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THE LAND, THE PEOPLE

poems from the struggle for Judea and Samaria

 

Contents:

 

   Song Without Melody, by Theone

   End of Day, by Rachel Heimowitz

   Moonless Nght, by Rachel Heimowitz

   Only a Blanket, by Leah LJ Gottesman

   Benot Yaakov, by Vera Schwarcz

   Korban Itamar, by Theone

   Six Years after Gush Katif, by Vera Schwarcz

   Lesson, by Courtney Druz

   Grooving the Land, the People, by KJ Hannah Greenberg

   Carpool in Efrat, by Rachel Heimowitz

   Judean Desert, by Courtney Druz

 

 

SONG WITHOUT MELODY

(for two singers)

                           by Theone

 

I hear a siren.              (A bird is singing.)

I run for shelter.           (I walk in the field.)

I see a plane.              (The crops are thirsty.)

It drops a bomb.          (I pray for rain.)

A child is killed.           (The crops will ripen.)

 

I hear a siren.              (The bird is singing.)

I see a plane.              (The crops are thirsty.)

They want to spill        (I walk in the field

my blood.                                  of tomorrow.

I hear a siren...            (The crops are thirstyÖ)

*

 

 

END OF DAY

                        by Rachel Heimowitz

 

In this rocky, sunbaked land

the dayís close

is liquid spice: a wash of

turmeric and cinnamon,

lavender and anise,

 

the hills open,

the stones turn gold, exposed,

ingots jingling in the pockets

of our forefathers,

 

rocks, like glowing coals,

breathing and alive, luminous

eyes, turned up and glowing

like a room of schoolchildren

each looking for answers,

anxious to tell

their radiant, ancient stories,

 

every rock a place to rest your head,

 

and the olive trees,

standing, bent and wrinkled,

resting their tired elbows

on the rocks and laughing

 

a rustle at the sun, let us

run our hands over their silvery

hair and whisper their

cooling secrets into our ears,

 

lead us to the dark damp

places, the cool, clandestine caves

where the urns were tucked

like fairy-tale princesses to

sleep for a thousand years,

 

were sung to sleep in

the shadowy corners

where someone said, ĎThis

is a secret we must tuck-

in and keep iní,

 

a secret held while we wandered;

 

and here we are,

risen, dusty and returned,

in our sandals and our backpacks,

 

watching the sunís rusty hair

fanned above us,

the mountain goats

raising their ancient, twisted horns

to the windís rattle, a blessing

like a hot breath,

as the day folds over itself

and sleeps.

 

*

 

MOONLESS NIGHT

                       Efrat, Israel, 2011

 

                       by Rachel Heimowitz

 

Voices

           rise out

of the wadi,

 

like radio signals,

             fading

in and out.

 

I canít tell,

Hebrew, Arabic? Fear

 

grows in me like static,

crawling

up my spine, rising like a wad

of paper

in my throat. The stars

 

                       sweep

down, hide

behind the hills.

 

Mars,

a red marble

           hanging

over

the Arab village,

across the fenceless divide.

 

Orion,

above me,

his sword pointing

at my head. The damn

 

windows donít lock.

 

If boys, out

for a good time,

pumped

under their t-shirts,

           faceless

under kafiyas, walk

across my garden. . .

 

My children asleep

in the house.

 

I need to feel G-d

(there isnít anything else)

 

I am alone, windows unlocked,

 

seven bullets

in the clip, a tired

blanket

around my shoulders.

 

*

 

Only a Blanket

                            by Leah LJ Gottesman

 

On one Friday night in March, 2011, five members of the Fogel Family of Itamar, a community in Israel, were ruthlessly massacred in their sleep.

 

A blanket twists and slides

inside its covers,

slinks its way down

or smothers

your dreams, snags

your escape or,

for one toddler,

saves the air.

