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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
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It has taken another twenty-five years or so to start to see what links the pond and Jerusalem.

Perhaps, since the differences are so vast, it’s not surprising that it’s taken so long. On the one hand, a lonely, poetically sensitive kid responding to some stolen hours “by the water.” On the other, a city whose name resonates through history and major religions like no other.

But just as one could say that the lonely kid imposed a significance on the pond, one could say the ancient Israelites did the same with the mountain town. Just a pond beside a golf course, like so many others; just a city, perhaps with some nice effects of color, light, and mood, like so many others.

Or, one could say that certain places have qualities that allow us to be touched by the transcendent, and so become “holy places” for us. That those qualities inhere in the places already, and aren’t something we invent.

True, my pond is not considered a “holy place”—but I doubt that many people have known its more intimate self as I have. As for Jerusalem, it’s been having that effect on many people for a long time, and it keeps having it.

****

image courtesy shutterstock / Pete Spiro / Suede Chen

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P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Beersheva and author of the book Choosing Life in Israel.

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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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