In Jerusalem, this is true, and this is true.

If you fall down a flight of steps from the overlook down to the Western Wall, someone will pick you up and ask if you’re ok. I know this is true because I slip a lot — I’m clumsy AF. And every time I fall, someone is there to lift me.

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Then there’s this roof where the Four Quarters come together, where Haredi kids play, and Palestinian kids play, but they never play together except this one time that I saw when the Haredi kids ball landed over by the Palestinian kids, and one of the boys picked it up as though it might explode, just by the fingertips, as though touching it were dangerous, and he held it for three long seconds before he threw it back. That was the closest I have ever seen to the Muslim kids and the Jewish kids playing together.

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In Jerusalem this is also true:

The nuns of the Little Sisters of Jesus help each other up and down the slippery stones of Via Dolorosa – they also feed the stray cats that wend through the alleyways. They sell little wooden blocks with pictures of Jesus and Mary on them. “but they’re not pictures,” one of the nuns tells me. “They’re holy words through drawing.”

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There’s a door in an alley behind one of the main roads in the Muslim Quarter, and the some children say there is a 3 headed basilisk that lives behind it, and spools through the tunnels of the Old City. I haven’t seen it, but I believe it.

Bilal the fabric merchant has silk from Palmyra, woven by expert hands threaded with 14 karat gold. He sells fabric to priests and rabbis and imams. “Politicians deal in blood,” he says. “I deal in silk and gold.”

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Simcha, who runs a store in the Old City spends some Shabbat mornings with the Mukhtar from the Syrian Orthodox Church. They talk about the weather and God, how even when it rains, both are good.

That’s true, too.

In Jerusalem, this is also true:

Islamic charities give out food stamps to poor families, and they buy bread that way — because living in Jerusalem is expensive, and it’s hard to make a living. sometimes, the shopkeepers go an entire day without making a single sale. The pilgrims come to visit the holy sites, but they don’t see the people and their need to live and live well, is just as holy as any stone or cistern that they flock to touch.

Jewish fathers and mothers sell red string to tourists – “it’s a blessing on your head!” they say. Each string is a few shekels. They don’t do it because they want to take your money. They do it because they’re poor, and that’s all they feel they can do.

In Jerusalem, this is also true:

The Jewish kids are afraid to walk in the Muslim Quarter, and the Muslim kids are afraid of the soldiers. The soldiers are probably afraid, too, sometimes. They aren’t much older than the kids – that’s true, too.

A little Muslim girl cowers behind her parents on Jerusalem Day. A little Jewish girl dances ahead of everyone in the flag parade down Al-Wad Street in that same parade. Neither girl notices the other.

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My friend got the shit beaten out of him by Damascus Gate because his papers had expired the week before. While a soldier kicked him in the head, my friend looked up and saw that the soldier was crying.

“Why are YOU crying?” my friend asked the soldier as pain exploded across his face.
“Look what we are doing to you?” the soldier answered.

And last October, two fathers were stabbed to death, and while they bled out in rivers on the stone street, while their wives, injured and terrified, collapsed on the stones, screamed and screamed while the shop keepers jeered and spit on them. That’s true too.

In Jerusalem, this is also true:

The stones were carved with human hands.

The city is swarming with the scorpions and the righteous.

At some point, each day, every day, everyone will look up once at the great big sky beyond the buildings, beyond the shadows, or out through the window at a shaft of light.

And if you talk to people, they’ll talk to you. If you ask them questions, they’ll answer you — and if you let them, they’ll ask you, too. And if you listen, and they listen, then you’ll understand that as much as it hurts, as hard as it is, that all these things are true, too, and all somehow fit together with all their sharp edges and soft spaces as One.

Sarah is living in the Old City part of the week and writing a book about it. To see windows into her experience before the book comes out, follow her here on Facebook.