 

They preyed

one night

on dark houses

whose doors

resisted probing hands,

each footfall over or under signals

until one handle acquiesced,

yawned open wide,

exposing

flesh above swollen breasts,

the whistle of a childís yearning,

the eager gasps of a pre-teen,

extended chords of the father, 

slackened lips of the newborn.

The hunters sliced each layer

sawed off the wind,

flooding passages with

gurgling blood,

dilated irises,

silent screams.

 

Alongside the window,

a couch, used as

a footstool for the

fleeing hunters,

was covered by a blanket

covering a toddler

clinging to a pacifier.

The couch gave way,

it did;

the hunters got away

they did;

but the blanket covering

the small child

ever so gently

never let go.

 

*

 

BENOT YAAKOV

                                      by Vera Schwarcz

 

The fragile shoulders of a raped girl

carry a chain of hope:

we go on, daughters of Dinah ó

the first to be called Bat Yaakov,

the first to grasp the chain of courage,

find sapphires of solace

in crevices of mud

encrusted by blame

and doubt.

 

We come to seek you Dinah,

on a terrible day when Jerusalem

is burying five holy souls murdered

on Shabbat.

 

Dinah!

Imagine a three-month old

named Hadas,

knifed days

before Purim!

 

Dinah,

our teacher.

 

We whisper your name,

first of lost Jews

along the tear-studded path

of our return.

 

Your din stands for judgment,

a witness for us

over thousands of years.

 

Finally, we glimpse

the hey, a G-dly letter

culminating your fate,

and ours.

 

Today, seeking your grave,

I came upon a troop of Benot Yaakov,

some sported pleated skirts,

others prim blue shirts, my sisters

each. One made walls shudder

with her cries.

 

If you had looked

at the time,

it was the hour

of the Fogel family burials.

 

I had only one prayer,

one word to add

to that howl:

 

Dinah!

 

*

Korban  Itamar

                               by Theone

 

(The korban [sacrifice] animal represents the animalistic instincts in man.   Man symbolically rids himself of these instincts and thereby purifies himself by sacrificing the animal instead of himself   The korban animal must  be pure and without blemish.

                                S.R. Hirsch, Chumash, Comments on Emor, Feldheim 2005, pp758, 761, 769

 

Al cheit (al "Hate")  for the sin which

 

Father, Udi ,  committed by consistently observing mitzvoth and celebrating Shabbat with his family in joy and wonder;

Mother, Ruth, committed by nurturing her children and delighting in watching them  grow;

Yoav  committed by being the eldest son,

Elad committed by running after the bigger boys and  wanting to grow up to lay tefillin  like them;

Hadas committed in honoring her mother by nursing at her mother's breast.

 

For all these sins we must offer sacrifice and atone.

The sacrifices have been taken.

(altho' the earthly killer "Al-Hate" has not been purified);

But how do the rest of us atone?.....

 

Al Cheit  (another kind of Yom Kippur liturgy)

For the sin which we committed by evacuating the lands G-d enjoyed us to cultivate and settle;

For the sin which we committed by establishing our homes in the Land of Israel;

For the sin which we committed by building our nation on the shifting sands of Israel;

For the sin which we committed by refusing to give in to the enemies of Israel;

For the sin which we committed by taking up arms to defend ourselves;

For the sin which we committed by confiscating arms from our enemies;

For the sin which we committed by continuing to believe that G-d will redeem the Land of Israel;

For the sin which we committed by dealing fairly with our brothers and neighbors  in waits and measures even when they do not deal fairly with us;

For the sin which we committed by joining together as one people united in

G-d's army;

For the sin which we committed by believing that G-d will soon put an end to sacrificing the holy and pure ones of our people;

For the sin which we committed by believing that in the end G-d will sacrifice the guilty killer instead of the pure korban.

For the sin which we committed by believing  that G-d will redeem Jews all over the world as He redeems the Land of Israel.

 

For the sin which we committed by believing that we can never understand G-d's Ways;

For the sin which we committed by believing that we can never understand G-d's Time;

And for the sin which we commit by vowing that we will continue to commit all of these sins until G-d tells us to stop..                           

