III.  The Song of the Land


 For fear the shock would break

Jacob’s already broken heart beyond repair,

for his heart, so heavy with despair

could no longer leap for joy,

his brothers did not dare approach their father,

and so again, but this time with love, they conspired,

about how to convey the news

that Joseph was alive.


 It was decided, Serach, Asher’s daughter,

would sit outside Jacob’s tent and with her harp

weave Joseph’s story into a melody.

Her sweet voice, which charmed the dove from its nest,

and the bees from their hive

would prepare him gently. 

For O the bitter irony if he should die

without seeing his precious Joseph,

the boy whose dreams were prophecy.


At first Jacob was overcome with disbelief.

Joseph in Egypt, the Pharoah’s Viceroy,

revered far and wide and crowned with glory.

for the plan he devised so Egypt would survive.

Oh grandfather,” she sang with all her heart and soul,

her voice becoming bold, her nimble fingers on the strings,

until he was slowly unburdened of his grief.

Your beloved son Joseph, the dreamer, is alive.

The boy is now a man before whom all the world bows down.”

And Jacob listened till her words rang true, and his heart revived.


On the last note his sons broke the news

and confirmed that what he heard was not a fantasy,

that soon Joseph would arrive and lead his family,

seventy souls and all that was theirs,

 with pomp and ceremony to Goshen where they would sojourn

for many years until the Exodus.

And on the wings of Serach’s song, the Shechinah,

who could not abide with Jacob’s tears,

but who delights in bliss, could again dwell in Jacob’s breast.


We are told that for this kindness Serach was blessed

to live for centuries, that after many years, beneath the stars

beside the endless desert dunes, she calmed her people’s fears,

and with her melodies restored their memories of God’s promises.

We are told that for her kindness, Serach never died,

but with her harp entered Eden like the girl she was.

Sometimes when a soft, sweet  wind

sings over the hills of Jerusalem, it’s as if in Eden

she is playing still and we are given just a taste

of what awaits us at the end of days.

I cannot help but dream her song will fill our ears

and soothe our hearts from the terrors we have yet to know

and  comfort us before Mashiach comes.

                                                                                    Roberta Chester



Cliffords Tower 


In 1190 no bells clanged when,

unprotected by a Christian or a Hebrew God,

York’s Jews huddled, needing a miracle

to save them from a mob.


Today pilgrims carry wooden crosses

through its narrow streets. A chatty English woman

guides me past teashops to the top

of the medieval wall, a municipal walkway now.


“Not one of our proudest moments,”

she says. A flag shakes over this parapet

like the prayer shawl of the rabbi

who killed his flock, then leaped from the tower.


When I walk to my car, York Minster’s bells ring out.

                                                                                                          Carole Stone



Marc Chagall’s I and the Village, 1911


I paint my father,

flail on his shoulder,

walking uphill toward my mother,


her hands outstretched,

as she dances upside down.

I put a woman inside a cow,


milking it, add a blue sky

and a goose down cloud.

Then the town church, cross on top,


and another cross on a necklace

worn around the neck

of the big green face.


His finger-nailed hand holds

a grape cluster like those in our garden.

As if I could stop

the annihilation to come,

with my canvas,

I keep Vitebsk in my heart.

                                                     Carole Stone



Star of David's Dome


Tiffany stained glass ceiling window,

Ezekiel wheel,

dominates the Free Synagogue of Flushing, Queens.


Ceiling stain glass emits

A burst of auspicious rays of Life,

blue, yellow, green, white.


Star of David gleams gracious golden light.

 The night is a day.

Day silently glows dignified holy bright.


Breathe life into this congregation.

Guard this sacred site.

                                                          Vincent J. Tomeo






Jacob told his wives about the “Old Country”

I left my parents there, he said,

in the land engraved upon my father’s heart,

the land where the songs of angels echoed,

a land kissed by Heaven.

His sigh brimmed with yearning.

This is the Land, he told them,

to which I must return.


