I woke suddenly and, even though I was sitting up alert, I found myself staring ahead; trying in those first few seconds after being so sound asleep to determine where I was. The morning sunlight was penetrating through the rickety blinds that hung precariously over the window. The staggered beams of light were forming patterns and imagery across the bed and up the wall behind me resembling the movement of Zebra across an African plain. The cool breeze which gently brushed the blind eventually found its way to me, softly touching my now sweating brow. “The smells are certainly different,” I thought to myself, a combination of exotic spices, sweet spring blossoms and, oddly enough, human waste. The penny dropped, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem I was about to behold you!!”
The night before had been somewhat surreal as I had climbed off the aircraft jet-lagged and disorientated. After spending twenty-five hours cooped up in the plane without much sleep, I could have landed anywhere between Timbuktu and Siberia. I would have never known; it was immensely dark and foggy. The shuttle or “shirrut” from the airport to my accommodations did not help my disorientation as I was securely wedged in between two large Arab Bedouin men both snoring harmoniously together. The taxi dropped me off at my destination and I was hurried up to my room on the second floor where I fell like dead weight onto the little bed against the wall. Falling asleep was as fast as being put under anesthetic—1, 2, 3 and I was gone.
I rose from the bed with every muscle in my body tense with anticipation and now, absorbing every drop of adrenalin, it was as if I was about to witness the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. This was it, having crossed the African continent, two oceans and a multitude of small European countries, I was now standing on ancient “holy” ground about to feast my eyes on a city that Jesus looked upon and wept over. A city that many conquering empires coveted, where great kings fought and ruled and where thousands upon thousands came to worship their God. The experience was moving and suspenseful. After fumbling with the blind, it suddenly rolled up revealing a sight that I will never forget as long as I live. There it was in its entire splendor. The golden morning sun was skipping across the city and as it hit each building it appeared to cascade over the top enveloping house by house, building by building, until it glimmered so intensely that I was squinting and shielding my eyes in order to see.
My viewpoint from the Mount of Olives was not like any other. The bedroom window overlooked the entire eastern section of the Old City. The Old Crusader Wall stretched from north to south across my line of vision. Almost directly in front of me loomed the Golden Gate sealed up as if waiting to be excavated. Beyond the gate stood the Dome of the Rock, a building dominating everything else in sight. The dome of the mosque shimmered so gold it appeared not of this world. It was all too much and as I stood in front of this scene my eyes were beginning to come into focus like a digital camera struggling to focus zooming in and out and in and out again. I imagined Jesus on this same mountain weeping over Jerusalem and here I was weeping, not for the city, but because of the city.
The moment was suddenly and sadly interrupted by the resound of a distorted loud speaker that felt as if it was deliberately aimed at me from the minaret across the road. The imam chanted out the morning call to prayer waking the entire neighborhood. Back to reality, a city of contrasts, of immense beauty and significance, but volatile with an especially troubled history.
I fell in love with this city at first sight and in the years ahead both Amanda and I would experience some of the most profound and life-changing moments that would forge and navigate our destiny.....