From Yerushalayim With Love

Location: Israel

Tuesday, February 28, 2006


I haven't posted a blog for twenty days. Been busy.
My birthday. 59.
A daughter's birthday. 30.
Machinations of politicians.
Husbandry of hatred.
A visit from England from my favorite aunt and uncle, whose presence lead to the orchestration of a family get-together, meals in restaurants.
Journeys to and from Tel Aviv, Kfar Saba.
Hosting my sister and her husband for an overnight, which lead to my missing the wedding of the daughter of the teacher at the Ulpan I attend.
Running a hole-in-the-wall feeding-hole in the Old City. Retiring from the food field once my employer returned from abroad.
Fantasies, reveries about people I've encountered or heard about at work, at Ulpan, at bus stops.
Waiting, waiting for notices that the post office is holding packages for me.
This list is discarded peels and seeds of my fruitful few weeks.
With courage, which will provide the necessary time, stamina, and resolve to complete the poems, stories and essays whose seeds are strewn here, I shall be what I shall be.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Branches everywhere

This morning I got up late and lazy. Outside my bedroom window on the high dry branches my eye caught a bird, two birds. Grey with black wings, in England and New England they'd fit the description of a crow in his underwear. In Israel they're called ravens, I'm told. I've seen them inspecting garbage and dropped foodstuffs; this was the first time I'd seen them doing anything in trees besides waiting and watching. I watched. He took tight hold of a twig with his beak and he bent and pulled and pushed. Soon he had broken off a long stiff shoelace.
Chilly February morning. He wasn't collecting kindling; he was obviously collecting material for his nest. I considered the season, the calendar. Next Monday will be Tu B'Shevat. The New Year for Trees. The day, I learned in cheder (Brick Lane Talmud Torah), that the sap rises in the trees. Next week arboreal life will begin its new cycle. So this week the twigs are as dead and dried as they can be: the ideal time for birds to snap them off easily. Good time for the birds to start their nest-building. And the trees are helped by being pruned.
Together the world's works fit and function whether we pay attention or not. I watched one detail of the vast system from my bedroom. The bird seemed to wait until its partner was ready, then flew off. Moments later, the second bird followed, carrying its own twig, flapping and gliding between the apartment blocks.
So the dove, after the Flood, must have grasped in its beak the twig from an olive tree, must have pulled and bent and twisted.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Olmert is a gang leader.

How could an able-bodied Jew consider writing sonnets now? What thoughts and feelings could he carve and caress into fourteen lines that wouldn't do more good if shouted on street corners?
The country is run by a gangster. Kadimah is a gang, not a political party. This Kadimah Party has no platform. They're saying, "Vote for Us. We'll take care of things." The leaders do not believe in the Land of Israel. They do not even believe in the State of Israel. The leaders believe only in themselves. They fear nothing, they fear no-one except bullies bigger than they are. Where does their confidence come from? The gangmembers and their supporters believe that they will survive and prevail because they have the nation's armed forces and police to protect them. Many of these uniformed servants of the government innocently believe that by charging their horses at crowds of young protesters and by swinging their batons at unarmed girls they are following the wishes of the citizens who elected the governments of the cities and state they serve. The Kadimah Gangmembers are convinced that theirs is the path that will end in a safe State of Israel. They trust that the world would not countenance their annihilation by Arab enemies. They have faith in humanity.
Some of Kadimah's opponents, however, have faith in Heaven. Indeed, some people have no faith in any politician.
Prayer alone will not work until everything else has been attempted.
I mentioned to my brother that my outrage at the brutality at Armona made me want to go to the next protest. He cautioned me about the danger.
What else can I do? Pour my passions into a poem?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

My library

Some books should never be parted with. I don't mean they should be shoveled in from the graveside as fill; but they should be bequeathed or, if one's livingspace is severely limited, if one is suddenly exiled, or if some cataclysmic event - an earthquake or a divorce - occurs the books should be left with cherished friends or family. Such books should never be sold (and should be pawned only if, by doing so, a life or a home or a government can be saved). I am still undecided as to whether or not they should be donated to charitable institutions. Under no circumstances should these essential volumes be sold at tag sales or to book dealers.
Of course my own library consists largely of books I purchased at tag sales or secondhand book stores, so you can understand that, according to my criteria, my own collection contains few if any of the essential, great books.
There isn't time, I'm too old to begin listing which books to possess - there are so many; and I am too young to have read enough books to compile a worthwhile list. Even so, I am convinced that some books, certain books should be in every home.
I am not so foolish as to specify which books should be in your library, but as far as possible my library will always contain a copy of Ruth Ainsworth's Listen with Mother Tales. It was given to me by my parents for my fifth birthday. It is the personal possession I have owned the longest and, in contrast to a portrait of Dorian Gray, for instance, its physical condition resembles (but does not parallel) my own physical decline. It has no spine, for a start. Its covers are lumpy and wrinkled. As a result of a leak in my waterbed in the 1980s, the book's pages are partially corrugated and are liberally patched with black mold. More important, the fountain pen ink from my mother's inscription was washed away, so I have only my own memory of the blue-black ink. I do not remember the precise wording, but I know it mentioned both Mummy and Daddy. Someone else's child crayoned inside the back cover. Anyway. It belongs in my library.