Naomi told Ruth about the “Old Country”

it was good before the famine, she said,

There, we had community;

there, our prayers could gather

rise and enter Heaven. She sighed.

Her sigh surged from the depths of her soul.

What have I here, she shrugged.

To my home-town I must return.


Mordecai told Esther about the “Old Country”

there, in the land of miracles, I saw

rays from the windows of the House

that bathed Jerusalem in light.

He heaved a heavy sigh

that welled from the recesses of his heart.

This is the place, he told her,

to which I dream to return.


And now, with our return, the Old Country is renewed

and Jerusalem is again bathed in light,

the unique light that shines from Jerusalem

and spreads forth to the four corners of the world.

                                                                                                Ruth Fogelman








In the States,

gardening was relegated to yard boys.

Perennials planted by previous owners

came and went    

admired or ignored.

I did no planting

except in a dream.


Every year in early spring,

past fear of frost,

when the ground is soft

I dream I start a garden.

I dream of desire with no hesitation.

I am not belated.

One season follows another

with no chaotic rupture.

No illness. No Death.

Unafraid to risk,

I reach into the dark loam

and leave a seed,

confident of growth.




My smallest yard,

a ten-by-twelve walled enclosure  

pulls me with the force of its gravity.

Now it is a catch-all for debris that blows in on the hot wind.


Drought marks our first three years.

The earth is deeply cracked in odd formations.

I peer at it to decipher a strange calligraphy,

to detect signs for a new life.


I observe the landscape for hours.

I wait for time to burn familiarity in me.

I search for the flag on the map that says:

you are here   


Before me stretch the Judean Hills.

Slopes interlock like shoulders in dance.

In the distance a donkey brays.

Wood smoke rises against the pale dawn.




With the passion of an immigrant,

I study my position in every light.

Early morning sunlight dapples the floor of pine forests.

At noon, the sun is so strong no secret survives.

Later, light mingles with dusk

at the instant named between-the-suns,

at the last minute for afternoon prayer.

Finally, sun pours salt on a horizon

that loosens its contours in sleep.




Afternoons, the sky changes.

Winds rise.

Clouds gather and move.

Do I smell rain,

or do I extract the smell of rain from cloud memory?

Every day, my olfactory illusion bursts.

Clouds dissipate.

No rain.


One night I dream it rains.

The land receives it like a kiss from an ancient mother.

Hills zoom into view.

Glistening bones rise from under the earth’s surface.

They dot the horizon,

give new shape to its relief.




I move among the bounty of traces.

I divine history from skeletal hints.

Vestiges weave back into the sacred text: “These dry bones…

breathe life into them...and I will set them upon their land…”


The land bursts with the molecular makeup of memory.

Every particle of earth is encoded with the stories of ancestors.

I share in their epic arrival.

I arrive in my longing.

I am here.

I am no longer there

wishing I were here.


I will plant a garden,

its heart and its borders,

pungent herbs and fragrant blossoms.





First, I stack the refuse

and set fire to it.

At this make-shift altar,

I risk myself.

Old scars fall away.

Doubts burn off.


I wave my hands over the flames.

Idiomatic sparks scatter in seventy directions

I reach out to catch them.

                                                 Judy Belsky





 Between the times

the sounds of the house of study are muted

the pages of the books are subdued

the holy volumes are closed

With eager steps

the students go out

to the fields of freedom


At night

there is no light in the house of study

the majestic building

is not illuminated

in the darkness it melts

into particles of energy




Between the times

is the time

to read between the letters

between the lines

between the books

beyond the words


A time of quiet

The house of study listens


The letters of the Torah

hover wordless

new insights are born

between the chinks from within the walls

the rush of doves' wings hovers

is heard in the hall

as if to revive the voices

heard constantly in the house of study


No one enters no one leaves

the still small voice is heard


The lofty melody of Sabbath eve

before the rabbi's sermon

which rises and raises

souls on high

sounds without sound

scatters and is absorbed in the walls


At the time of redemption

surrounding light -- holiness

wrapped in a pure aura

from within the holy ark

A perfect Torah will be heard

toward a repaired world

a world of wonder


of fresh-flowing springs

from beyond time and the times

                                                                        Nurit Gazit

                               translation: EC


*”Between the Times” is the yeshiva way of saying “between semesters.”




