Break for a conversation:
At an art gallery in Jerusalem, I am captivated by a statue of Jesus wrought in jagged, black metal. It’s an angry Jesus, frustrated, his eyes, lids heavy with disappointment. And resignation, he will always know too much, be haunted by his prescience, misunderstood by those who claim to be his friends.
Next to me, gazing at the sculpture, is a pretty girl, a bit younger than I am – maybe 18. She looks as if she's in a quandary. Biting her lip, deep in thought. She turns to me, and asks tentatively if I am Jewish.
We chat. She is here with a youth group, I tell her a little about my trip. And when I confirm that I am Jewish, she asks,
“What does the Jewish god look like?”
I take this to be a serious theological question.
“Well, Genesis says that God made humankind in his image. So that could be mean that there’s a god that looks very much like you or I somewhere, or you could take that to mean something more symbolic – in his image, like with his complexity, or with his ability to create,” – I’m riffing with my limited knowledge.
“Jesus was a hunk,” she says.
In her hand is a post-card of a blonde, beatific Jesus that she seems to be comparing to the more slender, Sephardic-faced interpretation in the gallery. In her post-card, Jesus is rather athletic looking beneath his loose white robe. Very quarterback-esque. I have not seen anyone who looks quite like that Jesus around here.
“Jesus was probably not a hunk, I say with holy condescension. Jesus was probably starving and really skinny.”
“He wasn’t starving, he had a big meal at the last supper. And people gave him food all the time when he was walking around preaching and suntanned. He had to have been good looking to get such a following. At first, you know before they realized he had something important to say. At first he was just good looking. Like Ronald Reagan.”
“I don’t know,” I counter, “The Jewish people are into this guy the Messiach now, and he is definitely not a stud."
“But the Jewish people didn’t follow Jesus. Maybe they only follow ugly people.”
“Yes, I say, maybe they killed Jesus because they were jealous of his good looks.”
“The Jews are a jealous people,” she says, “always wanting what others have – just look at Israel.”
Repelled and delighted, I want to take this girl with me on my travels, in order to have the constant benefit of her insight.