February 19, 2020

Falling in Love with Jerusalem

“It was not love at first sight – or even second. In fact, it took a few years before Jerusalem came to have a special meaning for me.

When I came to live here in 1971, I frankly wondered what all the fuss was about. Australia, my birthplace, had bigger cities with wider streets, magnificent beaches and a sun-drenched climate. London, where I’d once also lived, had more dignity, more graciousness. Venice had more charm, Paris more magic. What was so special about Jerusalem?

There is no one moment that I can pinpoint when I fell in love with this city. It happened so slowly and imperceptibly that I wasn’t even aware of it. One day it was just another city – rather on the small side, and then – one day, it was my city.

Everyone has an image of their Garden of Eden. Unbelievably, I am living in mine, and I feel an enormous privilege and, with it, a rather frightening sense of responsibility. Every now and again, the whole concept that I live in Jerusalem seems to engulf and overwhelm me. It’s a place that in personal terms you have to live up to.

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways,” wrote the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

It is easy to write poetry in Jerusalem, and many are inspired to do so. Perhaps it’s the light. Dawn comes stealthily, a rosy haze reflecting off masses of gray stone. And when the sun sets, the darkness is black velvet spangled with golden lights. Maybe it’s the sound of Jerusalem – the wind sighs like mourning ghosts in the pine trees that abound here, silhouetted blackly against the sky.”

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