Reizel Polak


In a Land of Rocks & Hills,
    and, Wherefore, Endless Agitation
         a poem \ essay

Let’s stay on the vigilant side of things
   when stepping into Israel, the Land,
and its neighbors, not to be biased or dismissive
   of sound & certain facts –

               the Biblical beginnings, Balfour,
the League of Nations, the UN vote of ’48,
   the ’67 defensive war –
yet to ask the questions that persist in intruding

on sleep and waking hours, asking the What
   of what is standing on the ground, and the How
of how far down the roots of the matter persist,
   and the never ending Why of the why?

First of things: the place of Israel in our world.
   How have we heard it said, there will be
no P.R.N – (prn, a medication back-up,

   prescribed for distress, as needed, for mood, anxiety,
to calm, bring the patient under control).
   How we’ve heard Israel’s neighbors so typically say,

“No Peace. No Recognition. No Negotiation.”

What part of this tri-partite pronouncement
   by Israel’s intertwined neighbors, do initiators
of illusive or illusory peace, not hear?

Have they asked Israel’s neighbors to revise their children’s
   lessons & textbooks, the pages, pages of hate for Jews,
scorned as animals? And when they have, let us know.

Have we heard the leaders of Israel’s neighbors
   speak of the status of their future Palestinian state –
Judenrein, they say. Does this declaration
   not chill the heart of the listener with its echo

of Third-Reich jack-boots? What part of
   this intention do the mediators, rushing in
for the drama they call ‘making peace’, not hear?

Let’s consider liberal-minded grandparents
   across the US of A. Would they be concerned
were their grandchildren taught that [name your scapegoat]
   are some [animal epithet]. What if their grandchildren were trained

for suicide, or as killers with rocks or rockets, or knives
   or cars, to rid the country of such a scapegoat.
Where are the whereabouts of an investigating press —
   Israel’s neighbors’ children groomed to kill the Jews.

   Have we seen those children dressed up for celebration
in a crafted designer vest, crisscrossed, over the chest,
   with wires, curled metal, the sharpest screws?
Have we seen the darling three-year old,

his lively dark eyes, an adorable smile,
   wearing a toy suicide vest? Were children
across the USA raised like this,
   what would Social Services do – Rush in,

take charge, pull the children out
   from such abuse? Have we seen the mothers
of those children express heart-felt pride
   over their children’s murderous deeds, giving out

sweets, where their child is dead, not alive?

All the marches, protests, debates across the campuses
   of the USA. The smartest college youth
in the most elite of schools, damning Israel.
   How are they so sure of what they think

they know? Boycotts, the slander, not a word challenging
   the rearing of the children of Israel’s neighbors, fed daily
doses of the poison of hate (no PRN).
   Could college youth be without knowledge of the ecology

of hate – toxic, a plague of the heart, filling
   the environment with a life-defying stench.
Is this not a public health contagion,
   with a remedy for co-existence a fatality?

   Have we seen how the leaders of Israel’s neighbors
have hijacked the press, the public, leaders in government,
   in business, academia, the arts? Is not the Hijacking
of language as plain as the stones on the Hills?

The set up – they stage by force their own people
   as shields, in body, bloody bodies, the bloody
children’s bodies, the more to startle the world.
   It’s got to be a most complex of coordinations –

an assumed piece of teamwork, a collective strategy
   embarked on by every genre of media set out
to dismiss, more to destroy, any humane image
   of the conduct of the army of the Land of Israel. Judging

without judgment, how can one not be tempted
    to play with the words, where the word ‘rights’ (as linked to Human) rhymes with the word ‘indicts’ (as linked to
   condemning) Israel – its army that warns the civilians

of its enemy to flee before it strikes. Surely,
   a renaming of the “Human Rights Commission” is in order. One imagines the face of the heart of the judging
   judge as a canine face (a source in Tractate Sotah)

sniffing the bloody bodies of the children of Gaza,
   the world looking on, gloating at the pictures,
tallying, yet rather more indifferent.
   And of the Jewish children at play

in Sderot, Ashkelon, Ashdod, running for shelter
   from the rockets of Gaza. What about them?

Consider with judgment (as in accurate understanding),
   how before it strikes (one needs to go over this
again) the army of Israel disproportionally sends out
   warnings – leaflets in Arabic rain down, a cell call,

“Ahmad, leave now with your wife and children.
   We don’t want to hurt you.” And another warning,
a ‘knock on the roof’, the army of Israel sends
   a blast, empty, no shell –– an alert, saying, ‘Go’!

How many hundreds, exactly, thousands of rockets
   did Gaza’s leaders propel from Gaza – from doorways
of houses, of schools, hospitals, places of prayer –
   to kill the Jews of Israel? How many times

when a family in Gaza was warned, and warned
   again, by the army of Israel, did the commando
launching the rockets, order the family to stay
   for the hit, while he himself flees?

Was the family instructed to exalt in the impact
   their bloody bodies would hold for their cause,
for the watching world? We’ve seen how the leaders
   in Gaza hold their people tight, hostages –

alive, streaked with blood, or dead, for degrading
   photo shoots. Do the leaders of Gaza warn
their target ahead? Do they really believe they can take
   down the Jewish people? Have they not heard of,

have they not studied the history of the Jews outlasting
   Pharaoh, Amalek, Haman, the Inquisitor, the Fuhrer?

Wouldn’t one think the watching world would regard
   the army of Israel, its standard of warfare, seeking
to protect the children of Gaza, as disproportionally moral?
   Yet where is the voice of the Left-veering press?

Why do they make no case, a Humanitarian
   case, against the neighbors of Israel, unyielding
their occupation with rage to wipe this Land
   off the map? Where can it go?

Let’s study the faces of the children aspiring
   to jihad, stirred to act, their eyes, dark
and haunting, bright for the certainty they hold, ready,
   they say, for death to kill Jews. And if these youth

are not dressed in the fashion of a suicide vest,
   they’re holding rocks to hurl on cars. Or if not
hurling the rocks, it’s throwing firebombs, or leaving
   home with mother’s kitchen knife, any

sharp that can strike for the kill. And if shot
   dead in the act, taking the title of martyr.

How is it possible to accept that all narratives
   are equal? Perhaps, the most insidious belief
of our time – the worse for closing the mind,
   blunting a gift for making distinctions, for shutting out

an imaginative capacity for telling the difference between
   a narrative that breeds tyranny – with cruelty to its children,
raised to believe in acts of extraordinary evil –
   and a narrative that raises its children to be

hospitable, kind, a blessing, strong to defend
   themselves with integrity against their enemies,
to use their talents, good humor, good sense for imaginative
   innovation, inventions for the good of all?

Will even one voice among Israel’s neighbors
   stand up and say, Should our leaders abuse our children
to martyr themselves for our cause? What have we given
   our children for their future but our misshapen notions

of Jews, our millennial-long hatred? Enough
   of breeding our children for endless agitation in this sliver
of land we claim to be ours alone. And though
   we say it’s so, it does not make it so –

not to recognize this land as a Jewish home,
   from the Mediterranean Sea to the River Jordan?

Whether with visible wounds, or the wounds
   of loss within, among the Jews who survive
an act of terror, or displacement by upheaval –
   For what? Wherever they are, we find them

absent of hating, or seeking revenge. They speak,
   and speaking out they bring the listener to witness
pain rooted in dignity, with a voice
   signifying strength, courage, knowledge.

Utterances unfold, No matter . . . we choose
   a life giving life for all the family of Israel,
for all families everywhere.

Summer/Fall/Winter 2015
Spring 2016