In the course of researching and outlining the original novel-length story that I then re-worked into the present short story, I learned many interesting things relating to Christian End Times theology; Israeli cattle production; a little bit about Jerusalem’s history; the desire to rebuild the Jewish temple; and the Al Asqa mosque. You can read about the temple, the temple mount and the mosque here: http://www.seetheholyland.net/al-aqsa-mosque/ — in addition to 1,000 other sites on the Internet.
But perhaps one of the best things I discovered while conducting research is that I “found” the poetry of Yehuda Amichai, an Israeli poet. He moved to Israel at the age of 12 with his parents to escape the Holocaust. Out of all of his poems I’ve enjoyed (and there are many I still need to discover), the one entitled The Ecology of Jerusalem is my favorite. He writes with the boredom and fatigue of a person who lives at a tourist destination where the spectacular is part of his everyday life.
And of course, because it is Jerusalem, is isn’t just another tourist destination. It is THE DESTINATION for every Jew and Christian who takes their faith seriously. I would have loved to ask him what specifically prompted him to write the poem. If it was a slow building feeling or realization, or if certain events perhaps seen repeatedly over the years – some tourists sadly developing the Jerusalem Syndrome, hatred and violence between Jews and Muslims – prompted him to write it. Perhaps Yehuda was simply reflecting on the 5,000 years of the city’s history. According to Wikipedia (it corresponds with other sources; it’s late, I just grabbed the wiki URL), “… Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times.”
THE ECOLOGY OF JERUSALEM
The air over Jerusalem is saturated with prayers and dreams
like the air over industrial cities.
It’s hard to breathe.
And from time to time a new shipment of history arrives
and the houses and towers are its packing materials.
Later these are discarded and piled up in dumps.
You can read the complete poem here: http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2009/04/ecology-of-jerusalem-by-yehuda-amichai.html
It is this sort of feverish hope or twisted desire, inspiring real efforts by real people, to rebuild the temple that gave me the main plot and setting for the story. I’d originally entitled it (when it was novel-length), Abraham’s Children — thinking of the Jews, Christians and Muslims in the story, each fighting the other for their own religion’s vision of messiah (mahdi).