Monday, May 4, 2009

Penance. Graffiti.

If you believe it is possible to ruin something,
you must always believe it is also possible to mend it.
--Rabbi Nachmon of Breslov 

The Security Fence/Border between Israeli towns and cities and Palestinian territories, at times a colorful, artistic map of the conflict:

Thursday, April 30, 2009

My Neighborhood & the Messianic Age

"I know that whatever God does, it shall be forever, nothing can be added to it, and nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him."

(Ecclesiastes 3:14)

We've moved to Emek Rafaim, a place mentioned in the Bible as the Valley of the Ghosts, where giants roamed barefoot. Now it's coffee shops, tanned bellies, film stores -- the energy of an artistic metropolis. It's history, though, speaks volumes of what makes this world blink. 

In the mid-1800s a group of German Templars sailed for the Holy Land. Here they built manors, parks, schools, settled in for the long haul. What in the world could take them from the comforts of their Bavarian homes into the relative wilderness of Palestine? Promise of salvation, of course, in the form of the prophecy of the Third Temple & the imminent end of the world....

During passover, we were asked to contemplate on what the Third Temple would be. Would it be an actual brick & mortar house, built atop the Temple Mount, where currently sits the Al Aqsa Mosque? Would sacrifices of doves be made to G-d? Would the Messiah be someone who you could send an email to & maybe get a response, or does it all embody a shift in our collective consciousness? Maybe it's none of the above. Religious hogwash to get you through the end of the day.

I believe where you stand on this question says much about how you view God, where you carry your mythology.

Kafka said that sacred text is immutable, and all interpretations simply despair over this fact. What would he have said about this era when machines are implanted with biological receptors, neurons, weight synapses, where human intelligence is come to the precipice of quantification. 

Walking Emek Rafaim at night, I hear the Biblical Ghosts gnawing at my shoulder. They are hungry for a piece of our history. The Hassid I pass in the park, who will not look up, so intent is he on his reading of the Torah, mouths the prayer for the Dead. In another moment, women emerge from the purifying waters of the Mikfah & walk towards connection. The smoke covets these cobbled side-streets as people empty for Shabbas & stop counting time. A necessary suspension. 

That night, I dream of the Messiah. She has fourteen arms and draws a Nargila dry without stopping for air. He is a lusty teenager who makes love in the back of a train loaded with all the explosives of Hiroshima. At one point, they almost meet in a cafe, but there's a very loud TV playing. In my dream journal, I wrote that I wanted them to meet very badly, but when I spoke up, it was in an old language & no one heard or could understand, though they felt the urgency in the words. 

Friday, April 24, 2009

Remembering the Silence of the Shoah

Monday, 10AM in Jerusalem, the city turns off. A siren crests. It will do for a minute more. What are they remembering? The baker, with his apron a flour, belly looming, who walks to the street. The drivers who stop their cars with a lurch, tiptoe beside the zigzag. 

Although the old couple
hawking for a taxi don't see 
the point, spit a curse

The ambulance stops,
cuts off flaring horn praying:
Remember, Keep On

One held breath quivers 
like a torn eyelid, healing
drop to bone to blink

In silence, easy to think
of all the dead, hard to hate
that enemy next door

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Threading the Needle

At the foot of the street that leads in one direction to the spot of Jesus' heavenly ascension and in another to the cemetery of The Mount of Olives, I watch two Arab boys ride atop a stallion and part the stream of honking cars that is going nowhere soon. The horse is perspiring; you can see it's been overworked in the heat, its pulsing veins telling a story of how its sliced the traffic in two, time and again.

The boys yell something that's lost in the swell of burning coffee and pilgrims and camera snaps, and then a white kefiya is thrown in the air. Stark against the stallion's midnight skin, it hangs above the cars, the heads of the boys, level with the ground from where Jesus might have jumped. In its dust, Jahelia. What air it claims is majnoon -- the inspired madness of the desert. The dust -- what flies from skin to skin to mouth to hoof is the same holy indivisible companion of those who first rode this mountain on horseback, wearing kefiyas, stopping for water, only to abandon one promise and begin another: The City and its Walls. Modern, sublime, loose, infirm, always, always turning to the wild for origin.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Tent of Nations

This week Elana taught a poetry workshop in the village of Nahaleen in the West Bank, and about thirty women took part (plus kids).

The enthusiasm and the courage of the women writers was infectious. Their poems were translated from Arabic to English and vice-versa, giving voice to dreams of freedom, memories of childhood, and the smells of Mama's kitchen.
Al Quds, I wish for my children to go to Al Quds without obstacle.

The Workshop was organized by Jihan and Daud Nassar of the Tent of Nations. 

Their vision of active and peaceful resistance incorporates reaching out to local Bethlehem communities and nurturing the ancestral land. To learn more about their mission and the activities of the Nasser Farm click here.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Two Images from the Old City

Quote: We are connected by our rooftops...

And divided by our inhabitants (Felines courtesy Elana Bell)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

James Brown in Jerusalem

I cannot get over the notion that the spirit of James Brown infuses the city of Jerusalem. Now I don't believe The Hardest Working Man in Show Business ever performed in the holy city, but something tells me he left his mark.

Consider first how time is accelerated here. True to its own law of general relativity, space-time warps around the walled city like a bear hug that squeezes every drop of inertia out of a body. This effect may be tied to the question of home Security. The first time I spoke what little Arabic I know and a guard asked in English Gun? and I shook my head No and every time since I've gone through a metal detector, a checkpoint, been frisked my body-clock is 'red-shifted' just a little more i.e. accelerated towards a light I do not know, have not become.

In the Godfather's concerts, when he danced with his back to the audience, shooting hand signals to those band members who were half-a-second-late, because that's all you needed for the beat to unravel, become a divisible thing, he was defining his own theory of gravitational attraction, as Jerusalem has done for five thousand years, inviting  pilgrims and spinning them like a dradle for the pleasure of a dance.