing away from the fence, towards which the monument had to be opened because of aesthetic reasons, formerly there was in the valley the "Jerusalem on the Rhine".
By the hiking trail
TheStone of Encounter is located by a hiking trail. The trail stands as a metaphor for the path of experience in life. The Stone of Encounter shows the encounter with the world also in a confrontation with the pain and suffering in life. At the same time, it symbolizes the hope that man must have on his way, not to give up because of disappointments, his own or others' failures, envy and lies, for not to give up because of a burden that is felt as overwhelming; for to be able to continue the way anyway.
Yerushalayim is an expression of this hope. Man is not just a material being in a material world. What makes his essence is his consciousness. The path of man through his life can also become a spiritual process of awakening. Religions can be trailblazers and can give support in that with their structure, meaning demarcation and order. Religions become a problem when they no longer respect the individual's spiritual path, because they have become the walled-in and closed space of a religious ideology. The Catholic theologian Karl Rahner wrote about religion: "The pious of the future will be a 'mystic', one who has 'experienced' something or he will cease to be anything at all."
Rabbi Mordechai Mendelson at the Stone of Encounter
Healing of a hurt rootJerusalem is root and vision, woven into our culture, often injured in past and present. The freedom and abundance of life that we as humans and as a society desire cannot be realized without healing the deep wounds within our own souls and collective consciousness. Only then we will be free to more comprehensively understand the world and act responsibly today. “To learn from the past” means to turn a burden of the past into a blessing for the future.
This region was once home to blossoming Jewish life. On November 9th, 1938 and the following day, the synagogues burned, also in the cities of Speyer, Worms and Mainz – cities with a most significant Jewish past. On November 10th, also the synagogue in Bensheim burned to the ground. The Jewish congregations all over Germany, and later also far beyond the German borders, were destroyed. The Jewish Germans were displaced or murdered.
The German pastThe unlabeled side of the Stone of Encounter points towards the west, to the Hochstädten Valley, which contains numerous subterraneous tunnels as a result of the mining activities since 1865. Still, at the end of the 2nd World War it was envisioned to build up a weapons production at this place, protected from aerial strikes. Various displaced Greeks and concentration camp prisoners were used as forced laborers. The theme here is war and tyranny and our handling of this German past. This camp was operated as an external camp of the main Concentration Camp Natzweiler-Struthof in Alsace. The theme is thus also a system of main and external camps, which at the end of the war covered the whole of Europe and even included small towns such as Hochstädten. Here, you can find my essay of this history of the location substantiated with historical documents.
The Stone of Encounter with the inscription "Yerushalayim" reminds us in the context of a break in civilization as a commemorative stone, not to let us be captured by ideologies (recognizing boundaries in our dealing with each other) and to remember the values who let us speak of the Heavenly Jerusalem. The threshold underneath the Stone of Encounter points to the Friedensmal to the right of the Stone, with the inscription „Where dust is turned to light“.
HopeWe know that we will never be satisfied living in a world that struggles in the shadows of ignorance and hate, knowing that life should be filled with beauty, truth, and good. Only where light is, the darkness can give way, which is why the Stone of Encounter bears the inscription "Yerushalayim". The name represents hope for the world. The peace of Jerusalem is universal; it applies to all humans. Jerusalem could and should make people come together.
Inscription: Where dust is turned to light
„You who are watching, who did not raise a murderer hand, but who did not shake off the dust from your yearning, who stood still, right there, where it is turned to light.“ The German-Jewish poet Nelly Sachs, awarded with the Nobel Prize for Literature, wrote these words in a poem after Shoah and war. Monuments can be an encouragement to get involved for a world of peace and freedom and in that way to learn from the past. Only where light is can darkness give way. How can we take responsibility for the peace hope of Yerushalayim in the world? Where does our responsibility begin? „Where dust is turned to light“ – this inscription on the ground in front of the Stone of Encounter points towards the Tree of Life in the Friedensmal (monument). It's about the path to your own inner: Peace and freedom begin in the own inner world.
„Be the change that you wish to see in the world.“ (Gandhi)
* „A call full of love for freedom for man. That we overcome the fences in our dealings with one another and do not seek our foothold behind fences of ideology." The stone with this inscription was called "Jerusalem memorial stone" and had been set as a border stone in 2012. - Life is development: for the inauguration of the entire monument in 2015 under the name Jerusalem Peace Memorial, the memorial stone on the hiking trail was renamed "Stone of Encounter" and the inscription was changed 7 years later on Rosh ha-Shanah 2019 to: „A call full of love for freedom for man. That we recognize the fences in our dealings with one another and do not seek our life in the past".
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