‘Jerusalem of Gold’: Avigail Winokur’s Moving Interfaith Iftar Poem

Avigail Winokur.

April 22, 2021

At the Interfaith Iftar celebration hosted by the American Muslim & Multifaith Women’s Empowerment Council (AMWEC), in partnership with the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement (CAM), on Wednesday, Yeshiva University student Avigail Winokur recited a new poem, “Jerusalem of Gold,” that she wrote especially for the occasion:

The Golden Dome catches sunlight through my window,
Reflecting the melancholy of a fading day.
By morning light awash with glory,
The call to prayer thrumming across her curves.

The constant pious calls to God,
Reverberate like a whisper through my ear,
As I ache to know what’s inside,
To know what secrets linger in green paint,
Under ancient prayer mats and dusty Qurans,
Coating the décor with devotion.

Each day I look out,
Into Jerusalem of the East.
How different are the mismatched white stone houses
Encasing the Golden Shrine like a thick cocoon,
Than the city I thought I knew.

I knew a Jerusalem
With the sharp scent of eucalyptus and gentle aroma of rosemary,
Of Torah scrolls, Chasidim, and the Western Wall.
Of Hanukah lights and fresh jelly donuts
Of white talitot and rounded kippot
Of Thursday night music blasting from machane yehuda
And Friday night calls to the Sabbath bride.

I knew a Jerusalem of Hashem.

I’m learning a Jerusalem of hijabis, niqabis, green minarets, and calls to prayer.
Of Allah.
Of fragrant spices,
And Damascus gate.
Of long rounded loaves of bread
Sprinkled with sesame
And streets packed with markets
That mirror mea shaarim.

I’m learning one of Christmas lights,
The Holy Sepulcher,
And the Via Dolorosa.
Where ancient nuns with rosary beads
Walk near a foreign tourist
Who snap memories of the devout.

I’m trying to understand what all of this means
For my Jerusalem.

I know the Jewish quarter
With her stray cats and prehistoric beggars.
I can trace each vein of her white stones by memory
And walk backward down her winding stairs.
I know her hidden gardens and oases in a city of dust and sand,
Hidden gems within the uniformity of the holy.

I know the Armenian quarter,
With her multicolor thread rugs and fortress-like monasteries,
Where Oscar Schindler’s grave lies
Adorned by wreaths and stones by those who pay tribute to his salvation.

I seek the Christian quarter,
Cross-adorned and holy water anointed
With hidden treasures beneath
A deceivingly small exterior.

I seek the Muslim quarter,
With a shukran and an ahlan,
Inhale the mounds of colorful spice,
And linger near shimmer crescent moon necklaces.

I seek my cousins: we are all of Abraham.

There is a Jerusalem I do not know
Behind the golden dome.
Hidden by what I strain to see,
A Jerusalem that doesn’t belong to only me.

Watch Winokur recite her poem below (beginning at the 1:18:38 mark):