Monday, December 24, 2012

Jerusalem Syndrome

OK, it's Christmas Eve. Time to lighten up a bit. Here's one for all you wonderful Christian Zionists out there:

Jerusalem, 1920-21.

Amongst my strangest experiences in this fantastic city has been watching its varieties of religious mania. The Lord drives these people with the afflatus to his Holy Hill. The question is how they ought to be dealt with on arrival.

One morning an American turned up to see the Civic Adviser. His gambits were so good that I was completely taken in.

'I've had a great deal of experience in town-planning,' he said, 'and I assure you you are going the wrong way to work.'

That seemed reasonable.

'What you say is probably true,' said I, 'but we have to work along the line of least resistance, and must make or improve our alignments as and when people need them. Meantime, the general plan and survey of the city are in progress.'

I pointed to some charts and drawings on the walls.

'That's just what I'm complaining of, and where I've been sent to guide you. You're going the wrong way to work.'

'Well,' said I rather testily, 'if there's any particular section of the city you think should be differently handled, I'll give it consideration.' And I handed him pencil and paper.

'The fact is, you've got to begin with cubits.'

'With what?'

'With cubits. Here,' he said, making a black spot, 'is Solomon's Temple.'

Whenever we get to Solomon's Temple (what a charlatan Solomon was, the Moslem tradition that he was the great conjurer is surely sound!) - whenever we get to Solomon's Temple it's all over.

'I'm sorry,' said I, 'I have no time for... '

'You have no time for God's way... You... and what's to become of me? I've got to live. Your Administration is here to provide for people like me.'

And that was true, too, under the 'Wa'd Balfour.'*

There was an embarrassing pause. He gathered up his 'cubits' with an awful solemnity.

'I shall go and see Sir Herbert Samuel in person.'

I shrugged my shoulders and he left. Two hours later I had an agitated call on the telephone from the A.D.C. on Mount Scopus.

'A Mr ___ is here; says you have told him to see H.E. - seems rather odd in the head!'

Weeks after I saw him tramping he streets, frayed, hollow-cheeked, and half starved.

(A Palestine Notebook 1918-1923, CR Ashbee, 1923, pp 140-142)

[* Balfour Declaration]

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