One last thought
A few months ago I had attended a film with one of my close friends from high school, someone whose interests remained in the realm of my own as I gradually made a split from my younger identity into what I am passionate for today. The film was a more rational, somewhat inaccurate take of the story of Pesach, and as two with a heart for ancient near-Eastern study and history, we critiqued and marveled at Ridley Scott’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings”.
My friend was, within a few days, bound to study internationally in Israel, Palestine and Jordan, and I hastily wrote a brief prayer on a wastingly large piece of paper (a plea, really) for him to tuck into the Western Wall during his time in the Old City in Jerusalem, a tradition among its visitors for belief that the Holy Presence rests on top of the wall, answering prayers.
And I wonder when the plea will be answered, or realized.
A person will often ask me, “what do you do?” I will always feel a quick hesitant restraint, a glimpse into the dark shame I have wrestled with that I have no viable education nor an adult’s job…
“I’m trying to leave” I’ll say.
“Oh yeah? Where’s that?”
“Israel.” The plea. Take me.
And I will always receive mixed reactions. Most will respond with a distant awe, as if trying to remember where Israel is on a map. Some nod and continue, while a few will respond more negatively. One man has called me “crazy” with a hostile tone of discouragement, another girl refused to carry on the conversation; as though I was wearing a Magen David armband on a field of crimson, a silver skull on my cap. I understand the negative perception toward Israel, I am aware of her criticizers; I am tired of the passive, armchair-born resentment toward Zionism in our age of passive-aggression. A schlepper generation, what are they doing to help?
And lately I have been assimilating myself with this behavior; I am no man. Not yet. I haven’t proven my worth in dirt as I flip the pages of a biography on the new Jewish dream; the fighters, the paratroopers and kibbutzniks who would throw themselves over an Arab marauder’s grenade to save their wives and countrymen, only to muster the strength to shoot back. The Tsabra generation; the strong, initiating, native Israeli who I will never be… but for whom I want my children to be.
So my boiling motivation has taken a plunge forward. My drugging thoughts have disappeared behind the scenes; I need to begin answering my own prayers. I need to start giving my objective my all.
I will be applying for the Sar-El program, a volunteering opportunity to serve alongside Israeli soldiers to help ease their burden. I have a contact and the chance is an optimistic one, I have an interview planned with a local community center regarding the position.
Perhaps with the push of hard work augmented by the trust I had written on paper, in the ink of my very heart’s blood, which my friend had placed in that Wall… maybe this is the answer I’ve always needed.
I once felt a variant of guilt; pursuing a place I’ve had no connection to by blood, nor faith…
An arresting feeling that I would always be a foreigner, with no claim, settling in a land that was once farmed by the grandfather of a Palestinian orphan living in some Lebanese refugee camp, or that I might one day wander a desert wadi won by the blood, hand-me-down iron, and chutzpah of Buchenwald survivors I’m not related to; a confused boy whose sophomoric broken Hebrew will never compare to even that of a bronzed, native-born Kindergartener… a guilt that had me trapped in the thought I will be damned as a child in a land of men; a place of such renown that it would forever tower over my being, making me feel smaller than a rat in New York City.
I’ve felt that I could never be present in spirit at the foot of Mount Sinai, a rabbinical legend said of all Jews and converts not yet born during Moshe’s receiving of the Ten Commandments; this variant of guilt that I would never feel Jewish, thus the next muse, would I ever understand, or begin to help others understand, the Dream of my heart?
Depression wraps its unholy hands around my mind’s neck and attempts to strangle it; for years I have been this asphyxiated near-corpse desperate and thirsty for the fresh air of change, change I have been too weak and fickle to realize or attempt. And like change, motivation is never fulfilled overnight; I will not wake up with a green uniform on my closet with “TzaHa”L” on its breast, hard-earned red beret tucked in it’s shoulder loop; I will not fall asleep in America to wake up in Israel.
Countering these unholy hands, I’ve turned to embracing a holier presence. My longtime swaying and trepid faith in G-d has, with a conscious personal decision, matured into a more stable commitment. As time has gone on I’ve desired discipline, and with this discipline came opportunity, with opportunity came motivation, and with motivation– more discipline.
