(page 3 of 5)
“Are you sure?” I asked, imagining legions of barefoot men kneeling and praying with bursting bladders.
“Absolutely sure,” he said. A place that holy, that sacred, would be defiled by a bathroom.
This was not good. If there were no bathrooms, I’d practically have to reimagine the book. I think it was the novelist John Gardner who once said that to change a character’s name midway is to make the very fictional ground shudder underneath the character’s feet. Well, this little “detail” would provoke an outright volcano!
Waleed had to be wrong. Maybe — the crazy thought flung through my head — Waleed suspected I had ulterior motives. Maybe he thought I wanted to wreak havoc on the Temple Mount and was searching for the best place, like the deranged Australian Christian who attempted to set fire to the Al-Aqsa mosque in 1969. But I dismissed that fear. Too paranoid.
I consulted with various guide books and websites devoted to the Temple Mount or the Noble Sanctuary or Haram Al-sharif, not caring which name it went by. None of them — not a single damn one — bothered to mention bathrooms on the Temple Mount.
I called up friends in Israel to see if they had any ideas. One of them connected tme to a Jewish policeman who guarded the entrance to the Temple Mount.
“Is there a bathroom up there? I don’t think so. Wait, now that you mention it,” he said in a thinking-out-loud voice over the phone, “whenever I’ve had to go, I would cross all the way to the other side, really far.” I tried to pin down where that “other side” really was, but the connection was bad and the line fell flat.
I didn’t care. The bathroom existed. Whew.
Next time my son’s hair needed cutting, I said slyly to Waleed, “Are you sure there’s no bathroom up there? I heard there was.”