An invitation to cry: Lament and protest for the destruction of Gush Katif

"To you the good loyal soldier who on that day the day of the command, approach...enter, sit with us...you fall on my neck, weeping...."

Eliaz Cohen, poet ,

חורבן גוש קטיף
חורבן גוש קטיף
צילום: יוסי זמיר / פלאש 90

Six Poems on the Expulsion from Gush Katif, 10th of Av, 5765, August 2005

Eliaz Cohen is a well-known Israeli poet and editor who lives in Gush Etzion.

From the Hebrew : Larry Barak

Gush Katif was a thriving bloc of Israeli towns and villages built n the Gaza Strip from 1968 with the encouragement of Israel's government. In August 2005, the IDF carried out a Cabinet decision initiated by then PM Ariel Sharon for unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip and forcibly removed the 8,600 residents of Gush Katif from their homes. Their communities were demolished, the Arabs torched the synagogues and even the profitable greenhouses left for their use, soon turning to launching thousands of rockets at southern Israel from those very same destroyed communities. The trauma experienced by the residents, the grief of the IDF soldiers and many other Israeli residents - is expressed in the lyric poems below..

I. An Invitation to Cry

To you the good loyal soldier who on that day the day of the command

will approach our dwelling:

*

I will run to you with open arms I will run I will embrace you and lead you.

In front of the entrance I will take hold of your collar, I will tear it to

the place where your heart is

*

Enter, sit with us, the mourners, taste the round pretzels

like the children who even now are tumbling on the rug like

fate, again houses in Etzion are turning pocked and hollow

*

Silently we will walk at the end through the rooms of the house:

Only I and you, my wife, and the walls remember quarrels and loving

lines that were written and erased as though burned in the book of life.

In your eyes, my good soldier, I will see a tear, our friends stifle

their crying, wrote the poet in 1948, perhaps now it is permitted to cry

and if there were more time

we would lie down in green pastures and play again

the hide-and-seek game of

The Song of Songs

you as my love, I as the beloved, and you, soldier, in the role of the watchmen

*

and I would take you running above the cemetery –

to here, in an hour of great favor

I heard the allah of the muezzin

as though rising together with the praying of yehudain

here one can prophesy, here

if only we had more time

*

in a whisper you ask: have you packed? as though there were in this world a bundle

which can contain yearning

*

You stop the stream of tears. We go out for a breath of air on the porch

here I prepared a little corner to write the unfinished novel

now from the fig tree in the yard the last leaf falls

everything is filled with symbols you say

you fall on my neck, weeping bitterly

my good, loyal soldier, now at long last it is permitted to cry.


II. This Land Trembling Under Our Feet

This land trembling under our feet is

a wild lioness.

For some time now it is a wild lioness screaming her wounds

from her breasts they want to uproot her cubs

now her roar rolls on

*

this land trembling under our feet

will shake us (like a rug its dust before Passover)

only those who are tsumud in their souls will remain

*

this land trembling under our feet on that day will split

from the northern Dead Sea she will ooze in a dense river of milk and honey

in the milk and honey river that will adhere us to it

as is the custom of all rivers

to the sea

* * * * *

“Leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein” (Psalms 104)

III. The Death of the Whale

No longer will be heard your yearning hoot, whale child

no longer.

From what depths did you make aliyah?

Didn’t you know that on the dark side of this sun-drunk land

the death shadow is great?

Have you not heard that here is a land that devours its children?

From the top of the invisible Mount Carmel which is going up in smoke

I see you , whale child

crawling to the blue the blue without success. What

did you want to bring with your fins? Perhaps a bit of ocean tranquility

or everyone’s fantasy to be swallowed like Pinochio or Jonah

into the giant womb?

Perhaps a 2000 year longing made its way in the sound of your yearning hoot…

And now you know, like David in the Psalms, we are all pawns

in the hands of God

and I don’t have the heart to see you again in the throes

of little-hope-waves

in the destructive waters of the Kishon river.

IV. Poems Written in the Sand (a)

In anger – remember blood

In anger – remember sacrificial binding

And who is greater:

Tali and her four daughters or

Hanna and her seven sons?

Great God of mothers

Great God of mothers and fathers

in anger remember feet

the feet of novice priests were cut off

like mown weeds

toes will no longer impress their smell

in the beautiful sands

*

they were good to me, the sands of Katif,

more than abundant gold and silver

the tongues of the Rabbis and their students too

got to lick the dirt here

and once again I am a child-of-the-sands searching for footprints

here once – Grar

Abraham and Isaac, but there is no fear of God in this place

and they will kill me

*

I saw the sea lamenting in the song of the sea

a piece of this blue is torn

from my eyes

by a concrete wall

a girl doll is swept to the shore. All your breakers and your waves

and as then, in poetry

The Lord will rule forever

*

write on the sand a huge inscription:

“THE LAND OF ISRAEL BELONGS TO THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL”

decorate it with sea shells

and observe from the side

how a big frothy wave

erases everything


Passover 5765

V. Poems Written in the Sand (b)

In anger – remember mercy

In anger – remember innocence

Mercy – like this azure

Innocence – like this sand

Lest it return and cover everything


*

like this sand

which will never end

*

which may not be numbered for multitude

*

Trust in the LORD, and do good;

dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.

"The Torah of the LORD is just, rejoicing the heart"

"A Psalm of David - O LORD, who may abide in your tabernacle?

Who may dwell on your holy mountain?

He who walks uprightly, and works with righteousness,

and speaks the truth in his heart."

(inscription from the holy ark of the synagogue in Ganei Tal)


so I saw the law of innocence

and wept

*

I saw the naive believing and sowing

who will shake your sowing hand to seal an agreement

that you will reap in joy

*

I say (quietly, inside the heart)

perhaps the sand will cover

the sea will roil

and you are sowing

*

my God – may it never end:

the sand and the sea the sand and the sea the sand

and the sea


*


The prayer of man:

"Our barns are filled with grain, our houses with infants

what more will you ask of us

homeland"

*

we paid with fat we paid with blood we paid with tears we paid with sweat

in the cracked threshing sledge we will prepare in the sand for new seeds


*


now I say (and almost know)

"for all the days of the land, in these sands too

seed and harvest

and cold and heat

and summer and winter

and day and night

will not cease"


Iyar-Sivan 5765

“Take your dead and return to your lands

to the places you came from.”

(Mahmoud Darwish)


VI. Poems Written in the Sand (c)

In anger – remember blood

In anger – remember innocence

In anger – remember sacrificial binding

Innocence – such are those living above the sands

Blood – such are the dead

Even they have no rest here


*

here they are the dead of Katif:

beautiful and shining, I saw them on the night

of the ninth of Av

holding hands

lamenting the living

when the moon glow spills among the sands

they whisper:

will you indeed remove us now

will you indeed

*

behold one of them – Angel-faced Yochanan

reaches out and deepens the digging

to the east

to the dead of Hebron to Rachel and to

Joseph who is in Samaria

they surely know a thing or two

about sacrificial binding

and about returning sons and about exiles

*

on the night of the ninth of Av I stand on the rock of Etzion

and sands shift under me

between the living and the dead the incense of my poems

is in my hands

the plague does not cease


*

from here I look at the timetable and see

everything is snatched on Tu B’Av

the virgins and the vineyards and the dances the young men

the houses and the gardens and the living and the dead

everything is preyed upon


there were no better days for Israel


than the night of the 9th of Av, 5765




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