Music and Security in the Holy City
I was walking in downtown Jerusalem, and on Zion Square I saw a piano, a grand piano placed there by the municipality for anyone to play. There was a young man playing, and watching over him were four mounted policemen, taking a break from their patrol, enjoying the peace that emanated from the place.
The scene intrigued me and made me think. In a sense, the scene was picture of the city I’m happy to call my home.
Jerusalem is a great place to live. It has vibe, it moves, there is always something going on. The people who live here, who rub shoulders here, are so different in so many respects that there are always tensions – political, religious, cultural tensions – and they are, on the whole, controlled and managed. But occasionally they boil over, sometimes things become threatening, or dangerous, and the police have to step in. That’s Jerusalem.
And yet there is another aspect of this city, one you don’t really get until you live here. It is reflected in one of the possible meanings of the city’s name (the name is so old that there is some debate about what it originally meant; it first appears in Egyptian records in the 18th century BC, and in the Bible in the story of Melchizidek, King of Salem, in Genesis 14). The meaning I’m referring to is to the two words Ir Shalom, City of Peace.
In the midst of all the tension, all the noise (and this is a noisy city), amidst all that’s going on, there is a peace here.
You sense it on a Saturday morning when you wake up and there is a gorgeous silence as the Shabbat settles over the place like a warm and comfy blanket. You sense it in the history, that after all it’s been through over so many years, the city is still here, still thriving, still great. And somehow you sense it in the presence of God here, who said about Jerusalem that he has set her in the centre of all the nations (Ezekiel 5:5), surely a place of great honour, and that this is where he has chosen to place his Name (2 Chronicles 6:6). It is the peace spoken of by the Psalmist in Psalm 46, where even if nations are in uproar, even if the mountains are falling into the sea, right there in the midst of all of that, God says “Quiet! Listen! I just want you to know that I am God! That I will be lifted up among the nations… that I am with you.”
Music and the threat of tension. Piano and police. A study in contrasts. Jerusalem.