Jerusalem must have more stories to the square inch than anywhere else on earth. This is the rock from where the world was created. This is the rock on which Christ was crucified, or it might be that rock. This is the point where Mohammad ascended to heaven, met with Allah, and negotiated that Muslims would pray five times a day. From this stone Christ ascended to heaven leaving a footprint. This is the skull of Adam, the first man, and this is his grave. But the story that most appealed to me was more recent, and is already available in several forms: it’s the story of the nun’s false teeth.
As I was told the story, the nun was in the 1950s looking out of a window in West Jerusalem looking towards East Jerusalem, which was then occupied by Jordanian soldiers. She was at the very edge of West Jerusalem looking down on the barbed wire and rubble of the non-man’s land between Israel and Jordan. She was looking at the walls of the Old City, and the Jordanian soldiers looked down from the ramparts.
Suddenly she sneezed, and her false teeth shot out of her mouth and fell into the rubble in no-man’s land.
She was distressed and wanted her teeth back. She approached the Israeli military and asked them to retrieve her teeth. They said it was impossible as anybody entering the no-man’s land would be short, sparking some sort of exchange of fire. But she persisted, and so the Israeli military said they would see what they could do.
The Israeli military asked the United Nations if it could help. The UN approached the Jordanian military, and eventually it was agreed that a combined force of Israeli and Jordanian soldiers under the leadership of the UN would try and retrieve the teeth. A few soldiers emerged from each side, and under the white flag held by the UN peacekeeper they searched the rubble together—and they found the nun’s teeth.
An Israeli blogger draws a parallel with the famous story of British and German soldiers playing football in non-man’s land on Christmas Day during the First World War. He points out too that for the Israeli soldiers this would be the closest they had ever been to the Holy Old City.