The first night Theresa arrived in Jerusalem, a strong wind rose and fell like the voices of men moaning and wailing.
It unnerved her.
For several months now, friends and family warned her about the reports of lone-wolf stabbings in the Old City of Jerusalem, but she was determined not to fall prey to their fears. Besides, she wanted to please her husband David for his sixtieth birthday. Like many Jews, he wanted to see Israel before he died.
“Theresa, as long as we stay away from the Damascus Gate, where the knifings have been happening,” David said, “We should be safe. Remember, Jerusalem means City of Peace.”
But when the wind howled that cold February night, the lone-wolf stabbings finally pierced her denial. She was afraid. Very afraid. The ghost choir of Jews, Muslims and Christians who died trying to conquer the crown jewel of the Holy Land haunted her. And now, centuries later, she worried about walking down the very cobblestone streets where men were still killing each other.
Theresa looked to her husband for comfort.
“David, I don’t want to go to the old part.”
He put his arms around her and kissed the top of her head.
“The stabbings are sporadic and don’t really concern us,” he said.
“What do you mean?”
“It’s really an issue between Orthodox Jews and Muslims,” he added. “It began when a controversy brewed over the Muslim-controlled area known as the Temple Mount that includes the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock.”
“Muslims believe,” David explained, “that the Dome is where the prophet Mohammed ascended into heaven on a winged horse to speak to Allah. It is Islam’s third holiest site after Mecca and Medina.”
“So how does that affect the Jews?”
“The gilded Dome,” he said. “And its beautiful cobalt blue mosaic walls?” He shook his head. “They were built over the very ground where Jews believe King Solomon built the First Temple.”
“That makes it a little complicated,” she said.
“Just a little?” he asked. “That First Temple purportedly stood twenty stories tall. It housed the Ark of the Covenant—the Holy of Holies—and the sacred tablets given to Moses.”
Her eyes widened. “You mean the Ten Commandments?”
“What happened to the temple?” she pressed.
“Remember the great and wonderful Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar we read about in school? Well, what you probably never learned is that his army attacked Jerusalem and destroyed Solomon’s temple.”
“You learned that in Hebrew school, didn’t you.”
He laughed. “Then it took another bloody seventy years before the Israelites could even return and rebuild the temple. But then—”
“Don’t tell me.”
He smiled weakly. “—the Romans destroyed the Second Temple. A mere forty years or so after Christ was crucified.” He walked over to the window and breathed in the scented air from the small orange tree in the courtyard of their bed and breakfast lodging. “At that point the Israelites had nowhere to go but away from the city they loved.”
“So,” she said. “What’s left?”