The guilt is decaying, and my decision, once a fish-tailing tunnel-vision, is locked in my sights.
My life is mending
like the wounded eye
healing quickly, though painfully,
my sight is coming back to me;
My vision of flames,
like Moses and the gold bar
from which G-d brought out a Menorah,
is on my next right.
And my soul
like a flint
is igniting a fire within
Whom does not consume.
When I first met you,
Your arms stuttering
Across the cabin
With a dreadful fear
That was once anger,
Your eyes blue with youth
Your finger was entwined by a wearying gold
And your chest wrapped in a scarf, but your soul was nakedly standing
Before us all nakedly waiting.
It’s tough to savor the flight from Mitzrayim.
This Sten is your Staff,
Hold it close to to your heart, m’zun
Its pillars of fire
Will deliver you to the land
–Give your children a name;
Our cousins in Palestin’eh call,
So when you face Ost
Pray that they’ll have abundance of grain
For you’n me.
Those navy, glossy eyes
You afraid, m’zun?
Your shtetl you shouldn’t worry about
Only look forward, into the flame;
Never mind the smoke and ash.
What was she like, m’son?
Eyes of charcoal, a tikhel of dirty hair,
Miriam’s hand swinging between her breasts?
You’ll find her again in Eretzyisroel,
Trust me, m’son
Put this Staff to good use, though
You’ve probably never used a gun.
Look at me.
You’ve come this far,
You believe in reason?
Make dying your treason;
Success is your fate.
Though’w’re hunted like rats
Let Adonai be your lance,
Stand by it, pray quiet
And don’t you ever look back
They say the Reds are giv’n them hell,
Plagues of green are a’coming through France,
The Brits hold our land,
And the fascist murderers panic.
Hope runs through your veins;
One day you’ll change your name,
And in streets of peace your daughters will dance,
Consider this fight a bris,
You’ll draw blood, sweat;
And these tears,
Hold onto this Staff,
Spite our Angel of Death.
A recollection from a few days ago…
It was early in the afternoon when I found myself looking outside the window from a pit of dispirited and quiet thoughts, and the sight of snow gently falling caught me off guard; Scenes of twisting alleys and houses with slapped on windows, rained on by beautiful, thick, constantly descending orbs. It was so peaceful that it gave my mind a temporary escape; it had cast me on a level where thoughts could not haunt me, where I was not so down on myself, where I was not caught in a dirty groove of thinking… this is life? This is the end of the road? I have to suffer more to settle in a temporary resting place? In building this road longer, to nowhere?
No. No, no, no. The sight of the falling snow, and the glowing furnace, and the stubby plant with its leaves peering above the windowsill made me think again. This is life. This is the warm roof above my head. This is the day for making good things happen. The building of the road is an exhausting, back-breaking, pioneering adventure.
The mental and literal road I drove on that day provided my thoughts more space to find positivity. I mulled on my relationships with other people, and mourned over the reality on how they sit stray. Everything is so shallow with my life and company. I find minor blockades in the way I engage other people, a lot of the time out of my control, which prevent me from having long-lasting friendships; perhaps caused by a past mistake, spiritual differences, a deep-rooted disagreement, or because of the way they look. I look down on people too much, but in this moment I looked down on my relationships from a different way; from the bird’s eye.
I am beginning to understand that every small talk, supper, night out, is a sliver of a grander picture; of everyone is a different story, heritage, religion or secularism, profession… we all make the world what it is. And what is to become of it.
How do I make my mark, how do I make myself a part of this grander picture? How do I burn out brighter, and not alone, corrupt, having caused more harm than good? What is my identity in all this?
Right now I am seeing how beautiful each individual is… even the ones I have hated and wrestle to accept. That they are their own soul, with their own struggle… with their own faction of who they represent, or are trying to find for their own… people trying to find their identity. And I am seeing that it is a glory to be a part of this world, to be a struggling individual. That it is a glory to be lost.
My identity is not in simple Judaism; my identity is in something much greater. The dreams I have and the place markers on my life’s timeline of what I hope to achieve is a story in the billions that make our constantly moving world, but not even this world makes my identity.
