Tag Archives: Jerusalem

A Sabbath Prayer

by Hadassah Brenner (Raanana, Israel)

It’s the Sabbath Eve
And the shuk is filled with wonderful smells-
Knafeh and fresh Challah bread
Chai tea, dried ginger, zahtar spice.
The cheapest deals you’ll find
Just before the stands close for the weekend.

I feel the sun, still strong against my back;
Sweat beads between my legs.
I wipe my upper lip, brush back my hair.
Sigh loudly.

All of Jerusalem seems to surge through Mahne Yehuda market.
Students. Tourists.
Little boys and girls, hands outstretched to catch fallen candy.
Black-hatted men, carrying their prayer books protectively.
Women with bright eyes shining through the narrow slits in their garb.
Soldiers, M16 rifles slung over their hunched shoulders.

Saba blesses the wine,
His voice still sweet and singsong,
Despite the years.
Vayihi Erev
Vayihi Boker.
There was night,
And there was day.”

I close my eyes,
Rocking ever-so slightly.
Saba smiles at me.

“Are you tired, my dear child?
Besiyata Dishmaya, Inshallah.
With the help of Heaven,
There will be peace in our land
And you will rest your wearied limbs.”

I look up at him, wonderingly.
“How can you be so certain, Saba?
We have yet to lay down our weapons
In the thousands of years that we have lived here.
How do you know the day will come?”
Saba presses the cup into my hands.
Wine bubbles against my lips,
Stinging my tongue lightly, as I sip.

“My child,
I know there will be peace
Because for every night,
There is day.
And on the Sabbath day,
It is written that we shall rest.”

It’s the Sabbath Eve
And the sun has finally set.
A fire streaked sky extends over the Judean Hills.
We are white angels drifting through the stillness,
Humming soft melodies
To welcome the Sabbath Queen.

This ancient song of a thousand voices
Rises from the Old City’s gates
And it doesn’t matter what mother tongue
The people speak
Or what God they call out to
Because it is the same prayer in every language:

Vayihi Erev
Vayihi Boker.
There was night,
And there was day.

Besiyata Dishmaya
Inshallah.
With the help of Heaven,
There will be peace.

Because for every night, there is day.
And on the Sabbath day,
It is written that we shall rest.

Hadassah Brenner moved to Israel after high school, was drafted into the IDF, and serves as a lone solider, a combat medic. For as long as she can remember, she has turned to words to help her understand and overcome challenges in her life. She writes about her experiences in Israel as a new immigrant, a lone soldier, and a woman searching for her place in the world, and has published a poetry collection titled The Warrior Princess Once Said https://www.amazon.com/Warrior-Princess-Once-Said-Fighting/dp/191607068X/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?keywords=the+warrior+princess+once+said&qid=1570378590&sr=8-1 and two blogs: Military Madness https://militarymadness.wordpress.com  and When the Wind Whispers https://whenthewindwhispers.wordpress.com

1 Comment

Filed under Family history, Israel Jewry, Jewish, Jewish identity, Jewish writing, Judaism, poetry

Lion of Hope

by Brad Jacobson (Columbia, MO)

Black stocking feet and no shoes.

Blue and white prayer shawl
wrapped around his head and arms.

He stands in front of the ancient Wall,
his face hidden.

Large as a lion, he raises his hands
like a street performer before the worshippers.

He sweeps his arms above
the old man in white,

above a boy
in a blue baseball jersey,
#32,

above the rabbi
in back of the Torah.

The Lion of Hope roars, and
his prayers speed like Lefty’s fastball,
soar to the top of Mt. Moriah,
pure as tears protecting a child’s prayer.

He steps slowly to a chair by mine.
I touch the Wall and hear
the Big Man whisper,
I am exhausted.

After prayers we walk together
to the Kiddush table by the stairs.

The Rabbi raises a cup of wine.
Big Man turns to sing sweet
Shabbat songs to Chinese tourists.

He shakes my hand.
Shabbat Shalom.
Be healthy. Have peace.

