Just back from my first visit to Israel. I remain stunned by what I saw and those with whom I talked. Stunned is the best word I can think of because I am still trying to disassemble images and assemble words to make some sense of my experiences.
The first night, by way of the congested highway from Tel Aviv, the only comparison of the Jerusalem that came to me long into the early hours was some sort of poorly lit version of San Francisco in the 1950s. The next morning, by the light of day and after a walk through the market in the old city area, San Francisco was quickly replaced by nothing more or less than a possible understanding of perhaps what most cities, in spite of geography, history, and cultures, may look like in the near future because of the threat of increased terrorism.
In truth, I was only able to see the walls the first few days I was there. Very old walls, new walls, walls being constructed to replace less imposing walls, all topped in various fashion by wire or spikes. And guns. Everyone who has served in the army, which is required of all Israeli citizens, either carries a weapon or presumably had placed their weapon in a safe place before venturing into the streets. Only gradually could I focus on the incredible diversity of people jammed into this city, nose to nose, religion to religion, the poor walking on crooked streets lined by the omnipresent fortified walls on the other side of which lived the rich, the powerful, the lucky few.
Is what I saw the only answer to terrorism, perhaps a preview of what American cities may or could become? I have no idea at this point. Maybe in a few weeks my experiences will begin to make sense. In the meantime, I remain nothing more or less than stunned by this ancient city. And, of course, anxious to see, experience, and gradually understand more about Jerusalem along with the rest of Israel and the countries bordering it.