My identity, I am finding, is rooted in something much more grand than our humanity. It is not a suffocating enclosure, it is not a terrifying expanse; it burns like a warm fire, where my thoughts run to when I am feeling cold on the outside.
There is more to life than being alive, and I am finding this again.
Feeling the Ypres wind whisper through my back,
Lingo of dead men long silenced, cracked;
The meaning of life descends as the surface to its shoal,
Clad in sweat and cloth, the husk of a killer over soul;
So close I could touch him, would they grimace or shy?
Would I be painted an outsider; or am I too afraid to try?
soothe the trees;
Embers prematurely spent and love a gulf away,
Given the chance to sleep I wouldn’t dare want to stay.
Long doses of peace return in throbbing, warm waves;
The relief is heavier, but shoes like body are weathered, decayed.
Prayers into curses fester at the tip of our tongue;
They all want you in my arms, not this loaded gun.
The copper whistle lies; a glimpse of false might,
Following the dark river’s cellophane light:
Breathing soon becomes bleeding as the monsters labor on,
Weariness begets peace; your memory I savor, waver… savor;
Come to me–
The poppy shivers in the field, your shoulders arrest my mind,
Your wandering coffee eyes I struggle to remember overtime;
Move me, seek;
Stalls and humility frustrated me– tore the weak seams,
Mulling over another headache, and parched gray dreams;
I’ve never forgot;
Brothers remember and feel these things, I neglect,
Holding another sweetheart in their last dying breaths,
The bickering stall!
The shores erupt in dirt, her white collar begins to fade,
German and Old Contemptibles meet in their home; make it or break!
A green smoke thaws, tattered corpses in line,
Once boys, now husbands: gifts to widows in time;
‘My Children’ He weeps;
I cannot comprehend the betrayal given,
When I stopped another man’s heart,
like mine– passchen driven,
It would seem we’ve lost our direction judges ago,
Desperate dreams against the Arab springs;
And so little we see as we hear the numbers rise,
It crosses my heart, but I’m not ready to die.
A new season comes over the Gehenna grounds,
Veiled in sunrise a blind courage attends;
God is Great, followed by the terrible sound,
In black, white, and red, we cry for the goodness in men.
We’re born and crash
A generation’s furor runs hot
The mother’s fears arrest the dead;
Panzer fathers arrange the shots
For the wearers of berets upon their heads.
Chariots are called to the fences in lie and wait,
With confrontation’s ancient refrain, the shofar screams;
Gog v’Magog warns to give restraint,
Running in shambles, too dangerous to please.
We grow to crash
Violation of the faultless
Fires falling from the air;
Strangers respond, the armed and dauntless
Against the faceless, with causes snared;
We live to crash
As the promised land falls apart,
Compassion’s fingers release their hold;
Threats and bombs black out the stars,
Strangling love into stone.
Where is the end of the shadow of death?
Valleys have risen around our walls,
We live to plan, our portion thrashed;
We were given our inheritance, for the price of men.
We age from the crash,
Mount Carmel’s hills feel the tremor,
As the killing’s never ending spate
Arrived in the north one cold November;
Fueling the fires of never ending hate; perpetuating time’s eternal war.
We breathe to crash, but will live to see greener shores,
The good souls pray to relinquish the sword;
So remain strong and take heart as you meet with the crash,
All you who hope in Abraham’s Lord.
This Friday begins an American national holiday renowned for its jubilance, excessive display and international tribute to the American democracy, the 4th of July. 38 years ago however, during the monolithic and merry American bicentennial, the mood 6,000 miles away, in a little piece of land still recovering from a horrific test of strength during their holiest holiday in 1973, waited in silent anticipation to hear of the fate of their loved ones.
One-hundred and six Jewish hostages were apprehended by a East German terrorist group in cooperation with Palestinian jihadists on June 27, 1976, after diverting their Paris-bound Air France A300 toward Libya, and finally to Entebbe Airport, Uganda, under the supervision of dictator Idi Amin. After several days of intense negotiation and clandestine military scenario planning, diplomatic relations had begun to break down, pleas for prisoner exchanges were denied, the Ugandan army and terrorist fighters were threatening holocaust-like ultimatums, and the Arab world was rallying in ecstatic rage to initiate a third war with Israel.
