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Sacred Places: Real, or Do We Make Them Up?

From the pond of wasted adolescent days to Jerusalem and back.

by
P. David Hornik

Bio

March 17, 2013 - 7:00 am

In the second phase of my life my Jerusalem has been Jerusalem. I went to live in it in 1985, and continued to live in or near it for 21 years. Its stone buildings, pines, mountain air, incredibly soft, hushed dusks seeped into the inner terrain and conquered it.

Sometime in the late 1980s I read the brilliant book The Zionist Revolution by the late Israeli scholar Harold Fisch. Published in 1978, five years after the Yom Kippur War, it argued that, to give the Israeli people the necessary strength to cope with a hostile environment, Zionism needed to be an essentially religious phenomenon.

Fisch wrote that the word Zion—a synonym for Jerusalem and the land of Israel as a whole—had “inevitable overtones” and was “semantically charged.” It was for me an arresting observation. I couldn’t deny it: for me, there was no way Zion or Jerusalem could be a word like Boston or Dallas. It was charged with a different content.

Those few words by Fisch—they’re on page 26 of the book—crystallized for me more than anything else what I was doing there in Zion. They didn’t turn me into what’s called an observant Jew; but they confronted me with a question: “Is Jerusalem a place like other places, or is it infused with something else, something outside of time?”

Already by then, having lived in it for a few years, the answer was clear.

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All Comments   (9)
All Comments   (9)
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We make them up. I think a sacred place is always someplace where people believe a deity once interacted or continues to interact with them. God can be anywhere or everywhere, all the time. Without people to recognize the Presence, nobody would know. A lizard living on the Temple Mount doesn't think he's anywhere special. Without the people, there would be no Temple Mount. So it's always Place + People + God (or at least the belief in God). Take away the people and it's just another place.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
We (as a society, not necessarilly an individual) make up our religions, we make up our sacred places, rituals, and writings to go with them.
That doesn't change their importance in our lives.

They're also highly cultural. For the American cult of the Presidency for example, the White House has become a temple, hallowed ground, as have many other places where the President has deigned to walk the earth among His flock.
For most of the rest of the world, it's just a rather poor copy of a neoclassical country mansion.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It came from the Hebrew shalom.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thank you . . . I thought that Jerusalem had "shalom" at the end. Where did those Mass. settlers get their name for the port city of Salem?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The "salem," which sounds somewhat different in the Hebrew name, is thought to be connected to "shalom," which means peace, and "Jerusalem" is etymologized as Ihr-Shalom or "City of Peace."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Off-topic, but can you explain the "--salem" part of Jerusalem? I ask because I always wondered what the relationship is between the town names: Salem & Jerusalem.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Nice frog.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Lovely. Memories of streams and ponds of a New England childhood, transcendent all. Thanks.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You seem to be missing your inner pond. Sorry for your loss.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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