Ten measures of beauty descended to the world. Jerusalem took nine. -- The Talmud, Kidushin 49b
The Jerusalem syndrome is the name given to a group of mental phenomena involving the presence of either religiously themed obsessive ideas, delusions or other psychosis-like experiences, that are triggered by, or lead to, a visit to the city of Jerusalem. -- from Wikipedia

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Writer and the Warrior

A strange confluence in the Old City was reported in today's Haaretz:

A group of researchers and archaeologists has recently located the Jerusalem building that housed the famed Mediterranean Hotel, which served in the late 19th century as the intelligentsia's cultural, social and tourist hub in the Holy Land.
Based on photos, blueprints, maps and observations, the research team was able to pinpoint the institution to the Wittenberg House in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City. Today, the building houses the religious seminary of the Ateret Cohanim non-profit organization.

In 1867, however, the structure saw a very different guest: The American humorist, satirist, lecturer and writer Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by the pen name Mark Twain...

Former prime minister Ariel Sharon also has a connection to the building - he purchased one of the apartments in it 20 years ago. Sharon eventually sold the apartment to the religious seminary.
Jerusalem is a city of turnings and coincidences; a synergitic labyrinth in which a terror attack may take place on the same site as a thousand-year old battle between empires long deceased. The streets disgorge themselves of the dead every five or ten minutes, so that every site becomes a list of names abandoned by time. Here we have the 19th century satirist walking the same discrete steps as old Arik, now forgotten, but still breathing somewhere in his Negev Ranch, a warrior Kane in the depths of his Xanadu, tended over by his dutiful sons when they aren't serving jail time. Sometimes, it seems that Jerusalem only exists to teach man that fate has a sense of humor. Samuel Clemens probably would have appreciated that a Jewish general -- in his time, an unthinkable twist of history -- lived on the spot where he wrote much of The Innocents Abroad, one of the first American accounts of Jerusalem; the first symptom, as it were, of the syndrome in the New World.

No comments: