Something about the atmosphere in Jerusalem makes me feel like my feet aren’t quite touching the ground, even when my sandals are covered with dust. If people are not looking I find it hard to resist the desire to take off with a few dancing steps. Maybe it’s the constant scent of pine trees, or the mountain air “clear as wine.” Perhaps it is the beauty of light dancing on stones or shimmering on olive bark.
Jerusalem light has the rich golden glow of the American Southwest, but refined a few degrees higher and brighter. To paraphrase Georgia O’Keeffe, speaking of New Mexico’s light, “It is not a country of light on things. It is a country of things in light.” All the more so the light in Israel, as if God had turned the brightness controls up on the world.
The sky is over Jerusalem is that ever-so-delicate pale blue of Mediterranean counties, called in Hebrew “techelet.” The city is a tapesty of colors—pastels of blossoms accentuated by rich reds of earth, rich greens of pine—and all if it framed in gold, the earthly Jerusalem aglow with each sunset.
–Rabbi Julie Hilton Danan
There is an almost merciless clarity in the sunlit air of the Holy Land. . .twilight moments, the pleasant intermingling of shadow and light so familiar to European eyes, are more fleeting. The bright red sun drops swiftly into the Mediterranean, and it is sudden and complete night. The moment “between the suns” is the Hebrew term for twilight. It is the moment which the Hebrew poet and mystic associates with the mysteries of life and the deepest secrets of creation. . .Could it be that this moment of in-betweenness is so precious because it is so fleeting? . . .Might this either-or mood of the land have something to do with the harsh, polarized extremes of its prophets? . . .Can the contours of a land or the quality of its light affect the soul of its inhabitants? . . .“The eyes of the Lord are upon this land,” says the Bible, and an old rabbinic commentary explains that what in other lands may be less noticed, must in the land of Israel be sharply exposed and called to account. Here the coverings are stripped away, and the souls of men and institutions are more fully revealed. What may pass in other places—compromises, weaknesses, surface pretense—will here not be tolerated.”
–Rabbi Herbert Weiner, The Wild Goats of Ein Gedi, Prologue
Featured Image: View of the Old City of Jerusalem from Mt. Scopus, by David Poe, via Flickr
Listen to a song of Jerusalem, or return to the Gateway of Light.