Almost the eve of my departure from this city with all its noise, varied religious appearances, cacophony of languages and cultures, where I completed a stint of teaching with students from north-western Europe, had many lively conversations and experienced its curious draw. I have lived on a relatively quiet street named after Naomi of the Bible, almost on the corner of Tseruyah street, Tseruyah who had three sons serving under her brother King David, one of them the loyal general Joab. About her sons Kind David said: “these men, the sons of Tseruyah, are too hard for me.” An interesting comment from a man who once brought home two hundred foreskins from two hundred dead Philistines. And I wonder about Tseruyah whose street I pass every time I go out to do anything, what kind of woman she was. She must have been something to raise these particular sons with strong profiles, all of them with a voice in the biblical text, though she was not given a voice. You can look it up!
But this is not what I was going to talk about. I wonder what will remain most with me, besides Naomi and Tseruyah who were already in my head. The plants and flowers for sure.
The lavender that grows everywhere, just now coming into bloom, sending its aroma along the busy streets with the impotently honking cars. The hue of stone walls, floors and buildings naturally; but more than anything the vibrancy and brilliance of the flowers will remain in my mind’s eye.
Yesterday I went shopping in the Old City, walking all along the Hebron Road, one of the main arteries through the city, up to the Jaffa gate, into the pungent, narrow, winding streets to bargain for cloth. It made my head ache, although I thought the sight of one man in his habit, holding a small child by the hand enchanting.So I decided to pay a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre after all. There it was, just as I remembered it from my first visit many years ago, crazily bedecked and massive in its dimensions, but in places easy to get away from the crowds and experience the aura and traditions of age-old worship. Peering into the Chapel of Saint Helena I went down in the presence of very few people and sat on the steps for a few quiet moments. Elsewhere crowds were lining up to view one of the more famous sites. I believe I ended up in the Franciscan chapel where monks were chanting and one could sit peacefully. No picture taking there.
Finally, I wander home alongside the busy motorway where traffic is now at a standstill and threatening clouds are piling up on the horizon. I think of the lines from the hymn: “You fearful saints fresh courage take;/ the clouds you so much dread/ are big with mercy and will break / in blessing on your head.” May it be so, over Israel/Palestine and all the world.