You, wholly holy; we, ever so lowly
Slip on limestones bearing your name
Winter winds whip our brollies
As we boldly, with folly
Venture out to the streets in the rain
Yet your sun's more unworldly
Harsh gold rays broil slowly
Through the Mid Eastern summer's domain
And though your fate seems lonely
We who are yours know
The truest of passions are pain
Live you and love you
I'm in and I'm of you
Your hilltops have
ruined my knees
Found naught above you
But should I unglove you
How bloodied would your
a city of two
sundered and some dare
to brandish those plowshares
not plowing, not sharing, not caring
that their swords were beaten
out of shape for a reason
not for men to be beaten
broadsided by the flat sides
pierced through to their insides
begging begging isn't
peace the beginning
Plead 'next year in Jerusalem'
That loss to our children remain unknown
We've yearned ev'rywhere and always
Here we belong; the Jews' hearts' one true home
Your rhythmic rhymes stretch space and time
A new bridge of chords; an old wall of stones
Plead 'next year in Jerusalem'
That loss to our children remain unknown
Could she possibly
lose you, blissfully skipping
downhill to preschool?
I have poor long-term memory, but an amusing recollection came to me as I was perusing my limited memory banks for this exercise.
Between the ages of 1½- and 3-years-old, I lived in Columbus, OH, while my father was a visiting professor at Ohio State University. That was our first home in the USA after we’d left Israel. I hardly remember anything at all from that time, but, strangely, I do recall opening the door to our apartment to receive a letter or package from a mailwoman (I’m pretty sure it was a woman, but I could be wrong about that).
I knew that she was either a mailwoman or a policewoman because she was wearing a blue uniform, but I wanted to be sure so I asked her. She smiled and said, “What do you think?” which made my little self feel silly, as I scanned her and ascertained that she was delivering mail to our home. “A mailwoman,” I responded, feeling rather foolish. It is that feeling of childish foolishness that remains stuck in my mind.
that blue uniform...
woman delivering mail...
notfrom the police
We were instructed to do a memory exercise BEFORE writing our haibuns:
Get a few pieces of blank paper, have pen in hand, close your eyes for a minute and go back as far as you can in time… to your first memories not triggered by a photograph or by family lore. Maybe it’s what your very first house looked like. Maybe you suddenly remember your dad teaching you to ride your first bike. Or what your yard looked like – or the inside of your very best childhood friend’s house. Now for your haibun, pick one memory you’ve written down and relay it to us.
Today marks the Jewish holiday of Purim, one major theme of which is the Hebrew phrase ‘nahafokh hu’ (נַהֲפוֹךְ הוּא), which, loosely translated, means ‘it was turned to the contrary’. This comes to us from a particular verse in the Book of Esther (9:1):
Now in the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s commandment and his decree drew near to be put in execution, in the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to have rule over them; whereas it was turned to the contrary, that the Jews had rule over them that hated them;
In short, the Persian king’s advisor Haman (the villain of the story) convinced him to establish a date (the 13th of Adar), upon which all who so wished could kill Jews with impunity, and the Jews would not be allowed to defend themselves.
Without getting into the story, suffice it to say that the king’s decree could not be repealed, for it had been issued with his seal. Rather, the decree was reversed such that the Jews would be allowed to defend themselves against their enemies, as we read on in the following verse in the Book of Esther (9:2):
the Jews gathered themselves together in their cities throughout all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, to lay hand on such as sought their hurt; and no man could withstand them; for the fear of them was fallen upon all the peoples.
Now, ‘nahafokh hu’ is somewhat more precisely translated: ‘it was turned over’, and Purim has come to be the topsy-turvy Jewish holiday of reversals, in which everything is not what it seems, but rather its opposite. Purim represents the impossible becoming miraculously possible.
The Jerusalem winter skies
In Israel, the winter season is rainy, and the Jerusalem skies fill with clouds, which, in turn, produce some majestic sunsets.
Several weeks ago, my six-year-old and I were returning home from the store in the early evening and Jerusalem’s creamy clouds caught our attention. Not much for photography, I nonetheless put down the groceries and pulled out my smartphone to capture the moment.
The most fantastic aspect of those particular clouds in that particular sunset for me was what they looked like upside down. With a bit of fiddling in Microsoft Paint, I managed to flip the photograph upside down and zoom in on the clouds between the building and lamp post. To my eye, the picture looked just like the setting sun reflecting off of a foamy sea.
sun sparkles on clouds
sea foam glistens overhead
one need only see
Middles & Turns
The d’Verse prompt was to look to our [poems’] middles and see if we can build in dramatic turns, open a new window, pick a sonnet or a haiku, write in blank verse or pentameter, just show us your best turns.
