Jerusalem, city of gold, city of light . . .

What man among you, having lost his home, does not pause in the enforced wandering of his estrangement around the world, and pine for the cobblestones that lined the twisting alleys of the Old City, where each tile has a tale to tell? Though your tongue cleave to roof of your palate, and your right hand forget its cunning, you still will not forsake the bottomless trunk of the memories you carry on your endless peregrinations in foreign shores, where birds of paradise will try to tempt and entice. For Jerusalem is the essence of your heart. This is where history began. This is the centre of the world. Neither the ravages of internecine blood-letting, nor the clouds of uncertainty hovering over its battlements, its copper and golden domes, or its silent ruins, will ever dismay you or hobble your love for it. And if they tell you, you cannot go home again, tell them: “whenever I think of it, I am  already home.” I am blessed to have been born and to have lived for some time, in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. And I have a tale to tell, to add to the fascinating carousel of the one thousand and one swirling within the chronicles of the city of gold, city of light. Walk with me, if you will - we travel light, carrying the refreshing breeze of Jerusalem’s eternal summer on our face - and let us leaf for a spell through the pages of the chronicles of  the life of a chameleon in the Old City of Jerusalem. And if the spirit moves you, and like the thousands upon thousands of pilgrims who come to the city seeking to rejuvenate their faith, or “recharge their batteries” - some even hoping for a miracle - you yearn for a glimpse of the reflection of the face of God, wend your way to the Cathedral of St James, the most  magnificent of Christian edifices in the land, or the Convent of St Mark where you can still hear the language spoken in the times of the son of the Carpenter of Nazareth, or push a penned prayer into the cracks of the wall of the Temple, or kneel at the rock from where the Prophet ascended to heaven. You will be in paradise enow.    I should know - for I sojourned there, toiled there, and suffered and gloried there. And in the darkness of the night, when all hope seemed to have been lost, with the threat of destruction looming above us every minute as we doged the bombs and bullets, bereft of all earthly goods except the clothes on our backs, and surviving on handouts, it was the unextinguishable of faith that succoured us and brought us out of the valley of the shadow of death, with the promise of salvation.
© 2017 arthur hagopian
Arthur Hagopian
Cobblestones The Beginnings    In the heart of a labyrinth of quaint, serpentine streets and alleys, in the Old City of Jerusalem, one of the most dynamic people of the Middle East, the Armenians, make their home.     Claiming descent from the conquering armies of Tigranes (Dickran) II, King of Kings,  Armenians have been living in Jerusalem for over 2,000 years.     Three centuries later, in the year 301 of the Christian Era, they abandoned paganism and adopted Christianity after the miraculous conversion of their king, Tiridates (Dertad), smashing their lifeless idols of gods and goddesses, and becoming the first nation on earth to accept the teachings of Jesus as their state dogma.    This seminal milestone in their history was to unleash a borderless tsunami of pilgrims, wending their way to the Holy City on foot or on the back of camels and donkeys, in long caravans that sometimes boasted 700 beasts of burden, braving unforgiving desert sandstorms or running the gauntlet of roaming bandits, in their relentless quest for spiritual rejuvenation.    Some of the conscripts and later pilgrims, among them my ancestors, stayed and prospered, in the process making Jerusalem what many unabashedly proclaim, the center of the world.     Their descendants gave the city its first printing press and photographic studio.    One of my great-grandparents was a prolific builder. The houses he and his fellow artisans built, with their distinctive meter-wide earthen walls, still stand.      I was born, and grew up, in such a house, in the Armenian Quarter, of the Old City.   This is my story, interwoven within the fabric of the saga of the Armenians of Jerusalem.