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Mar 2006 Journal

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Letter from Israel

Catching the last night of the proms on television on New Year's Eve, I found that the final chorus was neither Land of Hope and Glory nor Henry Wood's sea shanties but Parry's setting of Blake's Jerusalem. To hear it sung with gusto by the thousands-strong audience was very touching.

Throughout the ages, physical and spiritual Jerusalem has captured the imagination of millions, triggering emotions in the hearts of people of all races and creeds. To sit in a concert hall in Jerusalem and hear a choir trill the last notes of Fauré's Requiem, intoning the name of the city in a divine, celestial chorus, is an unforgettable experience. Equally poignant is hearing the opening aria of Handel's Messiah, where the words of Isaiah speak of comfort for Jerusalem and an end to its warfare. And there are many other examples.

The King James version of the Bible has been adopted by Anglicans as its original, true version. They find it hard to grasp that it is an erratic, often inaccurate translation, irrespective of its intrinsic value as literature. But whatever hold the city has had on Christians, as exemplified by the Crusaders, or on Muslims, who fought tenaciously to recapture it, it is we Jews who regard it as our physical and spiritual cradle.

The attempt by Israel's government a few years ago to change the city's official name to its Hebrew version, Yerushalayim, fell on deaf ears. Stamps were minted and documents printed, but no one seemed to take much notice. City names have been changed in the past, as evinced by Istanbul, Mumbai and Beijing, but not Jerusalem.

Its Arabic name is Al-Kuds, the Holy City, but no one seems to take much notice of that either. 'And was Al-Kuds builded ee'n, in England's green and pleasant land' just doesn't have the right ring to it.
Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

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