Thursday, March 15, 2012

Territorial imperatives

(Mosaic floor, Church of the
Nativity, Bethlehem)
Hebron is an occasional flash point of tension between Palestinians and Jewish settlers, and the city's streets are rubble-strewn relics of strife and of shops closed by a straitened economy. Parts of Hebron are probably frightening places to be caught at night.

My driver for the day, an Israeli Arab, said he can't leave his car alone in Hebron for fear that it will be stoned. Yet the only fear I felt all day came when we pulled into a gas station outside Bethlehem, to find the attendant lounging against the pumps smoking a cigarette.  I nervously asked the driver if we ought to pray for the Creator of us all to get us out of there alive.

So, why Hebron? Because it is arguably the world's most important historical site. The Book of Genesis says Abraham bought land here as a burial place for his wife, Sarah, and was later himself buried there, in the Cave of the Patriarchs, to be joined by Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, and Leah. This was by tradition the first acquisition of land by Jews in Israel and is thus the seminal site for the entire Judeo-Christian tradition.

Herod put up a fine building over the tombs, to which Salah ad-din (Saladin) added minarets in the twelfth century. The biblical patriarchs and matriarchs are buried in the caves, memorialized in cenotaphs in the building above, where worshipers pray to Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, and Leah in the building's Jewish section and to Isaac and Rebecca in the Muslim section. (Like much else here, the building is divided.)

A bunch of men prayed before Sarah's tomb, one young man pulling at his payot (forelocks) in religious ecstasy. A woman chanted alone before Leah's memorial, bowing and swaying, showing no sign she was distracted by the conversation and occasional clatter of metal from workers maintaining the adjacent synagogue. (Here's a bit about the physical vocabulary of Jewish prayer; read it as a counterpart to the Arabic gestures from Tuesday's post.)

So, what did the day have to do with crime fiction? I'll tell you tomorrow. Blessed be God, who created long lines, Bethlehem drivers, and cliffhangers to teach us patience!

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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2 Comments:

Blogger seana said...

Very nice post. Personally, I don't care that it has nothing to do with crime fiction.

March 15, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks. I ended the post with that cliffhanger of a transition because it was getting late, and I could have written for hours more. It was quite a day.

March 15, 2012  

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