Rock Speaks to Jacob


There is a haven in me     a cleft

where solitude hides and waits   for want


and when it calls   it’s not

a siren song     its voice is longing


and for that sheltered offering     for you

some rocks will split other rocks


with their shaved edges   or with their spite

shift the ridge you thought stable


some kicked loose by the recklessness of water

are flung between planets    come home


honed and hallowed    like prodigal children   

some sift down to embers    stay hot for eons


hold old disturbances    then whisper by whisper

they climb back over themselves   


until they cover the sun  

                so Jacob   lay down your head


on this pillow of shale    it will give you to sleep

and though when you wake


the stone is a stone the mountain has forsaken


and water has drowned the sand

your dream will last ten thousand thousand years

                                                                                           Florence Weinberger





In the summer of 2017 an exhibition of art and poetry was held in Meitarim, in the hills south of Hevron, in memory of Michael Mark hy”d, murdered in a drive-by shooting on July 1, 2016.   Following are some of the poems included (all originally in Hebrew, translations EC).




You are not here

everything says so

I washed the house

with tears and grief

I polished the dishes

with the light that is missing

you are not here

everything is silent about it

The holiday called to you

I opened a door

for the sea was already split

and the heart torn

and we counted four four

winds of heaven

and pangs of birth

everything is set up and ready

only death

knocks on the door

again and again

and refuses to sit down

at the seder

                                                                                                  Shira Mark-Harif





If the world had an ear it would hear

a call of heroism a call of praise


a lament


would descend

to touch the heart


if it had a heart and its eye

if it had an eye would fill with tears

and grow clear enough to see

to envision the image of a man still visible in the crater

he left behind and his absence is still fruitful


and this image would radiate to the brain

if it had a brain

and the brain would signal

to the heart not to grow faint

to the back not to bend


to the hands to fight and build fences

lest evil flood the world



the hole of the outcast heart

cries out to heaven

                                                                             Esther Cameron





A song in my mouth and it is

the song of an orphan

hurting and missing

it will not be sung to the end


A tear on my cheek

trickles silently

and from it is seen

the destruction of the world


Eyes lowered

in pain and sadness

how beloved souls

are lost to them


Two graves

dug in blood

crowned with radiance

and eternal beauty


Mountains of Judea

and mountains of Samaria

hush a last song

for rain and dew


for upon you is the blood of my dead

of the faithful of the lovely Land

and your song will be magnified and sanctified

when I bring my slain into your earth

                                                                                                     Yehuda Peretz





to the craftsman,


behold his wrath

and be calm.

Look at him

from below,


and submit.

Come and go with the winds

of the storm,

breathe their breath,

be happy in your happiness,

peel off some of your rudeness

and be still.

This was his will

and you are faced with it.


a reed for your pen,

stand and gather

the letters that flew off in the wind of the burning

and write yourself a new Torah,

one that redeems.

                                                                                                   Yuval Maman





Even when I walk

between green fields

among red poppies in bloom


I feel your chains


Even if I run free on the shore

gaze at the infinite horizon

I feel your fetters


From a stolen glance at you

through the barred window

I know your secrets


The bars go with me

by night, by day,

knotted around my neck

like a scarf of suffering


opaque partitions

towers and walls

you built with the labor of your hands

to keep your loved ones at a distance


and you abandoned me from your narrow world

which is confusing and hidden


even when I walk

between waves

between high tide and low tide


I will try to release myself

from slavery to freedom.

                                                                                                                        Nurit Gazit





We submit that the world is kind

as it surges forth the song of the Land.

It is there for those who have the sense

to heed her call.

                                                                                 Hayim Abramson