I realized today when I was at the Church of All Nations at the Garden of Gethsemane, why I love Jerusalem. I love it because I can sit on a bench facing an olive tree and watch a family speaking Spanish take turns with their camera until the baby smiles. I love that I can sit next to a man from Germany who tells me to stop wanting to go to Germany and go to Mexico instead. The language there is nice, he said, it’s beautiful. I had hated Germany since I was seven, he told me. And French, I hate it. It gives me, what do you call it in English? Yes, chills on my arm. I hate it.
I love Jerusalem because I remember how much I miss China. The Chinese boy on the corner of the bench spoke English just as gently and with the same constructions as the Chinese men in the train stations and teachers at my school. When I told him I was in Changzhou he repeated it back with the same sing-song chant all the Chinese people would use and suddenly that little city of 3 million people came flooding back. He studies in Shanghai and wants to do an MBA even though his friends tell him he’s crazy. Everyone tells me I’m crazy too, the German man said. I love the woman who took Hannah’s arm to say, Gracias, gracias, after we sang under the dome in The Church of All Nations. And the monk who always pats us on the back as we go by and tells us to sing every week. I love the woman who said, You must be studying music, when Natalie told her we were students. I love the African woman who sat in a dress that looked like it came straight from African soil and told the story of Jesus’ crucifixion to her friends on either side of her as if she was watching in from the corner of a stage that no one else could see. He cried, she said. Jesus cried when he saw his disciples sleeping there. Do we sleep? Do we sleep when our Lord calls?
I love Emad who sells scarves and five shekel earrings, who calls everyone, my sweetie. Your eyes are so sharp, he told me. Don’t look at me, you make me shy. What you do? he says when he talks about Jerusalem. What you do? I love Mormons, he said. Come back next Friday. I hope to see you always. I hope to see you always. Next Friday.
I love Jerusalem because it’s a place of all nations. No one stops in the street when the call to prayer comes from the loudspeakers. The procession down the Via Dolorosa is slow and the monks chant and some women cry and everyone stands in the sunshine and squints against the cobblestones. The Jewish men put their black hats on their daughters during synagogue to keep them from running back to the women’s section where their mothers are. A woman from Boston with the quilting community comes to see her quilt hanging in the BYU Jerusalem Center but talked to us in the courtyard of the Knesset. She made a quilt about Jerusalem and there it is hanging next to the others that have made Jerusalem into stubby threads and boxes and gold Hebrew letters. I love that the world comes to Jerusalem. It’s a place where the spot Jesus ascended to heaven from is in mosque and his footstep faces a mihrab and looks to Mecca. I love that every sort of person comes to Jerusalem and belongs here. Every language is on the street. They ask which language you would prefer at the museums and at the churches. French, German, Arabic. Come back at 10:00 am for the English mass, the Arabic one is going now. I hope I spend my life talking to people from the world. I hope I spend my life wandering the world.