If I forget Thee, Jerusalem

"I’ve come back to this city where names
are given to distances as if to human beings
and the numbers are not of bus-routes
but: 70 after, 1917, 500
B.C., Forty-Eight. These are the lines you really travel on.
A man who comes back to Jerusalem is aware that the places
that used to hurt don’t hurt any more.
But a light warning remains in everything,
like the movement of a light veil: warning."
(Jerusalem 1967: II)

Yehuda Amichai’s Poems of Jerusalem is probably the best guidebook to the beautiful, complex and deeply troubled city of Jerusalem as I remember it. It doesn’t offer much in the way of where to eat, sleep or shop. But it provides an intricate and profoundly humane x-ray of the ‘Venice of God’, where religions, cultures and languages endlessly evolve and intermingle, each with its own baggage of hopes, delusions, realizations and fears. And the more one reads through it, the more they understand that the soundtrack of Jerusalem is that of irreducible frictions and tensions bound together by the forces of history and memory.

"Jerusalem is built on the vaulted foundations
of a held-back scream. If there were no reason
for the scream, the foundations would crumble, the city would collapse;
if the scream were screamed, Jerusalem would explode into the heavens."
(Jerusalem 1967: XIX)

Recent events suggest that too many people with too much political power on all sides fail to comprehend Amichai’s gentle warning on the fragile equilibrium that prevents Jerusalem from either crumbling or exploding. Those people would gladly see the scream being screamed, and the city exploding into the heavens which they consider their to be own exclusive domain. These are the merchants of the Venice of God, Jews and Arabs alike, united in a common destructive purpose and indifferent towards the many pounds of flesh already claimed by their cynical game. Their path to redemption is paved with the sorrowful lamentations of those who have mourned Jerusalem’s dire in previous times of turbulence.