The tension between lofty dreams and quotidian realities is especially acute around here, as we locals (American immigrants not least) well know…
Is Adam really buried in Jerusalem? And is King David buried on Mount Zion? Is the Via Dolorosa the very route that Jesus really walked? Have verifiable remnants of David’s palace been unearthed in Silwan, an Arab section of Jerusalem where Jewish excavation and construction have become a bone of political contention? Scholars may differ, but tourism has a truth of its own, for better and worse, as Twain and Melville well understood. “Travelling is a fool’s paradise,” carped Ralph Waldo Emerson in his 1841 essay “Self-Reliance,” but he was wrong. Travel, especially in Jerusalem, sets the mind spinning.
Fireworks over the old City of Jerusalem
25th anniversary of Jerusalem Day, 1992
The burdensome albatross of Jerusalem – a volatile, multicultural metropolis, prone to inter-communal strife and rampant municipal corruption, and unappetizing to many secular Israelis – is thus alchemically transmuted into “The Albatross” of the French poet Baudelaire, a "monarch of the clouds" that cannot walk, can only fly, so big are its wings.
Jerusalem. Never has a city been so heavenly and so earthly, so revered and so reviled, so easy to love and so hard to live in. In the 2,000 years of exile, Jerusalem always stood at the heart of our yearning. We sat and wept, remembering Zion. We longed for Jerusalem, prayed to Jerusalem, sang about Jerusalem. It was a place of holiness and beauty, of splendor and enchantment, of majesty and mystique. And it was far, far away.