 

*

 

SIX YEARS AFTER GUSH KATIF

                                                                    by Vera Schwarcz

 

Wandering the shuk

a white courtyard

accosts me,

a museum,

reminder

 

of trellises of yellow peppers,

orchards of tomatoes,

crates of cucumber

which had garnished

villages graced

by shuls,

the azure symphony

of men and women

learning.

 

In the video room, endless footage

of elders begging for mercy,

teenagers roped

to the holy ark,

toddlers offering

cookies to soldiers

who weep while dragging

families from their homes.

 

They march behind Torah scrolls,

minutes before explosions bury

all traces of Jewish life.

 

Tears come unbidden,

no answers.

 

Why?

 

*

 

Lesson

                 by Courtney Druz

 

Scrawlings of calcium carbonate are anachronous, therefore absent.

Health risks are known.

                                                   The following information

will be presented in alternate form already fading from currency

(just as these markers fade, just as their sharp chemical odoró

though those present will sense immediate bodily threat

at the dustless inhalation.) Notation

                                                   of solid on white. Whiteboard

is name for any glossy surface where non-permanent markings can be made.

Thus outside history. The dictated present of expunged photos,

a bloodless fingertip of the Leaderís former comrade suspended

for all time next to a duplicate tree.

 

Turn the page. Certain words may be sprinkled liberally

with the assumption of shared significance; other words may cause

confusion. If a poet says ďterrorist,Ē says ďmurder,Ē listeners may believe

the dictionary is upside-down. This is acceptable discourse.

Markings for the glittering slick, the appealing cleanliness

kept on ice while they hum to the soft ballads of others.

 

(Over 11 million high-quality DRM-free songs priced at just 99 cents.

Preview a song before you buy it. No parking when road is snow covered.)

 

Now for the training in brevity: eliminate facts. Eliminate

thinking about facts, comparing and processing them;

chop off all but the fingerís contact point. Eliminate

inconvenient history. Shoo the dove from the olive tree,

the bloody cardinal from the oak. Shoo the grackle from

the sweetgum, the troublesome bobolink from the crab apple.

 

Chalk dust on the fingers or palm is a remnant of lines copied.

Once a common elementary punishment, now surpassed.

 

The victim is not the murderer. The imperfect savior is not the murderer.

The murderer is defined by intention and by effect.

You are allotted one page to twist these words.

 

 

A long white hair has fallen across the pages of the answer-book

from the follicle corresponding phrenologically

to the control center of wisdom. The nearness of available water

can remove thirst. The nearness of snow

is blinding: discuss.

 

You will note the use of Modernist techniques in a Postmodern context.

Thousands of fleeing wings are deafening. 11 million iTunes

are deafening. A bomb planted in your head

                                                   is deafening. Pencils down.

Further information is unnecessary. Heads down.

Count down. Timeís up. (Dismissed.)

 

*

 

GROOVING THE LAND, THE PEOPLE

                                                                 by KJ Hannah Greenberg

 

Driving to Ariel, native Jews, also our cousins,

Spouses, children, habits, hidden bodies, surreptitious

Agents bother reacting to sworn enemiesí exculpations.

 

Best ossified, those others, or, turned to salt.

Accreted populations, all prominent white license

Plates, bring my fulminations forward. I flash pink.

 

Turning up Udi David, once of Gush Katif.

We harmonize, sing ďBack to the Land,Ē

While wadis sprout giant, Torah-built, sukkot. 

 

The klalís ingatheringís become imperative,

Especially as ďleadersĒ sip, sup, sleep with enemies,

Fracture our home, destroy our houses, send us out.

 

ďSquattingĒ based on faith, on trust, partners

Us with Ha Kodesh Baruch Hu,

Even in modern social systems, in spite of media.

