III.  The Uncertainties of Residing Here




1) Among the Red Golden Hills


A world I step away from

     coming to this hill—the rocks underfoot

rise to the size of boulders moving the landscape


     back to where it ascends the sky.

Near to the sounds on this raw, rocky hill—

     where no one before has dwelt, a cluster


of dwellings, all flat-roofed, stand scorched

     by day in the sun, cooled by night.

Amidst the coarse dried brush, rock-gardens,


     newly tended olive, fig, and almond

trees, grow before the eyes of children

     running with friends by the gravel road.


Steady with words, composed to decide this hill

     will be their home, its young couples

welcome happily, visitors for a stay.


Everyone knows the costs, the uncertainties of residing here.

     Across the valley, the inhabitants are neighbors

driving past. In the local super, their eyes


avert, their faces express a dark, inhospitable

     look. Well before sunrise in the stillness of night,

while their children shift in their beds, a voice


     pierces the hour, a high-pitched wailing

over a speaker, calling their men to prayer.

     Back across the valley— the few close miles


apart, the muezzin startles the hilltop visitors

     out of sleep, unused to such disturbing

of the peace at the onset of each dawn.


On this hill where we step, by early daylight,

     the children stir waking up

singing Modeh ani lefonekha . .


2) Improv in a Box


Any cardboard scrap

   will do making one dimension

into more than two

Unpacked on a table

   a box of four-cups

(for coffee or tea)

   a see-through top

in the eyes of Gitty

   (nearly six and a half)

changes in an instant

   to a stage, a theater 

for puppets cut out

   from paper she loves

to color to fashion

   a play for her younger

 brothers seating them all

   in a row to entertain

in flashlight dark


3) Happy for the Errand


Nachi not four

   goes proudly stepping  

take-charge steps

   looking ahead

protecting one

   raw egg in the palm

of each hand to return 

   across the hill’s

stoney road

   a bumpy walk

to the neighbor’s door

   who doesn’t answer

lets himself in

   to wander the rooms

(where can she be)  

   happy to leave

the eggs on the bed

   beside her napping 

smiling now

   to take the eggs from him


4) They call him Melech


   (like a king) for a name

challenging the tongue

   how his siblings

say Elimelech

   three and a half

giggles at his fingers

   fiddling to close

the buttons on his shirt—

   oh that smile

that says I know—

   to start at the bottom

button to the top 

   also washing up

hurrying to the sink

   climbs on the tub

ready to show

   any new thing

he’s glad to help

  himself shoes on

jacket swinging

   overhead leaving

with Nachi   Gitty too

   down the rough

steep hill

   stepping not to trip

on the high steps

   bus off to school


5) Construction in a Tiny Corner


Not a statistic

   one might read

in a Guinness Book

   even so it’s a wonder

how it shows

   Srulik at two

settles with comfort

   tight for his bulk

in a corner a chair

   at the back bookshelves

in front a ledge

   that’s clear enough

to lay blocks on squatting

   carefully picking out

each one to set down

   exactly as  his eye

demands the building

   stand humming as he goes

saying words to himself

   lightly waves

a hand to topple

   happily from the top

to start over again

   no one’s counting

the number of times

   only the length

he takes a Guinness


two hours no interruption


6) To Say how to Say ‘Adah’


Here’s a look

   that could send a thousand

sails across the sea

   of any heart the way

the seeking gaze

   in Benzion’s face

(nine months in the world)

   holds onto the way you are looking

at him holding a word

   on his tongue ‘adah’

then hearing it back

   a new look jumps out

with bright baby laughter

   fingers as if plucking

a harp made of air

   to say ‘how do

you know how to say

   so adah’ too


7) Laughing with Srulik


Among the hundred some of children

      on this hill of flat-roofed houses

here toddles another dear child.

      Gazing on the older ones leaving for school

Srulik watches content with the company

      of his baby brother on a rug. Over nothing,

one brings the other to the laughter

      of a heart-belly laugh. They don’t know

the drama unfolding around them beyond

      this ground their home—the red golden

hills stretching to Jerusalem. They don’t know

      that yet some judge may order

without certain cause to destroy

      their happy place. They don’t yet know

how much history, recent to its past,

      counts to have brought them to dwell on this hill. 

Yet the mothers, the fathers know the gains

      of raising their children free to run,

to play over this rocky ground, growing

      to find their place, to hold onto their joy

all through these uncertain rooting days.

                                                                       —Reizel Polak



The slow sounds of a summer fast


Doves cooing.

Water trickling into a neighbour’s makeshift swimming pool.

Cats shrieking.

Birds chattering.