Come July 4th, the elite Israel Defense Forces’ Sayeret Matkal Recon Unit was en route to Uganda, tossing low in C-130’s over hot tropical sea and through the freezing mountain ranges of northern Africa. Their goal was to land during the night hours at Entebbe, taking advantage of it’s lit runway used for emergency landings, eliminate all of the terrorists, refuel their planes, and bring home the hostages to the Jewish haven of Israel from where they had originally flown.
Gunfire prematurely erupted as the terrorists identified the IDF land rovers and mock limousine, but by the time their shock had taken hold, the terrorists laid in dust and blood. Three Jewish hostages had died in the crossfire, but the rest were relatively unharmed. The renowned Commander leading Sayeret Matkal, Yonatan Netanyahu, only thirty years-old, was mortally wounded and died on the tarmac.
The bold pitch-and-toss of the Israeli commandos has since gone down in legend, reinvigorating Israeli confidence since their near defeat two-and-a-half years prior, etching a selfless, honorable title for the Defense Forces. And since the Entebbe raid, the professional ranks of the IDF have proven themselves in bold rescue missions, terrorist-response operations, and foreign aid campaigns.
Fast forward to 2014, and Israel is faced with a new crisis: the kidnapping of three young Yeshiva students, Gilad Shaer, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrach, disappearing from a road in Gush Etzion north of the Palestinian town Hebron, during a week of intense rocket fire erupting from Gaza and other various world-stage SNAFUs that make up the hard life for this ancient strip and its social, religious, and cultural division.
Following a late-response to the kidnappings, the fear of global repercussion and diverted attention to the southern Gaza border, the IDF initiates a massive search with its hands already full. In seeming desperation for political pressure on the Palestinian Authority, the IDF releases the identities of the two suspected terrorists responsible for the kidnapping, and during the third week of the search for the missing, their bodies are found in a ditch not far from the town from where they disappeared.
The Jewish global community is at a loss, and in outrage. The White House maintains its order of “restraint” against a mused-over invasion of the West Bank. Israelis mourn as they hasten the funerals for the three boys per Jewish law, and the Israel Defense Forces, acting vigorously in its mission, has failed. Israel has lost its modern Entebbe.
Public mourning, ongoing investigations on the Israeli Police’s response time, and calls on social reform by rabbis and relatives of the victims now simmer since the overwhelming coverage of the search. I call on the IDF to reclaim its sharp skill of search and rescue, and to once again lead the way in counter-terrorism. To prioritize the defense of its people as their military’s moniker suggests, TzaHal, Tzevah Haganah l’Yisrael, The Defense Forces of Israel, and run the extra kilometer amid its contemporary shortcomings and international embarrassments. We are not looking for another 2006, we do not need another Gilad Schalit scenario, we are not wanting another Hebron kidnapping.
To successfully defend our people, the Israeli people, American, Jewish, Arab, Christian, Druze, we need a new Defense Force capable of the feats of Samson, the cunning of Joshua, and the leadership of Moshe. We need a new motivation, and if this past month and decade has not been enough, what else do we have to further dig us into the pit of shame?
I stand behind the IDF, and thank them for their service. But to become a stronger, more stable nation, it begins with spirit and defense.
Blessed be the memory of Gilad, Naftali, and Eyal, and may G-d console the families among the other mourners of Tzion and Jerusalem. Amen.
I understand that I have been absent from this Scattered Sefer for quite some time. Other than habitually visiting the blog roll to follow some interesting writers, but rarely contributing anything on my site with the exception a few poignant stanzas by other authors that have touched me at relatable times, has made me feel almost guilty in taking the back seat of my writing habits.
I have returned to say, yes, Shalosh Sha’at is still in progress, and a new blog fiction project of mine will be joining it.
Dagger Men is to be set during the tumultuous reign of Caesar Vespasian, within the newly occupied Roman Judea. Yakve, a becoming man inspired by the Zealot political faction rising from its domineering display during a recent state-wide revolt, is charged by his pious father to influence his older brother Yeshak, who is hopeless for his people, and who is attempting to censor a musing for the Roman occupation draft.
I will follow this post with a preview of the story soon.