Robert Hirschfield walks through Jerusalem at first light.

I enter the Old City after dawn. Quietly, like I want to steal it. I pass through the Zion Gate and head along the sand-colored walls to the Jewish Quarter. The shops selling sweets and holy books are closed.

Beneath them are Roman columns that rise up from another Jerusalem. I want to say to each column, “Are you talking today? Do I get even one secret? One little Roman secret? Lonely Romans must have talked a blue streak around you.”

Long Jewish shadows flit by me on their way to the Wailing Wall. I find I have less to say to them than to the columns. The shadows I know. The shadows I grew up with.

Down the street, the eternally dark alleys of the Muslim Quarter belly towards distant patches of light. Nothing is really distant in the Old City. But the light, pushed away by the darkness, gives the impression of serious separation.

The shops are shuttered. Soon the tourists will come pouring into Arab Jerusalem through its many gates, and the shutters will lift, and even the Christians hauling their crosses to Calvary will be pressured to buy luggage, floor mats, Arab gowns a block long.

I will not awake the walled-in city from its sleep to remind it it is a contested city, the object of the wet dreams of three religions. I like it the way it is right now, sailing in its sleep beneath all the claims made on its behalf.

Community Connection

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