 

Likewise, Lenny Solomonís ďScenes from a Sealed Room,Ē

Settlements on burned out hills, plus hope, not checkpoints,

Safeguard our sanctioned land, ensure our heritage.

 

Rocky desolationís no response to atmospheres lit with trouble.

Rather, limestone citadels, sandstone carpets stretching past Ber Sheva,

Shelter, color, announce the demesnes of The Mighty One.

 

No mufti will forever murmur alien incantations,

Purl against our boundaries, replace veracity with myth.

Fidel servants, we groove this land, we build up its people

 

*

 

CARPOOL IN EFRAT

                                       by Rachel Heimowitz

 

Six boys, only eleven, fresh

from the pool, sprawl

 

 like cut flowers across

the back of the van;

 

their heads, folded

over, drip on my leather

 

seats. I turn past the entrance

 to Bethlehem, where cars

 

marked ďPĒ can clog traffic,

where three boys, no more

 

than nineteen, in full

combat uniform, greased

 

faces, helmets of steel,

scuffed Stars of David

 

on their shoulders, stand

behind cement barriers.

 

 One raises binoculars; one slips

into a crouch. I drive

 

on. Down the road twenty

more soldiers squat,

 

their blackened faces drip

like shrubs after a summer

 

storm. They hold their rifles

steady. One talks into a radio.

 

Personnel carriers, like swollen

Suburbans stand vigil nearby.

 

 Around a curve, a boy,

perhaps sixteen, on the roadside,

 

his vest bright

yellow, his pants, forest

 

green; his hair corkscrews

away like a treetop; a kippa

 

sits like a nest amongst the curls.

He plays a wooden flute, dances:

 

just a little jig, just

a step or two. I roll

 

down my window. I want to catch

a note. I want to hear

 

that song. But I only gather

the radioís static blast:

 

ďEmdah Echad, a-vore. Root a-voreĒ

over and over. I turn toward

 

my terra-cotta town, roll

the window closed as I drive on.

 

*

    

Judean Desert

                             by Courtney Druz

 

Itís remarkable that the underlying structure

exists independently, was there to be found.

You enter latitude, longitude, time and date.

Every shadow is predictable by the program

if youíve modeled the forms properly.

The whole earth is swept by an accurate sundial;

right now, its shadow is approaching.

 

This is one of the particular places.

Shallow sand is always renewing itself

from the hillsí pale bones. The calloused whorls

of crumbled rock and scrub recur, confined

by geographical barriers (that is, in contrast

to the paved forests I have known,

their lingering oaks and squirrels of anywhere.)

 

Youíd think Iím on the moon, all sun and no sun.

But actually, Iím where you think I am.

If I were more adventurous Iíd be lost.

I suppose I already am but for the things here,

some buildings and a bench to sit on.

 

Iíll have to buy a guidebook for the names

of birds and planted trees. The birds ignore me

but the trees, now fading on the nearest slope,

might observe the progress of these words

growing in shifting colors on the opposite side.

 

They gray. The hilltop seems a skillful cut-out

of low irregular tree shapes backed with orange.

The shoaled hills are violet, modulating downward

in the spectrum. The wind is picking up.

I better go and give the kids their baths.

 

I never get to stay for this transition

so complete I donít know how we got here.

Theyíre in bed and Iím back but my focus is gone;

nothingís left for me but muscular wind.


 

You stand at an ocean, dawn or sunset, thinking

the same thoughts as everyone else, alone.

Something about emptiness does this,

something about darkness too. There is

a psychological term for it, I think.

I think I heard it happens for our benefit

to keep us up in trees, away from predators.

 

There are lights, though, candle-like, in clusters.

There is the illusion of proximityó

a diamond lit at the end of a long playing field.

The gold lights seem close, like stars seem close

and small, across a densely wrinkled sheet.

 

Then came the night that blackened the hills

that shadowed the valleys that covered the wadis

that watered the goats that fed the peoples

that served the empire that ate the empire

that ate the empire that ate the empire.

 

That is a song of children, who are sleeping.

