The Jerusalem Talmud recounts: When David came to dig the foundations of the Temple he dug fifteen thousand cubits but had not reached the Deep. Finally, he uncovered a cluster of stones and was about to lift it when one rock spoke to him and said: Do not touch me… Even so, David did not listen and once the rock was lifted the Deep arose, threatening to submerge the world.
Jerusalem, with the Temple Mount at its center, is the place where the heavens and the depths touch. The very foundation of its foundation is a place of awe-filled and awful power. Says the poet, Yehuda Amichai, it is upon this precarious foundation that Jerusalem exists:
Jerusalem is built on the arched foundations
of a held back scream. If there were no reason
for the scream, the foundations would be shattered, the city would collapse,
if the scream should be screamed, Jerusalem would explode into the heavens.
The living, breathing architecture and anatomy of Jerusalem are one and the same. The arch of the inflated lungs is the foundation of the city. The arch keeps its shape only because of the stopped throat holding back the justifiable scream, a scream that takes no sides.
The city exists because of the tension between reason and responsibility.
So we have been warned by David, Jerusalem’s the ancient poet, and by her modern poet Amichai: brazenness that ignores Jerusalem’s complexity threatens the core of the world.