Occupied Territory in Jerusalem

July 1, 2019

In Jerusalem I become occupied territory. I am colonized by beings more ancient and far better than humans. In Jerusalem. The bacteria get me, and once in, they cling like bloody hell.

The old city is white with heat and the stones are slippery.  I love it here, I hate it here. In the near distance, the dome of the rock shimmers-a Golden-breast poking at heaven.The black hat men whizz through alleyways, their shoes black and fat. Blah blah into the ubiquitous cell phones soldered to their beards, to their curls.

Such a completely strange hotel is this. Weird cache of grave residents fold over their Israeli breakfasts. Queasy blue glow of the fly zapper stationed alarmingly close to the hummus on offer. Bzzzzz. Bzzzzz it says.

To the left, In the dark room, is the kitchen where a skull capped old man is slapping eggs. Tenderly, he lowers his brown face to the bowl and listens for a time.

Occupied Territory in Jerusalem

Go home, says everything, go home.

Go home, says everything, go home. Most likely, it’s the Staph infection whispering.

In Jerusalem can you tell me where Jew terminates and Muslim begins? Because I cannot. I will not name you so don’t call me by name.

My ultimate day in Jerusalem is unnervingly hot. For some reason unknown by the conscious me, I wear a full length red dress. It flaps in the sun like a flag of blood.

Occupied Territory in Jerusalem

The infection finds refuge in my right axilla- that is to nicely say-armpit. It feels as if I am grow a field of ancient pebbles. My gown itches madly in the sun.

It is the day I finally see the Dead Sea Scrolls after being obsessed with them for decades. So certain were the folks who wrote them that theirs were the final days of the world. Such unwavering conviction! I’ve always been more of a “wait and see” person.  And when I do see them; they are indeed extraordinary.

As is the Israel museum in general, and the Pink Pangea group of writers who have come with me. In the taxi, I make the squat and wearing driver laugh with my awful Hebrew culled from an equally awful Israeli to whom I used to be wed. I call him “perrach” and “Kapparah” I make him giggle as my cranium simmers with ache, I never know when I’m in Jerusalem, if I’m among Israeli Arabs or Jews or Palestinians- what have you.

Mohammed was here. Mohammed was not here, who knows? Who can say? Abraham led Isaac here, and here, perhaps here as well.

Identities and language shift in the proverbial sand – frankly – everyone sort of looks the same unless veiled or wigged, hung with drapes or capped by a top hat. It seems to come down to, to my eyes, at least, to costume, to custom. To a thing much too arbitrary to name and yet, supposedly vital. A deal maker and breaker, beyond the scope of human sense.

Mohammed was here. Mohammed was not here, who knows? Who can say? Abraham led Isaac here, and here, perhaps here as well. Jesus was crucified there or there and in this way- a nail rammed this way through an ankle, or this way through a foot, this is where he bled out so put your head here now. Make way for the army of priests now sweeping through the chapel with their smoking censer- dodge the nun driving her a Mercedes like a lunatic. A chasid sits like a black pyramid at a bus stop back in Baka’a. He Is very fat and appears to melt.

The sleeves have a snug fit and are a great option for the always-cold traveler who doesn’t want to lose precious packing space to bulky sweaters.

The taxi will not call for me until one in the morning, so I wander a bit in my fever and in the same red dress. On the way through the German colony, I stop to caress a little cat. Israel! You are filthy with surplus felines! The city belongs to them I think, genuflecting with my hand outstretched. It’s eyes terrified and shimmering, the kitten digs it’s spike into my finger and i wail in pain!

I wonder: do I sound like a shofar blowing in the night? Blood on my dress- but it matches. And I roam on past Ottoman villas so lovely and cool, fragrant gardens. It is so beautiful here, in Jerusalem-neither this world nor the next. The air perpetually charged with-with what? Some heady admixture of natural and more than natural- as if anything could be out of nature or beyond time and still manage to BE.

That is Jerusalem for you. At last I load my staph infected self into the taxi and we drive under the warm moon through its streets.

Goodbye Zion, Jerusalem, whatever you are called or call yourself.  I’m very sick, but not hip to that truth yet. In a couple of days I’ll be hospitalized in New York. I will be asked again and again how it is that I’ve come to be infected.

And I will say only this: “I was in Israel when it happened.”

Occupied Territory in Jerusalem

About H.Sarah Blumenthal

H.Sarah Blumenthal is a native New Yorker who spent her childhood dreaming of the day she would travel the world. She lives with her husband philosopher Jonathan Schaffer in a rainbow painted loft.

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