A song of children, who are always at the beginning of history,

who remember (because their memories go forward)

historyís end, the restoration of memory.          

 

It begins with the movement of a few stars

down the distant road. A woodpeckerís beat

and something far and birdlike; a catís cry.

It begins with an erasure of dotted black

at the right edge of vision, a growing spot

like a problem with the eyes. A blue band rising

and the shadow rising into it, a still flickering star

holding on above the diffusing band.

 

God, this is so quick, the right hills burning

a limn of fine fire along the rim, smoke blooming.

Low ground is forming. The near hill hulks

in inert charcoals, mellowing on the left.

Sky strata build to a more convincing earth.

 

Iíve missed it again, here now with most of the colors

the way a dream is mostly gone at waking.

What I want is so far beyond my attentiveness.

To alter scales against the crush of distance,

to press against the pressing of these hills.


 

Soundless, the first drift of birds

flicker like black stars against soft pearl.

Iíve never seen the trees as clearly as now,

lit into their shapes just so

in deep green velvets on the close hill.

Usually their own shadows smudge them,

but under new blue opposite white glow,

they are flat and calm though drawn correctly.

 

Meanwhile a gold sun has been uncovered

by a smooth shape floating above blue.

Now the missing red tones are laid down

as a hoopoe lands right in front of me,

picking its feathers with a slender beak

and fanning its fantastic crown. Of course

Iíve checked its name by now. The hours repeat,

but the hoopoe has not repeated itself to me.

 

It leaves me unsure; there were no other witnesses.

The reds are orange. I can no longer look at the sun

and the hills are no longer to be touched;

their flesh is air. The land has subtilized

to a mirage of seashell colors, light only.

 

The sunís shape is obliterated in light.

The daily land has vanished after an hourís appearance,

replaced now by this unconvincing fluff

too lovely for cynics. But I wonít lie about it.

I donít need to, anyway; the hills are forming again.

Dust is being scraped and mounded smooth.

 

Colors are dialed up on the western hill;

the east is hidden in a blinding blank.

In between the whole view has yellowed,

not like a faded photograph, but richly

as though through a lens of honey.

White heat imprints itself around long shadows.

 

The desert is honing hatched and stippled sands

whose contours I once sketched with chalky pastels

while the lavender shadows hid. An even sky

of blue so simple optical specks like sparks

attempt a complication to my vision.

Rocks, dust, powerlines, desolate brush;

on a far stroke of road, slow gleams and blocks.

The near hill edges the sky in easy white;

the horizon puzzles like a gray ocean.


 

My crisp shadow is so artfully curved,

a deep hole carved from around my feet.

Makeís senseómy head feels like Iím floating

and sinking at the same time. The sunís too strong.

 

The landscape starts to flatten, pressed down

by the sunís incessent demand, like the presence of children.

Now it is as boring as my palm,

pale and lined; you would think nothing is happening

but really itís the busiest time of day.

The activity is just invisible, lit too well.

It passes quickly, thatís why it looks dead.

 

The kids are playing nicely for a while

and Iím looking for the birds in my pamphlet.

Millions migrate every spring and fall

across this major flyway, but itís summer.

The ďrock dovesĒ are pigeons but the best source

for a layer of natural sounds through most of the hours.

 

I should expect that summer means itís late

when shading comes to mold the shapes again.

My shadow is about my true length

and I feel the warm dustís rise and dip

as if beneath my hand. The view is clear.

I can even see some color in the block-shaped cars

and trucks passing up and down the far road.

 

The shadows have reversed since morning

but not as in a mirror. The shapes are different.

The colors are also transposed though the blind

spot has only moved to the nearer hill.

Iíve been watching for you. Youíre waiting for me

to name the new colors, so Iíll say gold,

but not like metal or sun, more like skin.

Almost the color of my own skin now,

on sea-slate shadows, temporary and possible.

 

*

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                        

 

                                                           

                                                                                   

*
 


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