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IMAGINARY JERUSALEM, 6

IMAGINARY JERUSALEM

Like a supersonic aircraft leaving behind its own sound, the mental representation of a city can be so powerful that the actual city – though strengthen by its own reflection – is simply left behind.

New York and Paris are perhaps the most ubiquitous examples of such cities in the modern world. They are enchanting, amazing cities with strong personalities – but they are present in the imaginary of the whole world in a way other places, equally enchanting and amazing, are never going to be. They leave the realm of reality to enter the domain of myth.

Jerusalem has been there since long before Paris and New York even came to exist. It’s not for nothing that a city is holy for three monotheistic religions. Suspended above the edge of the endless desert, Jerusalem is literally half on Earth and half in the sky.

So much Jerusalem identifies with its own myth that the image of a Celestial Jerusalem, accompanying its actual material model from the heart of Heaven, exists from the times of Babylon.

Real Jerusalem is still there, I know it well, I used to live there, yes it is the same city sung and missed for millennia, fought for and claimed by Jews and Christians and Muslims alike, but it lives its actual life with its normal rhythms, with its buses and markets and living rooms and streets and trees. Interrupted sometimes by breathtaking views or by glimpses of ages-old history. Living its normal life, though under the shadow of a conflict so deep, so old, so multifaceted that it looks as natural as the strong light bouncing on the stone of the city.

Jerusalem is still there but I am far from it now, and my own nostalgia for it is merely my own reflection of the same age-old nostalgia for Jerusalem. Far from the actual Jerusalem, I am free to explore the other Jerusalem, the imaginary one, and to reflect into imaginary spaces the amazing depths and spatial richness of a city unlike any other.

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