What is Jerusalem, I mean, what is it?
I mean. Good grief, why do so many people feel obliged, nay, compelled to start sentences with; I mean…? almost as bad as; So…
And look, I’ve digressed already but that’s alright, that’s what I do, most of the time, digress. It’s a sign of something,
Jerusalem, capital of the ancient Kingdom of Judea or Judaea or Judah – no, they’re all the same thing, just different interpretations of the name by different factions,
I knew Jerusalem as a schoolchild, it was in those stories we got told at Sunday school, it was in hymns we sang in church. Yes, in church. I went to a Church of England school and that entailed a fair bit of going to church. I was even baptised, albeit against my will. I suppose that would be religious persecution these days, or something. I was only, what? Four or five years old, I didn’t really have enough information to make an informed decision about that though, I was told it was going to happen, and it did.
And did those feet in ancient times…?
We all knew the words, we sang along.
And was Jerusalem builded here…?
It was a question, obviously, it had a question mark.
In England’s green, unpleasant land?
Oh yes, we all knew the words but that didn’t mean we had to sing them with any great fidelity.
Was Jerusalem builded here, among those dark satanic mills?
I’m guessing it wasn’t, it didn’t figure heavily in any of the history lessons I lapped up to fail my History O level.
“Jerusalem, a city in Western Asia, on a plateau in the Judaean Mountains between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea.”
Western Asia? Whatever happened to the Middle East?
It was Parry’s musical accompanist to Blake’s verses that I liked, the words were mostly filler.
Something about England and mountains.
Something about pleasant pastures, clouded hills, Satanic mills.
A Bow and arrows, a spear and a chariot and a sword.
But the music was stirring.
In my teenage years I read some William Blake.
IN 2 BOOKS
To Justify the Ways of God to Man
Heady stuff, and not just a bit mind-bending and I’d got there through that print that Blake did for another of his works, EUROPE a PROPHECY, the frontispiece of which was: The Ancient of Days Setting a Compass to the Earth.
The Ancient of Days, I’d had a print of it on my bedroom wall.
It was big, well, bedroom wall print size; 3′ x 2′ or thereabouts.
The real things are tiny, not much bigger than a paperback novel, the kind the drugstores sell.
10 extra points if you know the song reference.
Jerusalem, not builded ‘here’, is one of the oldest cities in the world, and is holy to the three major Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
The Abrahamic religions, founded by those bronze age denizens of the ancient Kingdoms of Israel and Judah and no doubt other parts, who worshipped the God of Abraham, producing in order of invention, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Oh, and Samaritanism.
Samaritanism? Well, yes… I knew there was a ‘good’ Samaritan but I always assumed that was some sort of nationalistic classification and not a religious grouping, so yes, Samaritans.
Apparently the Samaritans split from mainstream Judaism when they thought that the Jewish Torah had become corrupted, by time.
Salem then Jebus then city of David.
City of God or city of the Lord of Hosts.
City of righteousness, Ariel, city of the Lord, Zion, the city of truth.
Nothing about dark satanic mills in there.
In 1974, late to the party, as always, I listened to Brain Salad Surgery, the fourth and arguably the best studio album, by that popular beat combo, Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Although I might plump for Trilogy there, but…
Anyway, Brain Salad Surgery, Side A, Track 1: Jerusalem.
Notable for Keith Emerson’s use of the prototype ‘Moog Apollo’, a polyphonic synthesiser, the first ever polyphonic synthesiser, apparently. If ever there was anybody that needed to be able to play more than one note at a time, it was our Keith.
ELP released Jerusalem as a single and the BBC, in their wisdom, banned it. I on the other hand loved it. It was, you know, that hymn we used to sing but, done by a rock group. Yeah, a rock group doing a hymn, but not just any rock group, a Progressive Rock group.
And Jerusalem was in the news recently, as was Israel.
“Palestinians in Jerusalem have been fighting with Israeli police and crowds of far-right Jews, all during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Over the past few days, those fights escalated, and Israeli police repeatedly stormed the Temple Mount, which Muslims revere as the Noble Sanctuary. Hundreds of Palestinians and dozens of Israeli police officers have been injured.”
“Weeks of violent clashes in East Jerusalem have ignited the heaviest fighting in years between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. At the core of the violence that has left dozens dead are tensions between Israelis and Palestinians over Jerusalem, which contains sites sacred to Judaism, Islam and Christianity.”
“East Jerusalem has long been a flashpoint, with an uneasy coexistence there between Jews and Arabs. Israel effectively annexed East Jerusalem in 1980 and considers the entire city its capital. Palestinians claim the eastern half of Jerusalem as the capital of a hoped-for state of their own.”
“The origins of the latest violence, which erupted last Monday, lies in a series of incidents in Jerusalem over the past month.
Last month extreme right Israelis marched through East Jerusalem chanting “Death to Arabs” amid tensions over Ramadan restrictions and videos online showing Palestinian attacks on Jews. ”
Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I liked that song, as a kid, as a teenager.
It, along with The Ancient of Days, got me into the world of Blake.
As an opener to Brain Salad Surgery, it seemed to fit in very well.
In later years I started to question it.
Jerusalem? You want to build it here, seriously?
There have been calls to make the hymn Jerssalem into a national anthem for England.
Jerusalem? You want to sing it here, seriously?
I will not cease from mental fight
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant Land
A far better National Anthem for England would be. “I Vow to Thee, My Country” – words by Sir Cecil Spring-Rice, music by Gustav Holst.
Why on earth would you want to build Jerusalem here?
And once it’s builded, what would you do with it?
And did those feet in ancient time?
That Joseph, he of Arimathea, came to England for some purpose or purposes unknown and let’s face it, at this remote, unknowable, is a bit of a leap of faith; that he came here with the young Jesus, he of Christendom, is even more unlikely. Don’t even start me on Joseph then coming back here with a grail, holy or otherwise and planting trees in the West Country.
Jerusalem, I liked that song, truth is, I still do, as a piece of music, as an historical document, it’s curiously interesting.
Build Jerusalem here?
I doubt you’d get planning permission.