There’s a town crier on every corner of the world’s stage—animated, influential, convincing—demanding attention. In this age of high-tech communication, competition is fierce. Occasionally, these sounds drowned out my own voice—even more frustrating—my heart.
With so many voices, sometimes, I don’t feel heard. Since I want family and friends—or occasionally anyone who will listen—to know my thoughts, I speak louder, more forcefully.
There are a lot of town criers on and around Mt. Zion, and I think they are just like me — they get louder and more forceful when they feel they aren’t being heard.
When we stay in Jerusalem a couple times each year, we hear their messages day and night echoing over the Hinnom Valley, from the Mt. of Olives and Zion, and the Arab villages of Silwan and Abu Tor as well.
The apartment we stay in is directly across from Mt. Zion. Wow—Mt. Zion! That’s what I think every morning when I open the shutters. I sit on the veranda and drink morning coffee and pinch myself.
King David called Mt. Zion the perfection of beauty where the presence of God of dwells. He also wrote that God loves the gates of Zion and has chosen it above all places. It is from there that the King of kings will rule the nations. Imagine… Zion is the joy of the whole earth… the place where God’s fire burns.
To see this place in real life may be a disappointment with natural eyes. Mt. Zion is lackluster and really, only a hill. The slops descending into the Hinnom Valley are arid and brown with a few roughed dirt roads that wind around to the top. The Pope’s Way (built after Pope Paul VI’s visit in 1964) is close to the peak, and a few ancient olives trees are scattered throughout. Hotels, parks, restaurants, an amphitheater, and cinema dot the landscape at various levels.
It is a place of historic significance and a blessed hope to the Jew and Christian. Before Jerusalem was united in 1967, King David’s tomb was the most revered place to pray, because Jews could not get to the Western Wall. Christians have honored its geography and symbolic meanings for centuries.
Perched on top of Mt. Zion are the Dormition Abbey, King David’s tomb, the grave site of Oskar Schindler, and the Room of the Last Supper—each claiming its place as “king of the mountain.” But no owns Mt. Zion. It belongs to those who embrace its meaning and worship its Creator.
Sound in this area resonates without microphones or amplifiers. At night, the town criers of Mt. Zion pump music into the air with classical and pop concerts, weddings, bar- and bat-mitzvahs, festivals, or parties—occasionally several at once. Often all the sounds compete.
During the day, there are different sounds—the routine noises from the people who live here. The Dormition Abbey rings its bells every few hours during daylight. Both the close-by Arab villages broadcast Islamic prayers from the minarets at various intervals. During Ramadan, the loud beating of drums with eerie chants echo through the valley and up the mountain at three in the morning, waking the sleep of Muslims, Christians, and Jews, even atheists are aroused and deprived of sleep during the sound of this seasonal call.
We hear the music and booms of fireworks from nearby Arab weddings. Sirens wail through the valley twenty minutes before the Sabbath, a warning for all Orthodox Jews to return home. They also signal times of memorial or impending danger.
Packs of starving dogs run wild on the hills and valley—snarling, barking, and howling—claiming the territory as their own. Their deprivation drives them to meanness, wayward beasts suffering from a dreadful lack of human kindness, food, and water.
The sounds of Zion today are generated from the town criers of varied roots and religions, cultures with predisposed attitudes of entitlement expressing their desires for pleasure, religious rectitude, traditions, or justice. Many are in pain and much of the noise is about suffering and injustice. And more importantly, a human face with a yearning heart is behind each cry.
Zion’s town criers demands conglomerate into chaotic clamor—the restless din of a suffering city. A spinning society, seemingly abandoned, reduced to screeching into the air, feeling their way along the rough walls of a dark room called the complexities of modern Israel. Most just long to be heard.
There is a unique sound arising in quiet and loud tones—through prayer, praise, and intercessions of a 24-hour house of prayer—down the road from us. Their voices may not be the loudest or the most flamboyant; but they are constant, interceding for the peace of Jerusalem and the welfare of Israel. Perhaps they are the most significant.
They fulfill Jeremiah 31:6: There will be a day when watchmen cry out on the hills of Ephraim, “Come, let us go up to Zion, to the LORD our God.”
Once the people of Israel knew the songs of Zion (Psalm 137:3), but I believe the hills will sing again. And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away (Isaiah. 35:10).
My husband and I add our voices to the sounds of Zion’s town criers through prayer, intercession, and reaching out to those around us. We pray that the humanity, living in the community we share, will hear and respond.
For Zion’s sake, we cannot keep silent. Not until Jerusalem is a praise—not a clamoring, chaotic din—but a praise in all the earth.