"O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness;
let the whole earth stand in awe of him."
- Psalm 96:9
The psalmists never tired of praising the beauty and majesty of the Lord's house. Solomon was so eager to build a fitting temple that he traded a good part of Galilee to Hiram of Tyre in exchange for building materials, and the description of the Temple and its construction takes up several rather tedious chapters of I Kings. The Christian Church, so far from rejecting the Temple's earthly beauty, fulfilled it. John Saward, who, in a fine book on Christian art, anticipated the title of my essay, has suggested that the beauty of Israel was only fully revealed in Mary.
Anyone who visits modern Tel Aviv, after reading the Psalms, is bound to be puzzled. At its best, modern Tel Aviv resembles a down-market section of Miami Beach, and, at its worst . . . well, I would compare it with the industrial suburbs of Bratislava and Belgrade, but that would be unfair to cities that have endured bombing and communism and yet still preserved a great deal of beauty in their historic centers. In Tel Aviv, apart from the little bits of the Arab city, there is nothing but Newark.
How did it happen that the people of David built one of the ugliest cities in the world? The answer cannot lie in...