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Like a Vampire, I Fit Nowhere In Jerusalem but Inside the Real and Made-up Stories of Lovers and Others.

Last week, as I was prepping to teach my 11th-grade English class, I reread the Greek creation myth where Rhea wraps a stone in swaddling clothes, pretending it's Zeus, whom she's hidden to protect him from his father, Cronus. In the particular Greek myth I'll be using with students, the stone Rhea wraps is called an omphalos. In Greek, omphalos means navel or the center of something. When I saw it last week, I realized I hadn't thought about the word since I was a graduate student in the 1990s at Hebrew University in Jerusalem studying literature. Both Jewish and Christian ancient religious texts consider Jerusalem the geographical and spiritual navel, or omphalos, of the Earth. As early as the second century, Jerusalem was put at the center on cartographic images and called the "navel" of the earth.

A flurry of memories came rushing forward in my mind as I sat my lesson planning aside. Omphalos was also the name of the Hebrew University English department's literary magazine that existed from 1993-2000. The founding editors called it Omphalos as a nod to this idea of Jerusalem as the "navel" of the world. And we who ran the journal gazed with bravado, a youthful superiority, from high up in the hills of the city, and even higher in the hills of Hebrew University, as we decided what pieces deemed worthy of being published in Omphalos. I was a young Zionist fulfilling my birthright to live and study in Jerusalem, falling in love with the city and its stones and smells. The name of the journal was an hommage, as well, to James Joycein one of Stephen Dedalus's stream-of-consciousness narrations, he says, "Will you be as gods? Gaze in your omphalos."

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Author:Rose, Liz
Publication:Tablet Magazine
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:Jun 8, 2017
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