“I want to live here where Jesus lived: the Christian voices of the Old City of Jerusalem

Giacomo Pizzi23 June 2014

Below is the story of Auriane, a French volunteer and researcher who worked for three months with the Technical Office of the Custody of the Holy Land. On a daily basis she experienced first hand the restoration of residences in the Old City, carried out through the project “Jerusalem, Stones of Memory” promoted by Association pro Terra Sancta. Her job was to study the structure of the hosh – the courtyards around which the life of the families in the Old City is organized – through the voices of the Christians who live there.

In its more complex forms the hosh can be a veritable labyrinth and each one is unique, from all points of view: social, architectural, environmental, etc. In the past inhabited by members of a single family, today the hosh is a response to the housing crisis and overpopulation in the Old City. Moreover, through its  management of areas it offers a large potential in terms of facilitating inhabitants from different origins living together. “The space of the courtyard helps for living together, but if you have the space and there are no people, this doesn’t serve any purpose,” declares a woman in her sixties who lives in Dar el Consul.

More than just an architectural model, it is a way of living, a discreet witness to the urban and social evolution of Jerusalem, the city three times holy.  This physical closeness also means proximity to the Holy Places, symbols of spirituality and at the same time of protection. A woman expresses what the ultimate meaning of living in Jerusalem is: “It is important for me to live here where Jesus lived”.

This unique symbiosis, virtually organic in the Holy City, forges faith and even the body of Christians living in Jerusalem. “I suffer from back and leg pain but when I hear the bells of the Holy Sepulchre, it is like a call, an “arise and go, affirms a woman in Issak Bek.

“The Custody of the Holy Land is a good church because it takes care of its Christians”, says a man of forty from the Bastoli hosh. It is in this spirit that the project “Jerusalem, Stones of Memory” is working to renovate the residences intended for needy Christians in Jerusalem. By means of these interventions on the physical “stones”, a team of the Custody’s Technical Office is constantly working to maintain this Christian memory.