Brad Jacobson is a volunteer every summer in Israel in the SAREL program. He teaches TESOL at the Asian Affair Center at the University of Missouri, where he has an MEd in Literacy. In the summers he enjoys exploring places with his camera like the Old City of Jerusalem, Tzfat, and the Red Sea where he scuba dives. He has been published in Tikkun, Voices Israel, Poetica, Cyclamens and Swords, and the University of Missouri International News.

Leave a comment

Filed under American Jewry, Israel Jewry, Jewish, Jewish identity, Jewish writing, poetry

Ibex, Sheep, and SWAT Gear

by Saraya Ziv (Jerusalem, Israel)

The son of my lawyer, Dina, is getting married tonight and she has just about obligated me by contract to show my face for the ceremony. The wedding is across the street from Jerusalem’s large central market where a pigua, a terrorist attack, hit this morning. In my evening bag I carry pepper spray which I do not know how to use and which looks as menacing as a canister of breath freshener. I have two sharp pencils. I have the dull pin of an old brooch. I have no chance if a pigua hits tonight.

One route to this wedding is through the town of Beitar. The bus winds past a stretch of trees which reminds me of a parkway on Long Island. When we travel through concrete tunnels erected to postpone bullets blowing off my skull, I remember I’m not headed towards my brother’s Oyster Bay colonial. At a checkpoint, a civilian has another in a bear hug; they’re both giggling. Our driver opens his window and says something that sobers them. On a thin meridian, shoulder to shoulder, soldiers stand guard.

We pass between razor wire fences into Beitar. A life size diorama of ibex, sheep, and deer graze at a giant welcome sign. One large billboard encourages – enjoy Shabbat, from the minute it comes to the minute it leaves. Another warns – you’re bad talking others?  I don’t want to hear it! The only one to jump when two figures in SWAT gear and masks board our bus at the front door and exit at the back is me.

I reverse the trip in the dark. My bus is stuck behind a truck that says FedEx International. I imagine the truck plowing the Atlantic, crossing Europe, and landing in front of us, all on a single tank of gas. The driver is tuned in to a radio station he selected in New Jersey. His radio reports that the Garden State Parkway is backed up for miles, the new Miss America can drive a tractor, and nothing about pigua in the soft Judaean Hills.

On the hill to my village we halt at a roadblock. Two soldiers, one a woman with a French braid and a sub-machine gun, examine the trunk of a car. A loud crack terrifies me. It’s the limb of a tree, victim of a recent conflagration.

Saraya Ziv attended SUNY Buffalo, worked as a Business Analyst on Wall Street, and left the United States one April morning in 2015 on a one way ticket to Tel Aviv. She was born and lived in New York City all her life, but now lives a short drive to Jerusalem. You can find more of her work at her website, Mask for Winter (http://www.maskforwinter.com/) where this piece first appeared.

Note: This story appeared under a different title, “Beitar,” on the Mask for Winter in 2017, and is reprinted here with the author’s permission. 

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under American Jewry, Israel Jewry, Jewish, Jewish identity, Jewish writing, Judaism

Jerusalem Stone

by Steven Sher (Jerusalem, Israel)

I slip in my Crocs on the steep

stone stairs at home, land on my back,

catching the stone’s edge, cracking ribs,

shout out in pain, unable to move,

yet another Jew getting to know

Jerusalem stone up close:

forefathers’ flesh once pressed

and pounded into stone; the generations

like dust blown across cold stone;

hearing the martyrs’ groans

in toppled stones, broken bodies

stripped to bone, flung into the pits.

Born in Brooklyn, Steven Sher is the author of fifteen books. He made aliyah five years ago, and now lives in Jerusalem near his children and grandchildren. To learn more about him and his work, visit his website: https://steven-sher-poetry.wixsite.com/writing

 

Leave a comment

Filed under American Jewry, Israel Jewry, Jewish, Jewish identity, Jewish writing, poetry

Come in, Come in

Brad Jacobson (Columbia, MO)

Walking by the Kotel
Rabbi Machlis calls out
to the Kenyan and Chinese tourists,
Shabbat Shalom, Shabbat Shalom!

