Jerusalem above my highest joy


“If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither!

Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you,

If I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy” (Psalm 137:5-6)


Going to Jerusalem was my wildest dream come true. Actually I did not have a dream about Jerusalem specifically. How did one get to dream about such mystical places like Jerusalem?

From childhood, I had dreams about places. I drew and painted snow covered hills and mountains of Switzerland. I drew mountains and valleys of New Zealand and estates of English countryside. I thought of someday being in those places. I even developed an interest in journalism as I grew older, so that I would travel around the world.

Yet, Jerusalem was not one of those longed for destinations.

I was a seminarian and Jerusalem appeared several times a week; in scripture reading and hymns and in studies in general. But it was in the Old Testament, in times past and could only be imagined.

When I first heard the news that I had been offered a scholarship to study in Jerusalem, it wasn’t that clear at first. I was chosen by the seminary faculty and the news came to me as an opportunity to study in Denmark. That was quite common actually because there was a student exchange program between our seminary and a university in Denmark.

I experienced that excitement of traveling to a foreign land though not quite overwhelming. There was nothing unique about going to Denmark. After all every other year we had four or five students go there for a semester. By now we had a sizeable alumni group.

Furthermore, this news was still a rumor. It was not official yet and even the professor who gave me the rumor wanted me to keep it secret until the minutes were approved by the faculty, then I would be informed officially. For a week or two I carried this rumor in my head but not quite elated.

Then in a chance discussion with one of the Swedish professors, I got the really exciting news. The scholarship was for study at the Swedish Theological Institute, in Jerusalem! Wow! Not Denmark, but Jerusalem.

Bengt, and that is his true name, knew what he was talking about. After all the Swedish Theological Institute was funded by his home church, the Church of Sweden Mission. But he had never been to Jerusalem. Who had been to Jerusalem anyway?

Not anybody I knew from my part of the world; so that made the whole experience unique. It was only the beginning and much more was still to come.