An Ungodly Hour in God’s City

Dearest Rachel –

Our last sight from the hotel balcony before heading out. You always made a point of saying ‘goodbye’ to the room before leaving (but after checking the bathroom and under the bed to make sure we weren’t leaving anything behind). That task is now Daniel’s to do.

There are many cities around the world that seem to pride themselves on being ‘the city that never sleeps.’ New York and San Francisco come to mind in particular, being celebrated in song to that effect.

Jerusalem is not one of those places. On the contrary, part of its pride lies in the national and religious identity, which categorically requires a day of rest. This being that day, it is quiet on the streets, giving a little extra melancholy to our ultimate departure from the land God’s Son called home.

Of course, this particular hour is one that one would forgive most cities from slacking on their claim of ‘never sleeping.’ It’s one thing to party all night, like on Thursday; it’s another thing entirely to still be generating that level of energy at five in the morning. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that, at 5 a.m. on Shabbat, the whole city outside is deserted as if Armageddon had swept the world, taking the people and leaving the structures.

The end of a trip of any length and any distance is always tinged with sadness. You had it from the sense that we might never be back – and, to be sure, that time has come for you, not that where you are is so much better than any place on earth could ever be. You remember my anxiety about returning to my job and boss more than any wistfulness for the place we were leaving behind. These days, I’ve tried to take enough notes and pictures to capture what I saw and felt in each moment as it happened, so as to avert that from happening. Granted, it may have resulted in me being too busy typing or dictating to actually feel as much as I probably should. But at least, now I can remember.

As for Daniel? I’m not always sure how he feels about this or that going on around him. I honestly thought, when we set out, that he might suffer from a mild case of ‘Jerusalem syndrome,’ where it all overwhelms a person, throwing their mental state out of balance. That didn’t happen, and while I’ll neither complain nor question why, it leaves me wondering what he may be thinking or feeling.

Not that he’s been entirely mute throughout the course of the trip, to be sure. At our own communal get-together last night (which I think was meant in part to be a simple feedback session, but nothing is ever quite that simple here in Jerusalem), when each of us were asked about the most memorable moments of the trip, he went on at length (and with great enthusiasm) about three or four different places and occasions. Jordan tried to keep us limited to one specific thing (and I tried to do so, for my own part), but things got a little out of control.

We all praised Yael for being such a personable and reassuring voice and hostess throughout our travels, focusing on the educational over the commercial, and while spiriting us as quickly as possible through everything (because there is so much to see, after all), somehow never seeming to rush us, save as the itinerary demanded. She gave us enough time to wander about the various sites (and you would have appreciated her pointing out the bathrooms, and I don’t mean the ancient ones, necessarily) while shepherding us through everything we were meant to see (and a few things that hadn’t exactly been planned, like Shabbat at the Western Wall).

But now, everything has been said and done that can be. The bus is to leave for the airport in less than an hour, and we’re as put together as we’re going to be.

Goodbye, Jerusalem. Farewell, Holy Land. I wish that you could have been here with me, or at least be able to send pictures and impressions of the New Jerusalem, but I’ll get there some day soon enough, I shouldn’t wonder.

Until then, honey, keep an eye on us, and wish us luck. We’re going to need it.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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