Jerusalem and the “Summer of Love”

Dear Friends,


In a previous letter, I discussed the fears we experienced during the weeks before the Six-Day War and the joyous emotions which followed the amazing deliverance of our people from destruction. During this period, there was a great awakening of Jewish identity among segments of world Jewry. Many assimilated Jews were surprised to discover that the events surrounding the Six-Day War had awakened within their souls a love for their people and their heritage. For example, groups of assimilated young Jews at universities began to explore their Jewish roots, and a good number came to visit Israel that summer in search of spiritual inspiration. Some of them later began to study Torah at new schools which were established to meet their special needs. Visitors to Israel that summer also discovered a warm spirit of unity among our people. In addition, many young Gentiles came to visit Israel that summer, as they were inspired by the amazing events of the Six-Day War. Among the visitors to Israel were young, long-haired people called “hippies” who had begun to reject the materialistic emphasis of modern western culture. They joined with all the people who came to pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.


I first encountered the hippies when I was working in New York City that summer as a student intern in a “Head Start” program for disadvantaged pre-school children. The program was located in the East Village, the upper part of the Lower East Side of Manhattan. In the days of my grandparents, the Lower East Side was full of Jewish immigrants; however, the majority of the Jews eventually left the run-down tenements of the area and moved to neighborhoods with better housing in other parts of the city and the surrounding suburbs. When I worked in the East Village during the summer of 1967, there were very few Jews left, although there was still a good number of Jews in the southern part of the Lower-East Side, and most of them lived in modern co-op apartments. The majority of the residents in the East Village were Puerto Rican, and there were also some Black and Asian residents, together with a small number of White Catholics. To the surprise of the residents, many long-haired young people began moving into the neighborhood that summer. One of them was a young Jewish woman named Barbara who, like me, worked as a student intern in this Head Start program. The staff members in this program were Jewish; however, I was the only religious Jew among them, and I discovered that Barbara was intrigued by my spiritual concerns.


One day, Barbara told me that she was sharing an apartment in the East Village with a group of young people who were searching for a more loving and spiritual way of life. She invited me to come and visit her community, as she explained that she felt I would “understand” them.  I went and met the leader of the group, who told me how they hoped to create a loving and caring community which would not be based on materialistic values. I later read in the newspapers about how thousands of young, longhaired people – in search of a more loving and meaningful way of life – were leaving their comfortable suburban homes and moving into urban neighborhoods, such as the East Village in New York, and Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. The summer of 1967 therefore became known as the Summer of Love. There is a song by John Philips about this special summer which focuses on the hippy migration to Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, and the following are the first and third stanzas from this song:


If you’re going to San Francisco,
be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.
If you’re going to San Francisco,
you’re gonna meet some gentle people there.


All across the nation, such a strange vibration;
people in motion.
There’s a whole generation with a new explanation;
people in motion, people in motion.


I did not have to go, however, to San Francisco in order to meet some gentle people with flowers in their hair, as I met them in the East Village. Many of them were Jews, and a good number of them were living in apartments that Jews lived in two generations earlier. How did I know this? There is a mitzvah for Jews to put a “mezuzah” on the right doorpost of the entrance to their home – a sacred scroll within a case. This sacred scroll contains two passages from the Torah, and the first passage begins with the following proclamation of the Divine Oneness (Deuteronomy 6:4): “Hear O Israel, Hashem is our God, Hashem is One!” As I walked around the East Village, I noticed that many of the apartments where the hippies were living still had on the right doorposts the imprints of mezuzah cases! I then realized that these Jewish hippies had returned to the run-down apartments that an earlier generation of Jews had left. The earlier generation left in search of a better material life; however, these young Jews returned to the neighborhood in search of a better spiritual life. They were joined by many non-Jews who were also spiritually-searching.


I returned to the neighborhood during the summer of 1969, and I discovered that many of the hippies were exploring various spiritual traditions, as they began to realize that, due to the complexity of human nature, they could not maintain loving and caring communities based on good intentions alone. They therefore sought to find a deeper spiritual path which would enable them to fulfill their original vision. I became part of their extended hippy community, and this led to a dialogue with some hippies – both Jewish and non-Jewish –about the universal and spiritual mission of the Jewish people. This dialogue caused me to ask myself the following question:


Was there any connection between the Six Day War and the Jewish spiritual awakening which followed the war with the hippy spiritual awakening which also followed the war?


As the beginning of an answer, I would like to suggest that the amazing events of that period may have been Hashem’s way of preparing us for the future messianic age when the following prophecy will be fulfilled:


“It will happen in the end of days: The Mountain of the Temple of Hashem will be firmly established as the head of the mountains, and it will be exalted above the hills, and all the nations will stream to it. Many peoples will go and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the Mountain of Hashem, to the Temple of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us of His ways and we will walk in His paths.’ For from Zion will go forth Torah, and the word of Hashem from Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2: 2,3)


As a result of the Six-Day War, we regained the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, and people from across the earth came to pray there. That summer, many Jews begin to rediscover the Torah which is destined to go forth from Zion.  That same summer, the hippies began to reject the materialistic outlook of modern western culture and began to search for a higher vision. The spiritual searching of that period had a major influence on contemporary western culture, and many people became more open to discussing spiritual teachings and themes. I therefore feel that this spiritual searching will eventually lead to the age when peoples will say:


“Come, let us go up to the Mountain of Hashem, to the Temple of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us of His ways and we will walk in His paths.”


After the peoples come to Jerusalem to study the Divine teachings, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, and they will no longer study warfare” (ibid 2:4). There will then be a peaceful and loving atmosphere which will embrace all life on earth, as it is written:


“Then a wolf shall live with a lamb, and a leopard shall lie with a kid; and a calf, a lion cub, and a fatling will be together, and a small child will lead them. A cow and a bear will graze and their young will lie down together; and a lion, like cattle will eat hay. A suckling infant will play by a viper’s hole; and a newly weaned child will stretch his hand towards an adder’s lair. They will neither injure nor destroy in all of My sacred mountain, for the earth will be filled with knowledge of Hashem as water covering the sea bed.” (Isaiah 11: 6-9).


We have not yet experienced the “birth” of this new age; moreover, it seems that we are currently experiencing some stressful birth pangs. Perhaps these ongoing and stressful birth pangs are meant to encourage us to go beyond spiritual “searching” and to engage in spiritual “finding” – to rediscover the path of the Compassionate and Life-Giving One which is revealed in the Torah. A reference to this idea appears in the following prophecy of Moses regarding our return to Hashem at the end of our exile:


“From there you will seek Hashem your God, and you will find Him; for you will search for Him with all your heart and all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things have befallen you, at the end of days, you will return to Hashem, your God, and listen to His voice.” (Deuteronomy 4:29, 30)  


If we begin to walk the Divine path, step-by-step, we can hasten the birth of the messianic age, when Yerushalayim – Jerusalem – will attract pilgrims from all the nations, who will come there to study those universal precepts of the Torah which apply to all humankind. They will also come and pray in the rebuilt Temple, for Hashem is the Unifying One Who proclaimed, “My House shall be called a house of prayer for all the peoples” (Isaiah 56:7). We will then be able to sing the following new version of the old Hippy song:

If you’re going to Yerushalayim,

be sure to bring a prayer to be said there.
If you’re going to Yerushalayim,

You’re gonna meet some gentle people there.


All across the nations, such a joyous vibration;
people in motion.

There’s a whole generation with a new explanation;
people in motion, people in motion.


Have a Good and Sweet Shabbos,

Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen

Hazon - Our Universal Vision