First Fruits of Zion is proud to present the following excerpt of the newly released book Window on Mount Zion written by a Messianic Jewish voice from the past, Pauline Rose (1890-1973). This is her firsthand account of the search for a place to live and plant a garden on Mount Zion and living through the Six-Day War.
Where could I make a garden? How could I get permission to live on Mount Zion? I revealed my thoughts and desires to Dr. Kahane.
While he sympathized with them, he was gravely concerned for our physical safety, and doubted that his committee would approve or that the military authorities, who also had a say in the matter, would give permission.
“There’s no need to make a garden, and nobody is allowed to live here. It is after all a holy sanctuary, and also a dangerous place under present conditions—a border zone. It really isn’t a place for anyone to live.” He was silent a while. Then, “Impossible! Quite impossible!” he said with conviction, and with that he considered the matter closed.
I could not accept this as the last word; the matter was not ended in my mind! To man many things are impossible, but to God all things are possible. Both Albert and I felt that if the inspiration to come to Mount Zion was from God, the impossible might well become possible. We waited.
We were faced with two tremendous obstacles: permission to live on Mount Zion and permission to use the military road. To live here without being allowed to use the road would be difficult in the extreme. The steps up to Mount Zion would be our only means of access; everything we needed would have to be hauled up on the backs of donkeys. There were endless discussions with the patient curator, and it seemed to me that the ever-repeated “impossible” was beginning to ring with less conviction.
The first break as an offer of a small piece of ground to make a garden. Then I was allowed to have a room where I might rest, or occasionally spend the night when working on the garden. Of course, it was clearly understood that I could not live there, and there was always the condition that the garden or room had to be on the “safe side” of Mount Zion, the side that did not face the border.
I was grateful for any foothold on Mount Zion. We looked for garden sites and rooms, but each time we found something that appeared suitable we uncovered some hidden snag. However, if we were to be allowed to come to Mount Zion at all, then we believed that all our steps and plans would be guided by the same power that had brought us there. Somewhere on Mount Zion we would find the place intended for us.
The next problem to be faced was how to get permission to use the military road. Our first enquiries met with another “impossible.” The road was strictly for military use and nobody else could be given a key with which to unlock the barrier.
The Military Commander of Jerusalem said to us: “It’s an extremely foolish idea to want to live in such a dangerous, isolated place when it’s not necessary.” It was very difficult to explain to him my reasons and the faith underlying them. Again we waited.
Long weeks passed without a decision. Would we get permission or not? Somehow I knew I had only to wait, and I was willing to do so. Then one day, without explanation, we received the key to the barrier and permission from the army to use the road.
Now the confirmation was complete and the vision had become clearer. We had only to find the place where we could live and also make a garden. Now we had the key and could take the car on the military road. As we reached the foot of the hill, a forbidding iron bar secured by a heavy padlock stretched across the only road leading to the top of Mount Zion.
I was conscious of my excitement and a strong sense of responsibility as I turned the key in the padlock, releasing the giant iron arm that opened the way for the car to pass through. At last I stood on the forbidden road. Conscientiously I locked the barrier behind me with the key that had been given to us on condition that it should never pass from our hands.
The road was a rough track cut out of the side of the Mount for the use of military vehicles. It was dangerously narrow and heavily pot-holed and treacherous for a small car, and it curved and climbed sharply with the contours of the hill; but this was not all. On one side the hill rose high to its stone-walled summit; on the other, it sloped sharply down to the valley of Hinnom. The first curve brought the enemy observation post on the opposite hill alarmingly close, and the armed Arab guards scrutinizing all movement could be clearly seen.
With great difficulty the car climbed the narrow track, avoiding large stones and the deep furrows left by the daily quota of heavy military traffic. Almost at the summit, a sharp bend revealed the breathtaking vista of the Judean Hills, the hills of biblical history.
But it was not the moment to contemplate scenic beauty—my head was suddenly and painfully banged against the roof of the car as it lurched into an unseen hole in the road. A few more yards of climbing and the possibility of further driving ended. I had stopped the car before a yellow signboard on which was written: “DANGER. FRONTIER AHEAD.” And there was another fortification occupied by Jordanian soldiers some yards behind this.
High on the hill stood the house occupied by our soldiers—our defense post. Around it were ruined houses left damaged and derelict after the War of Liberation in 1948. My attention was drawn to one in the foreground on the top of the Mount. It faced the Jordanian border, scarcely a hundred yards away, and it seemed to stand like a silent stone sentinel guarding Mount Zion, its windows looking east, west, and south. It seemed to be calling for life to enter its empty shell, heal its ugly war scars and light up its darkened windows.
I left the car and walked up to the summit of the Mount. Nobody was in sight. The stone house I had seen from below was in ruins. Not far off, flanking an old wall, was a tiny primitive-looking garden. The fluttering wings of pigeons circled the badly war-damaged house.
Through masses of debris and stones, I risked jumps over small craters, and managed to make a precarious entry into the house. I went through a doorway, the damaged doors hanging from their frames, crossed gaps in the floor from which tiles had been removed, and found my way to the staircase, which remained intact. I walked up to the floor above, pushed my way into the room facing the border, and there had my first glimpse through a window on Mount Zion.