Harkened through the snows of New Jersey,
Heeded through the storms of Cleveland,
Purest nothing, on nothing, absorbed me,
Sheerest nothing, on nothing, I am
Upon nothing, nothing I, one/dering
About nothing, not touched much by snow,
Where nothings, together, not nothing,
Where something within ached to go,
Nothing, listened, through blustery blizzards,
Whispering, nothing, nothing, here I am
Through cold nothing, I heard, I shivered,
Something, mine, called [from] Jerusalem.
The writing challenge: We were to focus on the theme of ‘paradox’ and select one of the following to build poems around, of which I selected #2:
1. Here are some lines from Paul Dunbar’s The Paradox: – select ONE and build your poem around it.
I am thy fool in the morning, thou art my slave in the night.
I am the mother of sorrows; I am the ender of grief;
I am the bud and the blossom, I am the late-falling leaf
2. Take the last lines of Wallace Stevens’ The Snow Man and write a poem that is imbued with the existential paradox implied there. [the meaning of which is the ridding of our usual human observation and viewing winter as a ‘man of snow’ not a snowman! (more HERE)]
For the listener, who listens in the snow, And, nothing himself, beholds nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
It has been more than a week since my wife and I received our 2nd vaccination shots against COVID-19, and we are both in good health and feel well (I am 41-years-old, and she is 36-years-old). After both our 1st and 2nd vaccination shots, our arms were sore at the injection sites, but otherwise we experienced no noticeable side effects.
A younger cousin of mine (~38-years-old) who works in the entertainment industry here in Israel finally got vaccinated (even though she did not want to) because of the pressure put on her by her employer (and general society). To be honest, I didn’t have much sympathy for her vaccination skepticism, as I’ve written before. Simply put, these vaccines are the single best hope that our global society has for defeating COVID-19 and shifting back in the direction of normalcy.
For those who harbor concerns over the potential ill effects of receiving these vaccines, I recommend watching the following video, which is neither too long, nor too complicated to understand:
As of today, the State of Israel has now vaccinated more than 4.4 million people (48% of its population). Of the overall figure, more than 3 million people (33% of the population) have received the 2nd dose of the vaccine.
For those who are wondering how Israel was able to jump the cue when so many other countries are now struggling to get vaccines, the answer is pretty straightforward: some chutzpah… and a small population (1/33rd the size of the US). Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s embattled Prime Minister, has basically staked his career on the vaccine rollout, and he convinced Pfizer to supply Israel with enough vaccines (around 10 million) to cover the whole population, in exchange for sharing data in a kind of real-world vaccine trial…
Putting aside whether or not I am comfortable with our Prime Minister sharing the Israeli public’s health data without its consent, which I am not, the fact remains that the State’s deal with Pfizer is now a fait accompli. Either way, the vaccine was made readily available to me and my family, and I did not hesitate in the slightest to take advantage of that privilege.
I’m aware of that privilege every day now: as I walk through the rainy, wintery Jerusalem streets, my body is working for me, building up immunity to COVID-19 and significantly lowering the chance of me becoming a super-spreader at work or in public.
Given that all human beings are in this boat together, as I see it, the major challenge now facing humanity is: how do we get the COVID-19 vaccine into the bodies of every human on the planet?
Especially in those countries lacking reliable and effective health infrastructures?
Introducing… ‘Green passports’!
The State is finally easing out of its 3rd lockdown (our daughter returned to preschool on Tuesday of last week, thank goodness), but now there’s a caveat: for full access to all of Israel’s recreational facilities, one must hold a ‘green passport’. These ‘passports’ are chief among the reasons that many Israelis are getting the shot (including my cousin, mentioned above).
The Israeli government has been campaigning hard, for its part, on all the benefits that vaccinated citizens will enjoy. These include access to leisure and cultural facilities (including gyms, sporting events, hotels, and swimming pools); and -in the future- mass events and travel. All Israelis who have been fully vaccinated or who have recovered from the disease are eligible for a ‘green passport’.
The government, you see, cannot force its citizens to get vaccinated, but it can make life very inconvenient for those that do not. Some may consider this draconian, but I am fully supportive of this initiative. Simply put, vaccination against COVID-19 is humankind’s greatest hope for defeating this global pandemic. It was certainly my privilege to get vaccinated early (compared to the rest of the world) because I live in Israel; but – I also consider it to have been my responsibility.
T'wards snow in Jerusalem I feel cold,
Slip-sloshing through this dirty wet hassle;
I'd much prefer to stay locked in my hold,
Where I'm king of my dry, humble castle
Israelites tend to find snow exciting,
But my fingers feel stiff while I'm writing.
Such commotion would a Russian befuddle ~
What's so great 'bout a vertical puddle?
Jerusalem had its first snowfall in six years the night before last, and I am excited 🙄