The idea of a homeland which belongs to us alone can stir strong feelings which in turn can threaten to spill over into civil unrest and conflict. In this regard, Jerusalem, that wondrous pilgrim city stands out as exceptional. All three Abrahamic faiths consider the city a place of unique significance and the picture of contested rights and sites here is almost too complex to understand, let alone describe. Inter-faith rivalries are matched in intensity only by intra-faith factionalism, with some disputes on-going for decades, and others for millennia. Added to this is the question of occupation and who the land belongs to: assertions of who got here first, and who ruled for longest, being wielded in the struggle for legitimacy and control.
Jerusalem may be exceptional but it is not unique. We can see the same struggle being played out in the UK and the US where the dictums of ‘take back control’ and ‘make America great again’, both carry the inference of an earlier, better time in which we were happier, richer, more empowered. But when it comes to nostalgia, we can be highly selective about where we set the clock. When Woody Guthrie sang ‘This land is your land, this land is my land, from the California, to the New York Island’, one of America’s favourite folksongs, he was addressing the descendants of recent European settlers, not the First Nations who had lived there for millennia. History, as they say is written by the one who holds the pen.
So as you turn back your clocks this weekend, spare a thought for those who have had to leave the past behind and are at this very moment out on the road in search of a land to call home.