Tisha B’Av in Palestine

Tisha B’Av in Palestine
Elliott batTzedek

Homes destroyed.
Orchards flattened.
Buses and markets and buildings
         and children
bombed.
Water tanks overturned,
and water, the breath of life to the desert,
spilled into the cracks of the dry and desperate Av earth.

May I build a house on my land?
         No
May I travel from here to here
without fear?
         No
May I have any assurance that my children will grow up
to be neither killed nor killers?
         No
May I demand any way other than defend or destroy,
pillage or starve?
         No
How many times did Pharoh say
         No
before he became irrelevant?

Destruction after destruction after destruction;
It is time for history to record
someone saving Jerusalem.

This is one small part of an entire Tisha B’Av liturgy I’ve created that combines Jewish, Arab, and Palestinian voices all reflecting on the experience of exile. In the pieces, poems and liturgy speak back and forth to one another until the voices blend, a chorus of loss, yearning, and dreams of home. If you’d like a copy, drop me a note or post here.

Wednesday night

Too much work to do still, getting ready for tomorrow’s workshop, and kinda too overwhelmed, to begin to review everything that went past today. Maybe later, if I still have the ability to string prose together.

Tomorrow morning I have a workshop (which is four students and one faculty discussing one poem by each student) with poet Martin Espada, for whom I have so much admiration I’ve barely been able to say two words to him here! I’m paying too much money for this experience, and rearranging my life too drastically, to let my fear win out over my strength, so the poem I put in is both a form that’s new for me AND explicitly anti-Zionist. (It’s up here already, called “With so much complexity, nothing was inevitable) Martin writes poems that are strongly political and deeply poetic, so I think the politics will be fine. The form, though, well, we’ll see. Tonight I was talking to one of the other students who’ll be in the workshop, and we came out to each other as Jews with long histories of supporting Palestinian rights and being horrified at what Israel does in our names. Really long, for Kathy, who organized her first Jewish/Israeli/Palestinian poetry reading against the Lebanon war in 1982. So I think I’ll have at least one ear that is able to help me wrestle with the form and the content. Yeah!

Went to the library today, where I can check out books for six months cause I’m a grad student. Embarrassingly enough, it has been so long since I’ve been in an academic library that I was stumbling about trying to recall how to read call numbers on shelf ends. Egads. But hey, six books that I don’t have to buy! And, finally, online access to the world of scholarly journals, closed to folks outside of The Academy.

Mainly, though, my mind is on Gaza, about which there has been so far near silence here. But now I know I’m not alone, so everything changes.