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O Jerusalem, Jerusalem

October 15, 2000|Norman Corwin | Norman Corwin is the author of numerous works, including "On a Note of Triumph", "We Hold These Truths", and "Holes in a Stained Glass Window." He teaches in the School of Journalism at USC

The burnishing sun latitude 32 Tropic Cancer

The solar wind blowing old gold on the hills

The privileged air easy to take at this altitude

The dome of the sky fitted over the Dome of the Rock

And time strums on the city as on the strings of a psaltery

And psalms come forth, given a psalmist.


The ages lie heavy over baleful monuments

The head of Goliath was carried here

And here cherubim gleamed in the new Temple

The stone was dressed and the cedar beams hewn before being

brought to the site, so no sound of hammer or ax or any iron

tool was heard while the Temple was building

And it all floated together for the glory of Solomon and God.


At zero nine two seven hours Hussein announced over Amman

radio The hour of revenge has come


BC 922 Shishak of Egypt sacked the city


At 11:30 hours artillery opened fire on Mount Scopus




One came from the north against the city and despoiled it;

the other would come from the south but was interrupted

Interval of 25 Centuries. Selah.


Utter the word Jerusalem

And voltages thrill in the cell banks of history

And stored occasions leap to life like the dry bones of Ezekiel:

Father of Isaac raising a heavy knife with a heavy arm

Uriah sent into the hottest action

Salome dancing for the prize of a bleeding head

Seder of Disciples before the crackdown on subversives

Pilate drying soft hands

Land pledged to Abraham, mandated to island nation in the North

Sea 1922.


At 1550 hours Government House together with fortified zone

taken at a cost

BC 538 Message from Cyrus of Persia: proceed to rebuild Temple

At 17 hours, air strike against Jordanian 60th Armored Brigade

BC 332 Young man from Macedonia, at 24 already Alexander the

Great, came to the city and went from it, and left it standing.



The atmosphere. Dry but mystic.

Exhalations of the desert rise by day but the steamy littoral to the

west has no influence in these streets

The nights are cool under shoals of stars that burn with the same

calm as over the tents of the Maccabees

Echo-ghosts of trumpets and ram's horns

And hooves of horses and clash of armor and the murmuration of

prayers long ago sent up and answered or never answered

The Jihad of Saladin

The pilgrimages crawling over rutted and dustblown byways

Sheba's Queen with a very great train of camels bearing spices and

very much gold and precious stones

The clanking legions of Imperial Rome

Allenby riding a well-fed horse, having scattered the Turks

Porters jackknifed under burdens that better a truck should haul

The tanks of Aluf Uri Ben-Ari grinding up the ridges to the

Corridor to join battle. Selah.



The sound mellifluous, but the city behind the syllables never for

long serene

The austere, the beautiful, the vexed city

Prey of the fanged world

Desecrated and rebuilt, consecrated and defiled,

Her glories smoldering, her ground bleeding.

Behold: sacraments to Elohim and Allah and the Holy Spirit;

and terror-bombings in the marketplace.


The dread incursions

The hosts far off, approaching, trailed by dirty dustplumes

And the gut of the city tightening; men setting their jaws and

looking long at their women and children

For yet again some king or caliph has come to conquer,

Here where seers walked and prophets thundered

And Jesus was scourged all the way to the nailing ground.


Onslaughts like recurrent malignant tides

Sanharid came against Jerusalem

Nebuchadnezzar came against Jerusalem

The Nabataeans came against Jerusalem

The Ptolemies came against Jerusalem

Antiochus came against Jerusalem

Pompey came against Jerusalem

Caliphs, Seljuks, Omayyads, Greeks, Tartars, Mamelukes,

the Ottoman came against Jerusalem

Godfrey of Bouillion and his Crusaders came against Jerusalem

Volkmar and his Crusaders came against Jerusalem, Sanctus


Gottschalk and his Crusaders came against Jerusalem, Sanctus,

Dominus Deus!

Emich of Leisingen and his Crusaders and Richard the Lion-Hearted

of England and Barbarossa of Germany and Philip and Louis of

France came against Jerusalem, Benedictus qui venit!

Blessed are they who cometh in the name of the Lord, all eight

Crusades of them

And among them they massacred Jews along the watered green

colonnades to the Holy Land, yea in the cities of the Moselle

and the Rhine, in Verdun, in Treves, in Metz, in Worms,

Benedictus qui venit in Nomine Domini!

And when they reached Jerusalem they massacred still more, yea;

and they set fire to the synagogue at the hour of prayer

And all perished within

And the crusaders wiped the char from their boots, and knelt, and

pressed bloody palm against bloody palm and prayed to the

God of Mercy at the Shrine of the Holy Sepulchre

And then in good time they fell out among themselves and were

chopped up by the Saracens, La Allah illa la wa Muhammed

rassul Allah!


And this shall be the plague wherewith the Lord will smite all the

people that have fought against Jerusalem. Their flesh shall

consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes

shall consume away in their sockets, and their tongues shall

consume away in their mouth.

Thus spake Zechariah. Selah.


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