I have been traveling to Italy for nearly fifty years now and I am blessed to be here again–this time for an international conference sponsored by the Italian government.
The tomb of Augustus, the Emperor of all Rome, lies in ruins and is unkempt, unclean. The ancient Roman Senate (pernhaps where Julius Ceasar was assasinated) has, for a long time, been taken over by cats. The lesson? Carpe diem, seize the day, it is all we mere mortals may have.
Where the church burned Giordano Bruno at the stake for heresy–cafes, mimes, music, tourists abound, verily as merry a place as the Tower of London. What is it in us that needs to turn the gallows into gaiety? Similarly, the Jewish ghetto in Rome, once a stinking, fetid, narrow alley of tenements ringed round by churches and by nunneries where Jewish babies were taken for baptism–is now the “coolest” place in town. It is gentrified, modern art galleries flourish, the price of apartments are beyond most people’s reach.
Yes, of course, I visited the neighborhood where I once lived (Piazza Navona) in 1969; it is filled with tourists galore, musicians, street performers. Of course, I visited my old friend Moses, as sculpted by Michaelangelo. Oh how regally he sits, a bit of a Poseidon-like figure, surrounded by “horns” (that is how the artist translated Moses’ radiant face and aura), by Biblical Mothers Leah and Rachel, and by thousands of shutterbug tourists who must pay so that the sculpture will be illuminated for their photos.
The fountains of Rome are cooling, exquisite, magnificent, and very large.
If you don’t speak Italian, even the taxi dispatcher on the radio sounds like a soundtrack from a Fellini movie.
And, I had a wonderful lunch with an amazing, accomplished woman (more about this later) whose husband, an apostate from Islam (he converted to Christianity), must live with seven police officers around-the-clock.
Just think about that. Before this war against fundamentalist, jihadic Islam is over, every brave dissident may require personal protection–not only a legal defense fund but physically armed guards.
Just like what speakers all over the United States and Europe require when they tell the truth about Islamic gender and religious apartheid and about Israel on campus.
It is beautiful fall weather and yet…being me, I find myself reading about what happened to the Jews who came to Italy–protection, followed by ceaseless cycles of persecution, betrayal, exile, flight, and eventual return. More about this to come.
Wish you were all here.