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Rubble Reality

by Ron Carlson

Disembarkation from the 747-400 occurred at 5:33 am and now I’m sitting in the exact same seat I occupied ten days ago, and though it feels the same, the surroundings feel different. I’m at the beautiful JFK terminal in New York waiting for a connecting flight back to DFW after a ten-day blitz of the Middle East.

I’m postponing jet lag until I finish this column and get a BLT and a real cup of coffee.

It’s a shame, I’ve concluded, that this thoughtfully designed and beautifully constructed building is just a few years from rubble. It deserves better.

One can’t be moments away from a tour of the ancient world and not be impacted by rubble reality. It’s everywhere. The only sure thing in the cradle of civilization is limestone entropy.

Time, I’ve surmised, makes gravel – here, there, and everywhere. Nothing of earth lasts long.

Now I understand why this structure in which I’m sitting is called “Terminal.” It’s just a matter of time. At least the architects had enough vision to see rubble on the horizon.

I’ve returned from the holy lands with a plethora of emotions and impressions, but none stronger than the ultimate conquest of King Rubble. Acre for acre, no turf in all the world boasts more rubble. It comes in piles, stacks, and tels.

Other corners of the planet collect rubble as well, and though quantities may be similar, no one possesses Israel’s quality. They have noble remains. Zion’s little rocks were once mighty stones, pathways of kings and prophets, palaces of despots and playboys, fortresses of paranoid tyrants, and towers of strength for people whose forefathers and foremothers go back to the beginning. Temples of grandeur and magnificence beyond our contemporary imaginations occupied sacred hills throughout the countryside. But today they are mostly memories and rubble.

Touring Israel presents the modern pilgrim with a host of paradoxes. In many ways, it is an unsettling place, one that produces a litany of conflicts– both external and internal. It is a clash of cultures, religions, philosophies, dreams, boundaries, and rocks. It is an ancient/future struggle that defies definition, no less resolution. It’s like the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I went to Israel to see the sites. I left Israel as more than a sightseer.
It is a profound experience to get up front and personal with history unfolding.

The rubble rousers of Israel (I think the technical term is “archaeologist”;) are doing a magnificent job of restoring ancient realities. Rock by rock they reconstruct the past. With each new stack we learn more about them and us. The rubble speaks, and what it says is that the folks of old were the same as us, only different. For instance, consider the following sites.

There are tels (hills made from centuries of trial civilizations layered one upon another) in Israel that tell us we are all a short-lived experiment. I visited one pile of clay (remember, that in time, everything returns to clay) that archaeologists claim was a series of cities, destroyed and rebuilt 84 times! (Finally, they hired a city planner who declared enough is enough, already!)

Current archaeological digs at Acre by the Sea (Acco) keep turning up new cities buried by newer cities. It seems that the first order of business for a conquering force was to destroy the city and force the former inhabitants to rebuild it to the same specifications, only different, each time with rocks a little worse for wear.

-Ron Carlson


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