I have never been, but the very word still has the capacity to raise tingles at the back of my neck. Jerusalem. A city half in this world, half in the next. For most of us, less an address, more an allegory.
Jerusalem is of course known as the ‘City of God’ and like most other manifestations of the divine on earth, it is a complex mess of misunderstandings and theology mixed up with power struggles and misappropriation.
Jerusalem has been in the news recently for all the usual (bad) reasons. It is now a symbol of division, injustice and the oppression of one population by another, each and every oppressive act justified using ancient texts. Enter America’s first fool, making bombastic proclamations and in the process, smashing a decades worth of efforts to make a negotiated peace.
In an age of spin and media manipulation, Jerusalem is another place onto which we project our prejudices. For many Christians, Zionism has mingled with their narrow interpretation of the Bible to mean that Israel can do not wrong, even when what they are doing is manifestly appalling. Others, seeking to follow the way of Jesus, side with the poor and oppressed, soon having to cope with the fact that there are those on the other side who also have blood on their hands.
Jerusalem. The ancient/modern city, around which history pivots.
Two thousand years ago, a different occupation was being undertaken. A different ethnic group was being oppressed. A different empire was in the ascendancy. Other things were much the same.
Press of people
Each step thwarts to shuffle
Alien accents scrape the ear
Soldiers shoulder imperial room
(Their curses spat out like spears)
A crash course in city etiquette;
Every eye must be avoided
We give (nor receive) no greeting
Gird on your invisible armour
And wear coins against the skin
The blind hold out empty hands
Children dart out and in
A scented woman advertises soft flesh
Stalls clatter with roughly beaten pans
Someone shouts a warning of the certainty of
The rich are in their castle
The poor cluster at the gate
Meanwhile, the shadows nurture words of revolution
The old walls have seen it all
The city makes some bigger