Jerusalem is the juxtaposition of 5000 years of conflict that, as these travelers discover, sometimes “flies out of the nightly news” to hang out with you.
If Yehuda Amichai were alive, he’d write a poem to them: “Psalm For a
Secular Couple From Spain Exploring Jerusalem Like Ordinary Civilized
Their interlocked hands made for themselves a home away from home.
The sleeves of their plaid shirts were rolled up in leisurely folds that could have risen beyond themselves were it not for their shoulders.
I watched their eyes ranging ecumenically from the Wailing Wall to the
gold-domed Dome of The Rock. Why couldn’t Jerusalem be more like them?
I thought. Tame, untroubled, their lazy agendas taking in the sun.
Then, I noticed History, in the form of a heavy, ground-scraping brown
skirt approaching them from the Jewish Quarter. I should have shouted,
“Danger!” But what chance do two grazing deer have with the shadow of
the lioness already upon them?
“Welcome to Jerusalem,” the woman from History began. “The holy city.”
The couple recoiled a bit. But only a bit. You could tell they were resourceful.
“You look like intelligent people, so I am sure you have read the Bible.”
The couple was non-committal.
A sinister heat was rising in my cheeks. I felt I was guarding a border that was on the verge of being witlessly crossed.
“The Bible says Jerusalem is the city of the Jews that God gave to the Jews. Not the Arabs, the Jews.”
The couple looked at each other with good-natured horror. The woman had come flying out of the nightly news to hang out. Magical tourism. Their laughter froze on my lips.
For the last 2 years, Brave New Traveler has been publishing stories about travel and culture in conflicted places. Check out How War Shapes the Culture of Israel, an agnostic’s visit to the homeland of her family, or this guide on How to Respectfully Visit Holy Places Around the World.