Jerusalem of Gold

Jerusalem of Gold by Penina Satlow

My Jerusalem is not of politics
It is not violence, terrorism, fear, oppression
It is not conflict lines.
My Jerusalem is not of religion
It is not fur hats, muezzin calls, knee length skirts, crucifixes
It is not constant battles over women in tefillin, Yehuda Glick at Al-Aqsa, a 200 year old ladder outside of a church
It is not God.
My Jerusalem is not of tourism
It is not sunblock, wide-brimmed hats, groups of three or more
It is not crispy falafel, succulent shawarma
It is not tiny tchotchkes to bring home that will break within weeks
It is not camels, desert, falsified narratives.

My Jerusalem
Is of life
It is fresh, in season fruits and vegetables
It is 5.90 NIS for Eged
It is harsh words screamed in Hebrew
But lovingly
It is walking to shul through the quiet streets
It is “Nu?” and “Tachless” and “Shabbat Shalom”
It is long walks through many shades of brown
It is warm, loving families
Eager to host for a week, a day, a meal
It is friends who will never leave my side

My Jerusalem is not of gold
My Jerusalem is of steel

Artist’s Statement: I wrote this poem based off the song “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav” or “Jerusalem of Gold” by Naomi Shemer. Though I do love this song dearly, I realized during my most recent trip to Israel that the vibrant imagery used to describe Jerusalem in the song, though beautiful, is not the Jerusalem that I have experienced and that I have grown to know and love. My Jerusalem is not of gold: rare, precious, to be kept safe except for special occasions. My Jerusalem is of steel: man made, but strong, useful, essential for everyday life, and potentially dangerous. Through this poem, I want to express my real and earthly love of Jerusalem and of Israel, and contrast it with the pedestal it has been placed on for thousands of years to be looked at from a distance.
Accompanying Photo: “Overlooking Jerusalem,” © Neta Bartal, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.
What do you think about this topic? We want to hear from you!
Join the conversation!
Penina Satlow is a senior at Classical High School in Providence, Rhode Island. At school, she plays field hockey, and acts in school plays. She sings with HaZamir, the International Jewish High School Choir. Penina loves reading fiction and watching spoken word poetry, though she has yet to perform her own. She is a member of the jGirls Editorial Board, working in the Fiction and Poetry Departments.