Below are some brief ponderings scribbled during my wife Lorraine & my recent trip to the Holy Land
From within the stone arch resounded a shattering shout – then another – another – a rhythmic chorus of insistent chants marking some sort of human ritual. Not so odd really. This was the old walled city of Jerusalem. For millennia the faithful of all faiths have gathered here to raise their voices to God as they envision Him.
We had wandered lost somewhere amid the stone-hemmed, covered bazaar, maybe in the Armenian Quarter. We ogled past open sacks of colorful spices, teetering stacks of pomegranates and witicized T-shirts, and religious icons carved in heaps by piecework laborers from the Pacific Rim. Fine dishpans, sneakers, and jewelry – each of the highest quality, if the lyrical chants of the touts were to be believed. “Come in. Let me show you.”
But we were fingering tempting silken scarves and the shattering shouts kept resounding within those stones just ahead. The hefty stones bore a grey age, each adzed to a cube long before memory – perhaps by a Roman slave or some crusader’s serf. Each fitted to each forming a heavy archway, Quonset-hut style, but a little more compact. And through the low doorway, Lorraine and I peeked within.
An aged seller of even older photographs has told us that not so long ago – about the time I was a boy – this stone room had housed pithoi (great earthen jars) of olive oil. Jerusalem – hub of nomadic trade even yet.
And within this former storehouse we beheld Children. A little phalanx of shouting youngsters in pristine white Gi’s, practicing in chorus their karate kicks in forward marching lockstep. About seven years, each was trying to don some fiercely stern aspect, but the fun they were having kept breaking through in smiles (theirs and ours.) Here in this ancient cavern bounced and thrust today’s children – just like we see at our local “Ken’s Karate Center” at home with its smooth matted floor and well-lit gym. “Hey, Mom. Did you see me? How High I kicked?” A small parental pack in both yurmalkes and Moslem head dress stood dutifully approving from one corner. I hope the makers of these stones smile down on its current use.
Hastening hotelward in the wrong direction, I clutched Lorraine drawing her back from a pair of bike-riding youths bouncing athletically down the stone-paved pathways, weaving ‘twixt the piles of precious commodities. Their shouts of glee universal.
Is it not wonderful that joy is ageless?
– Bart Jackson