A neighbour’s trampoline springs squeaking in sync with a jumping child’s noisy wheezing.

Her summons piecing the air, directing her toddler to return home from the park.

Toddler’s raucous protests.


The swoosh of a distant car.

Washing flapping faintly in the gentle, summer breeze.

Footfalls muted by dust as fasting men walk wearily to Mincha.

Foliage rustling as birds forage for their supper.

Cutlery clanking against porcelain plates, in preparation for the evening “break-fast” meal.

Her calls growing more insistent.

Toddler’s objections escalate.


Crickets chirping incessantly.

The muted flutter of a hummingbird’s wings.

The whir of an air conditioning motor.

A bicycle stand’s rusty grinding.

A child’s toy push-along toy rumbling up the unpaved Eshkol.

Her pleas of love intensifying.

Toddler’s cries diminish 


Into soft whimpers of submission.

Whimpers for Klal Yisrael,

For their long, obstinate battle against

Coming home.


Shhhhhhhh. Shhhhhhhh. Shhhhhhhh

Ah. The soft silence resonates with reassurance, forgiveness, embrace.

                                   —Chaiya D.


Life’s Good


My daughter’s getting married

another just had twins

my son’s serving in Hebron

and a terrorist killed my teacher’s son

life’s good.


My youngest has a birthday

and is doing well in school

the price of living is outrageous

and war is raging in Iraq

life’s good.


See these giant olives

and the sweetest pomegranates

missiles fly across from Gaza

and calls of annihilation from Iran

life’s good.


See the desert flowering

and the bounty the earth gifts us

we’re in our home, our family’s close

one day we’ll live in peace

life’s good.

                     —Ruth Fogelman







I am trying to carve, to write in black

only the white

for over the years

only a few words passed between us

over the years

the steady column of light

that shone from between your eyes

I recognized in general

and now in one and one

one and seven

standing in tears before the black hollow that is left

all the glances that passed between us in a blocked light

come back, living and open, like new, to the heart

the steady quiet light in you rises, inscribes itself, opens within me

and the path to it is given

just to close my eyes and think: Miki

                                                            —Netanel Cohen

                                     from the Hebrew: E. Cameron



                 in memory of my father



reach toward me those days

too lazy to be killed

let the hug be as long

as grief

teddy-bears in suitcases

come back from the journey

on which I am setting out

gaze toward me that radiance

that oftentimes disappeared

between me and you.

—Shira Mark Harif





A white angel in a black coat

knocked on my door.

He looked at me gently, but his eyes were covered.

He took a flower from my garden and went away.

And whispered praise (Hallel) and song and forgiveness to me

But I did not hear the praise (Hallel)

And I did not hear the song

And I did not hear the forgiveness

I only saw the flowerbed in my garden

with the black hole gaping

                                                          —Maayan Ora Batt

from the Hebrew: E. Cameron





You built a house of study and of prayer

That seems about to rise into the air

Over the Hebron mountains on white wings.

Surely you learned a skill from Metatron

Whose secrets you had meditated on

To make the outward show the inward things.


Mystic, businessman—earth-to-heaven stair!

Snatched from us by a judgment so severe

It lent a murderous hand some dastard skill.

Now angel-tall, with shining sword in hand

Stand guard above this house, above this land,

That shine even for those who wish us ill.


And if from your high vantage you behold

What more we are expected here to build,

Devise some means to send the blueprints down

(Your smile would tunnel then through the black hole,

Restoring light Creation’s haters stole),

And reconnect the Kingdom and the Crown!

                —Esther Cameron



As our children are crushed

Beneath bloody wheels

And our paintings turn to ash

By similar hand

I listen for sirens

And the muezzin’s call to kill


For what do they pray?

To fill a quota for Death?

To empty the Earth of beauty

And re-fill with boundless rot

                                   —Mindy Aber Barad



“A Psalm of Asaph.  O God, [hostile] nations have entered Your land, they have defiled Your holy Temple, they have made Jerusalem piles of ruins.” (Psalm 79:1)


“Death to the Jews,” the enemy armies roar,

Ready to strip the wood from Israel’s tree,

Ready to battle waves of Israel’s sea,

Ready to fight the sand on Israel’s shore.

“Death to the Jews,” our enemy’s fathers swore,

Unwilling to hear Israel’s melody,

Unwilling to read Israel’s library,

Unwilling to find gold in Israel’s ore.


But even now, far different words are heard

In many languages and tongues; they sing

A song in a still small voice that does not cease:

“Blessed be Israel; blessed be the Word

Of God from Zion; blessed be their King,

Our King, Who blesses us, and them, with peace.”


—Yakov Azriel