The road from Tel Aviv curves upwards, twisting this way and that way and doubling back on itself to reach its divine destination, the "Holy City". Jerusalem (Yeru Shalom - "They will see peace") is drenched in gold. As you ascend to the city the sunlight reflects on the ancient and the newly quarried, blocks of reddish pink granit and bright sandstone. They conspire to deck her out in gilded finery. It will stop your breath for a moment as you come around the curve in the road, and glimpse this spectacle - as though flinging open a window exposing a feast of visual decadence. She is a solid and reliable old lady, perched among the mountain tops, with her unique skyline of mosques, towers, balconies, electric lights, and television antennas. She almost always begins her day with fresh linens drying in her breezes, and puffy down comforters hanging over balconies and poking out over her window sills, breathing the mountains' delicate brisk air. On overcast days the dark moisture filled clouds rest precariously on her roofs, charged with ions and heavy with the exciting scent of rain soon to be unleashed. Electric lights and candles can be seen glowing in her windows waiting for the torrential burst.
As Spring, and then Summer come to pass, the sounds of the busy women who awaken the city each morning are heard. Pulling and pushing the children out of beds, and opening the wooden shutters to the chatter of the sparrows. Carts and donkeys, automobiles and their piercing horns build their volume gradually as Jerusalem stretches and yawns and shakes out her cramped limbs from a night of slumber.
Jerusalem is a fat, but hardy old "broad" with good bones and tacky make-up. She is still there, in gaudy trappings with her dirty petticoats, which she tries to conceal.
When I was a child I labored up and down the hills of Jerusalem on my gearless bicycle.
Every downhill free ride that Jerusalem offered was extorted in twice the normal toll on its upward side. She tricks you with her pleasant breezes, and her evergreen trees into thinking it is, after all, not a hot Middle-Eastern sun beating down. She will suck the moisture from your hair and skin, drying you out, shriveling your body and sapping your strength. Jerusalem, like Delilah, sneaks up on you unexpectedly, laying you low with her dry thin mountain air. If you survive, you learn her naughty tricks, and you come prepared.
Jerusalem, with all her golden stories, and international acclaim, is secretly a sloven housekeeper. But she hides the dirt, and flaunts her new buildings and her fine public gardens with all types of roses and tulips, and designer horticulture, imported from Holland, along wide boulevards. If you know her well, you know where she hides her garbage, and in what massive heaps of disregard for the poor. She was more charming when she was uniformly dirty, like an old mountain woman should be - because she is old and doesn't have running water. It seemed more "fair". She is still beautiful, and so we forgive her, and remember her before the Six-Day War. The remnants of lost Jewish children remember the Western side of her, where they came to rest after the horrors of the death camps. She was more real then. Jerusalem was smaller to us, because we lived in only half of the city. When we walked her streets we knew the vendors, and the bus drivers, and the beggars and the idiots who lived on her pot-holed streets, and sat on her crumbling curbs. We knew them all by name. There was Zazi who blew the harmonica in and out all day on just two notes. He did math problems in his head faster than any calculator, and we gave him coins for the entertainment. Someone said he was a camp survivor. A ragged old man and his ragged old lady lived somehwere by the open market, and one icy cold winter dawn they were found huddled together in death, and we mourned them and came together to bury them with respect. The city is indifferent to us. No one kept track of how many thousands of beggars have quetly died on Jerusalem's ancient stone paths or on the hard concrete sidewalks of modern times. They are like the yellow hi-lights that we mark on our exceptionally good books, thinking what a wonderful turn of a phrase or what a superb painting with words, but then we never return to those pages again - not ever.
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and designer horticulture, imported from Holland, along wide boulevards. If you know her well, you know where she hides her arbage, and in