In The New York Times, the writer and literary critic Maud Newton – who was raised in a fervently religious household and now describes her own religious views as “uncertain” – writes about visiting the Holy Land:
When I was young, my mother had a feverish conversion and started a church in our living room. I’d always been a tiny bit anxious that I might one day follow suit, hear the calling myself, start roaming the streets, preaching salvation. A committed but fearful agnostic, I’d never intended to tempt fate by visiting the Holy Land. But I was going to the Jerusalem Book Fair, and my husband, Max, who grew up in the comparatively staid Eastern Orthodox tradition, was joining me.
When we arrived, at dusk, the sky was a pale, glowing blue — eerily biblical, which, I had to keep reminding myself, made sense. As we sped into the city, past rocky white hills and almond trees bursting with blooms, we were overwhelmed by incongruous feelings of intense foreignness and intimate familiarity. This was a landscape we knew, from Sunday-school lessons and iconography and bad Old Testament movies, and a place we did not know at all.