Working in Jerusalem
Spiritual pride? Hey, not us. No way. We renounced that
nonsense years ago. If we have any faults, probably they're in the excessive
humility department. After all, if Moses can put in his CV that he was the
meekest man who ever lived, then we can afford to skite a little.
Seriously though, folks...
Looking back through these articles, we notice that we've
tried to score brownie points by oh-so-casually mentioning that back in Enzed we're
too spiritual to own a telly.
Okay, that was then. Now we're living in Jerusalem between
two areas of shooting and rioting. And in the old folks' home where we work,
off-duty we have access to a 64-channel, 1.2 metre screen, projection tv. Even
the picture-in-picture gizmo, where we watch one programme while keeping half an
eye on another channel in the corner of the screen, gives an image larger than
the average idiot box.
It's great for comparing the lies that go under the name of
Look -– as fairly new chums to the tv thing, may we offer a
bit of advice? Most of our friends make noises like 'Oh, I don't believe
half the news on the box'. So -– why don't they?
If you have a television set -– watch it. Get the
family to close their mouths firmly, and watch and listen carefully. Even
record the news and replay it.
It all happens so quickly, but ask if this shot has
anything to do with that shot. Are you seeing a sequence of events, or
something cobbled together in the studio? We've been watching CNN, BBC, Sky
and local Israeli news. It's an education in manipulation. And in the power of
Listen to the interviewers, the commentators. Note the
questions they don't ask. Like 'Why aren't those Arab kids in school
instead of attacking Israeli jeeps?' And why do newscasters say 'Israeli
troops opened fire on Palestinian teenagers'? Most of the soldiers are
teenagers too. And how should half-a-dozen soldiers respond to several hundred
rock-throwing, petrol-bomb-hurling youngsters? Throw stones back at them?
But we've digressed without even starting on the topic we
planned to write about.
Which is: the odd business of living in a danger zone. Sure,
this'll be out-of-date by the time you read it, but the principle behind all
this is on-going. And the principle is, quite simply, that regardless of
catastrophes and emergencies and riots and bombings and whatever -– life goes
One of the nurses lives in Gilo, a Jerusalem suburb. She
leaves home carefully; terrorists have been shooting at her house and her
neighbours' all night; a short bus trip and an eight-hour day with elderly
patients; then she buys fruit and veges at the supermarket before going back to
Gilo, checking the sandbags that cover the windows.
An orderly we work with lives in Ramallah, where a thousand
Arabs stormed a Palestinian police station, seized two Israeli soldiers being
held in custody there, and over an extended period beat, mutilated, burned and
finally killed them. The orderly is organising his son's wedding a few streets
from the site of the lynching. We're invited, if he can get us through the
The local radio sandwiches fear counseling sessions between
the weather forecast and American baseball scores.
Some streets you just don't go down. If there's an
unexpected crowd or traffic jam, you check why, you don't barge through. But
shopping, sitting on a bench eating falafel, catching the so-useful 18 bus
(twice the target of terrorists), living and working alongside Arabs (who are
under immense pressure from preachers in the mosques to take specific murderous
action), performing all the normal routines of living - life, normal everyday
life, has to go on, regardless of what is happening literally around the corner.
Simply because eating, sleeping, shopping, making love, going
to the toilet, laughing, counting your change, are as essential as breathing. So
there's an undeclared war on? After the first rush of adrenaline, it's no
big deal. Once you get used to the fact that there's no such a thing as 'normal',
you accept that reality has simply changed gear and the things you must and
mustn't do have changed with it.
But reality is still real, with all the eating, sleeping,
etc., etc., bits included. As, one day, folk are going to find out when the Lord
Sure, we've read the Book. There's the sound of the
shofar, the voice of the Archangel, the graves wrenched open, the Rapture, all
the world's armies around Jerusalem -– you name it, it's not only going to
be spectacularly heart-stopping, but it'll be stone-cold-sober fact.
While (for those still around down here) part of the problem
will be that life goes on. Finding enough to eat, caring for the kids,
quarrelling and making up, washing, whatever the day-by-day concerns happen to
be -– all at the same time as the Messiah returns to reign from the City of the
Reality is never easy to live with.
For instance, think back to when God grabbed you. (Okay, you
chose Christ. But we're Calvinists; we're writing this stuff, so we're
cheeky enough to suggest that it was the Holy Spirit who put his foot on your
neck; you weren't doing the Boss a favour.) Remember when you realised you
were saved? The big problem was living in both worlds. The routine of work and
play, meals and sleep -– and the total otherness of being in an incredible,
impossible, totally actual relationship with God through Jesus.
Okay, take it further.
Remember when you received the Holy Spirit? The awesome
realisation that, somehow, God had personally singled out you, empowered you;
that in addition to the forgiveness and acceptance you received at salvation,
the King had specific jobs with your name on them. All in the context of
your school or job or family or rugby club. In the fun, the monotony, the sweat,
the loneliness or the crowds of daily living.
Let's be honest. In the last few paragraphs we've written
'you, you, you'. That's a cop-out, actually. We have problems
balancing the demands of 'ordinary' living with the 'spiritual' side.
Here in Jerusalem we're out of our 'normal'
environment. Look, we've been self employed since before most people were
born. We're not used to living and working in a Home where everyone is our
boss. Yelling at us
in a cacophony of languages that don't include New Zealandish. We're given a
job, arrange our day around it and begin the work with enthusiasm, only to find
it's all been changed and we should be somewhere else, doing something awfully
urgent, only nobody thought to tell us.
And God is in it.
When we remember.
Which, sometimes, we do.
And every now and then, God does a full frontal miracle.
Stops hiding his footprints in the turmoil that is typically Israeli.
Like on Yom Kippur. The holiest day of the Jewish year. When
the majority of Jews are involved almost non-stop in their patterns of worship
for that all-important time they believe seals their destiny for another year.
We were looking across the darkened Jerusalem skyline,
knowing that out there were squads of young soldiers keeping rioters at bay
while the rest of the population were hurrying to their synagogues.
One man walked past us with a muttered 'Shalom'. We
replied. He went on a few paces. Stopped. Paused, thinking. Then came back to us
and invited us, there and then, to his home.
Incredibly, his all-important synagogue service was
forgotten. We became involved in an in-depth discussion that clearly was a
continuation of something begun in him by the Spirit of God years before.
For a few hours the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven came
into sharp focus, and the chores of day-by-day living were merely the
background, the scenery to a drama written and directed by God himself.
So we paint corridors in the Home, clear tables, avoid
certain parts of east Jerusalem, sleep like babies until a helicopter gunship
roars overhead, sing 'Jerusalem of Gold' off-key with the residents, argue
with Israeli bureaucrats over the renewal of our visas, buy mangoes and figs in
And get goosebumps every time God gives us a glimpse of what
he's up to.