Background: Jerusalem is a very old city. In 1996 we celebrated Jerusalem 3000, the 3000th anniversary of its founding. This is older than any existing city in North America. Only a few ancient native American cities are that old, like Mexico City (formerly called Tenochtitlan).
Game 1: The Center of the World (Variation of Cat and Mouse)
Pick one chanich to be “Jerusalem.” He stands in the middle surrounded by two circles of chanichim holding hands. The smaller inner circle is Israel, and the outer circle is the rest of the world. One chanich stands outside of the outer circle and tries to get through the two rings of chanichim to tag “Jerusalem.” The chanichim in the circles must try to protect Jerusalem from being tagged.
Explanation: There is a Midrash that says, “Eretz Yisrael is the navel of the world, for it is placed in its center; and Jerusalem is the center of Eretz Yisrael, and the Temple is the center of Jerusalem.” How else is Israel like the navel of the world? Traditionally, it is believe that in the Kodesh Kadashim there was a rock that was the center of creation, from which the rest of the world was created. This rock is visible today in the Dome of the Rock, a mosque on Har Habayit. Another Gemara explains that there are 10 separate levels of Kedusha starting with the Kodesh Kadashim and proceeding outward.
Show the chanichim the attached map, and explain to them that in the Middle Ages, 1000 years ago, this was taken very literally: people saw Jerusalem as the center of the world, between the three known continents, Africa, Asia and Europe. That map was made by Heinrich Bunting, a 16th century German.
Game 2: Seeing Jerusalem (Variation of I Spy)
Pick one chanich to go outside of the room. The rest of the chanichim pick one object in the room to be designated as Jerusalem. The chanich comes back and must guess which object was picked by asking yes or no questions (i.e. is Jerusalem red? Is Jerusalem alive?? IS Jerusalem made out of wood?) Use a time or question limit.
Explanation: Another Midrash about Jerusalem says “He who has not seen Jerusalem in its splendor has never seen a beautiful city; and he who has not seen the Beit HaMikdash when completed ahs never beheld a magnificent building.” In this game the person who hasn’t “seen” Jerusalem is trying to find it. In the first century BCE, with Israel under Roman rule, King Herod was the Jewish political leader. He was not such a nice guy, and the Gemara describes how he killed many of the leading sages. But he had a change of heart and tried to make up for it by remodeling the Beit HaMikdash. He is the person who built the Kotel, in order to build up Har Habayit so that a larger structure could be placed on top. (Har Habayit is like a sandbox, with walls around the outside to hold the dirt in.) After he was finished, the Beit HaMikdash was a beautiful new building, causing the Midrash to say what it does. On the subject of beauty, another Midrash says that when beauty was put into the world, 9/10 of it went to Israel and 1/10 to the rest of the world.
Game 3: Tic Tac Toe
Divide the Chanichim into two teams. There are a number of ways you can play this game. Either make a board of some sort, of use the attached sheet with lines, and cut out the Xs and Os. The way the chanichim earn spaces can be one of a number of ways: they could pick a square and then have to answer a question to earn that square, or if you make a larger board, perhaps they can throw a ball or hacky sack at the square, and whichever they get it through gets an X. (To get a chance to throw, maybe they need to answer a question.) Whoever gets three in a row wins.
Explanation: There is another reason why Israel is seen as the center of the world: geographically, it IS located between the three continents of Africa, Asia and Europe (remember the map.) In real maps, Israel is in this position: it is a land bridge. For this reason, it was considered a strategic position to have, and many armies tried to conquer it. Jerusalem was conquered something around 40 times by different armies. Sometimes the armies only held it a few weeks before it was conquered again! It was originally built by the Yevusim (Jebusites) and was conquered for the first time by King David to be his capital. It was sort of like Washington DC, in that it wasn’t part of one shevet, but in between two, Binyamin and Yehuda, so that no shevet could claim to have the capital within. It was conquered by the Egyptians, the Babylonians, Persians, Alexander the Great (Greeks), the Chashmonaim, the Romans, Bar Kokhba, the Muslims, the Christians in the Crusades, Turkey, England, Jordan in 1948, and Israel in 1967, among many others. In tic tac toe, it is the equivalent of the middle space: it is the most strategic.
X X X X X O O O O