Thinking about Jerusalem

May 11, 2010 by

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Celebrating Jerusalem Day – especially in light of the city’s many challenges – is no simple feat. Especially on Jerusalem Day when the city’s skies are as filled with the bombast of political slogans like fireworks, it is hard to imagine a better way to celebrate than to turn back to the wisdom of Jerusalem’s finest poem since David – Yehuda Amichai.

Although Amichai is no longer with us in this world; his wisdom, humor, humility, and passionate humanism offers both comfort from Jerusalem’s vicissitudes and points towards a mode of contending with the zealotries and jealousies that have ridden on the backs of Jerusalem’s residents from time immemorial.

Amichai’s writing about Jerusalem focused on the attempt to hold on to both the ideal and real, both the sacred and the mundane, and most importantly to transform the mundane into the holy. His work seemed to suggest that the traumas of Jerusalem could be mitigated through elevating the value of the daily, of the most simple aspects of human life – the bathroom tiles, the shopping basket, the laundry line – into reminders of shared humanity without erasing the mosaic of blessed diversity that is Jerusalem’s quilted story.

Why is Jerusalem always two, of above and of below

and I want to live in Jerusalem of in between

without hitting my head above without injuring my foot below

and why is Jerusalem a pair like hands and legs,

I want to live in one Jerusalem

Because I am only one I and not many ‘I’s

Yehuda Amichai, from ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Why Jerusalem’ in Open, Shut, Open (1998) 

I celebrate with Amichai on Jerusalem Day to gather comfort and strength in order to continue to live in Jerusalem until Jerusalem Day comes around again.

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