Jerusalem

It would be more than presumptuous to claim knowledge of a city after only a day or two, but sometimes first impressions deserve notice. Nowhere suggests the significance of place to personal identity more than Jerusalem. Perched on a hill, surrounded by a burgeoning and growing modern cityscape, the evolution of humans as thinking, feeling and generative beings rests atop this slope’s eruption into time. This is where the old city sits and it is mapped by different colored stones, textured pavements, and angled rooftops. Each configuration is claimed by one group or another: Jews, of course, Muslims, and a myriad of Christian faiths. Nobody can really ever claim Jerusalem. It belongs to itself with every rock inscribed with the marks of a different people’s story. The people rush through the narrow alleys, their national or religious costumes flowing – robes, scarves, head cover. Casually, almost without notice, they slip between rows of merchandise, or patterned shadows, to go through doorways or gates that mark an entrance to hidden worlds whose secrets can only be understood by their inhabitants. Ordinarily, we rarely notice how landscapes symbolize our place in time. Here the personal link to land is inescapable. The common explanation is that this is psychological, that people project ideas or concepts on to a place. After seeing the old city, I’m not so sure. These stone walls shimmer as though quivering from the tears of humankind. My first impression of Jerusalem and its people is that geography creates us as much as we do it. Here an uneasy truce of stones informs the geography. Intricate patterns made up of red, black, golden and brown tile express the cooperation and respect for each other’s sovereignty. It makes perfect sense to me that the attachment to the color of stone is profoundly personal. The chiseling of rock into the building blocks of civilization embodies the influence of landscape over who have become, who we are and who we will be.

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