Yesterday two soldiers
were stabbed here in the Arab shuk.
I ask the rabbi if he is concerned
but he says, No, I am with you.

We meet a Muslim beggar.
The rabbi invites him along.
At his home, people are already gathered.
I squeeze into a corner seat.

Rabbi Machlis booms:
Come in, come in,
there is plenty of room.

We crowd around tables.
The homeless man, tourist,
soldier, Christian, Muslim, and Jew
eat cholent, challah, and gefilte fish.

Each one of you
is our special guest,
he says. We are in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Machlis calls me the scuba diver
—he knows I love to dive in the Red Sea—
and asks me to speak next.

Brad Jacobson lives in Columbia, MO, where he teaches ESL. Every summer, he volunteers in Israel. He enjoys hiking in the desert and diving in the Red Sea.  His poetry has been published in Tikkun, Poetica, Sar-El, Voices Israel, and other publications.

Leave a comment

Filed under American Jewry, Israel Jewry, Jewish identity, Jewish writing, poetry

Jerusalem: December 24

by Cherryl Smith (El Cerrito, CA)

I’m wheeling my new rolling cart out of the supermarket on HaPalmach on Christmas Eve, strolling past Bank Hapoalim, which looks pretty crowded, and congratulating myself on the purchase of the brown and white checkered shopping cart that makes the seven block trek back to our apartment on Rechov Alkalai an easy errand, no awkward maneuvering of heavy grocery-filled plastic bags or hands red from the drawstrings. There’s a new bookstore on the corner and tonight I decide to go in. It’s a small, inviting place with a good English selection and an electric kettle for tea or instant coffee. I browse for a few minutes and though I’m feeling carefree and happy, I resist buying more books, say l’hitraot to the young clerk and go back outside where the air is cold, and the streets, the open stores, the traffic — all are the same as on any other weekday evening.

How to describe this, the joy of Christmas in the Holy Land?

Tourists have arrived from around the globe and the hotels in Jerusalem, as well as in Bethlehem, are full. The municipality is distributing free evergreen trees at Jaffa Gate to anyone who wants one.  For the past few nights, a lime green floodlight has been projected onto the Old City walls. There is even a large inflated Santa Claus outside a shop on a side street in the Christian Quarter. Around 10 pm, we hear bells ringing from the Old City and we do not, immediately, remember that it’s Christmas Eve.

This is my first visit to Israel in winter, the first time that I have experienced Christmas as just another day, all the weeks and months leading up to it invisible within the Jewish calendar of Haggim and Shabbatot that create the rhythm of life here. It’s the first winter that I have not wished to flee my surroundings, to mute the sensory barrage of piped in Christmas music, the glare of Christmas lights, the shopping countdown and the spending frenzy–the first time that Chanukah has not been swept into the holidays of “the season.”

There is Christmas in Israel and it is a religious observance, the reason for the December influx of tourism to the sites made famous by Christianity. Here, in the one Jewish country of the world, Christmas is not a national holiday. The day passes unnoticed in the Jewish and Arab-Muslim neighborhoods and for the first time in my life the weeks of December did not include finding a response to the question: “Are you ready for Christmas?”

The IBA English news even interviewed Christian tourists in a kind of human interest story you sometimes see given to Jewish holidays in the US.  The tourists, “some of whom refer to themselves as pilgrims,” notes Yochanan Elron, the anchor, have filled the hotels and are enjoying Israel for the holiday. IBA news’ Leah Stern speaks to visitors outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. One African-American woman traveling with a tour group is especially enthusiastic. What does she want to tell the folks back home? “Everybody” ought to come here, see the sites, spend time in Israel. It’s safer here than in the cities in the USA.  You’ve “just got to experience Christmas in Israel,” she says.  It is “the best Christmas” of her life.

The same for me, exactly.

Cherryl Smith is author of After Being Somewhere Else (poems) and Writing Your Way Through College, a student’s guide. She teaches writing at Sacramento State University where she is a Professor in Composition and Rhetoric.  During the fall and winter of 2007 she taught at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

This piece is reprinted with permission of the author.

Leave a comment

Filed under American Jewry