This morning I awoke early and, wrapped in my coat and a few sweaters, went out to my balcony to read with a flashlight. The muezzin had not yet begun his first call, but the roosters beat him to it--I could hear their cries calling and answering each other all over the city. No one told the roosters that they live in a land of turmoil, that loud noises can be dangerous things. They cried out in anticipation of a new dawn, with whatever that dawn might bring.
A few dogs barked, a few cars drove along the main thoroughfare, and a street sweeper passed below me, but otherwise, all was still. The green lights from the minarets shone steadily over the city, constants in a world of change. No one told the minarets that prayer is passe, that God is dead. They stand as beacons to a life of submission to God, in whatever language you worship Him, by whatever name you know Him best.
Then the muezzin's voice rang out over the city, sonorous and beautiful, haunting and alive, calling the believers to a ritual as old as the world itself, calling out the words of an ancient tongue in an ancient land. No one told the muezzin that the world worships only the modern, that ancient things belong in a museum, not broadcast from a loudspeaker. And as his voice joined the voices of the roosters and the dogs, the muffled sounds of autos and street sweepers, the city began to stir.
I knew then that I never wanted to leave this wonderful city, with its white limestone buildings, its ancient beauty, and its many contradictions. As the morning sky grew brighter I could see the holy places of many different faiths, the old walls and the new fences, the neon lights beside the ancient relics. No one told Jerusalem that it could never survive political wars and religious strife, that ancient and modern customs could not abide one another. No one told Jerusalem. And I hope that no one ever does.
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