A love song to Jerusalem
It’s been 20 days since I arrived here – and this time it is going to be a while until I leave. Over is the initial shock of my Hebrew class, the acclimatisation and time management stages. I am once again among the first five to get on the bus, and yesterday I managed to keep both gym receptionists busy with my request while some ten people waited patiently as I was demanding explanations. I swim where it says no swimming, break into conversations, raise my voice and use my body language excessively – while at the same time maintaining the friendly/familiar attitude of this big village of a country where somebody knows someone you know.
Quite a few people have asked me whether I feel Jerusalem to be tense, or stressful – because apparently they do, or did in the past. The truth is – I don’t. I never did. Even through the riots, and falling asleep to random shots in the night when I lived here three years ago – all I ever felt was love.
I kept falling in love with this place every day from the moment I first arrived in January 2010. Jerusalem worked its magic slowly, stripping away all that was not me, perplexing and overwhelming on some days, tenderly quiet on others, forceful and full of energy on yet the others. There were moments when I would walk the streets and feel my heart so overwhelmed with love – love that I almost felt emanating from every stone – that my eyes welled up with tears, and there were moments when my heart was pierced with the sword so painful that I could barely breathe.
Yet so many – religious and non-religious, Jews and Christians, and Muslims, Israelis and visitors alike – have felt quite the opposite of love, as if they tuned in to a different wave, the one of all the hate, and fear, and confusion, confrontations, deaths, lies, betrayal, danger lurking in the dark, behind the corners of the ancient buildings, all the pain and darkness that Jerusalem has been a witness to over thousands of years. Why is it so? Why is this city a tender lover to me – and a concentration of dark energy to others?
I don’t know. Someone once said that this place may bring out the best – and the worst in you. I can surely testify to that. This is the place of my dark passenger, the dark side that I have come to know, face, and accept for what it is. But it is only here that I have found out who I really am – because it is only here that I have truly been able to be who I really am. And there is nowhere else I’d rather be. Even if it means seeing the darkness in me, even if it means looking at myself in the mirror, in some kind of Twin Peaks meets Angel Heart moment, and saying “I know who I am”.
This is home. So much has happened, from dancing with the Arab grandmothers to guns in the shower on an army base, all the love, and the tears, the confusion and the fear that we will never see each other again, waiting for war, dying to be here when the war was upon us, leaving everything I ever had and achieved just to be here… I once prayed to become united with this place forever. I may just have got what I asked for.
I love Jerusalem – a love that seems to originate beyond me, a love that is only a reflexion, a response, a love that has no merit but is simply a gift to be nurtured…