Funny Thing Happened On My Way To Gaza

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1) Lost and Found. To whom it may concern: Last week, while sprinting from siren to bomb shelter during a spate of incoming rockets in Tel Aviv, I found a child’s shoe on the corner of Nordau and Dizengof streets. Color: blue; Size: 12 x 6 x 4 cm. If perchance you happen to get this message, and wish to reclaim the lost shoe, please leave your cellphone or email address in the ‘comment’ box below, so I can return it to you. Note: be advised, you will be required to present the matching shoe as evidence of the fact that your child is in fact the rightful owner.

2) As I was passing through the city of Um al Faham on my way to Gaza, I ran into John Kerry and Ban Ki-Moon in a café drinking Turkish coffee. ‘Be careful’ they admonished, you are in danger of isolating yourself”. Talk about isolation, I couldn’t help wondering why they were there in the first place instead of at home with their wives where they belong. Some like the smell of burning tires I guess, not unlike sniffing glue….I couldn’t help feeling sorry for them.

3) The bum in the bomb shelter. Ever since the bombing began in Tel Aviv, and we cleaned out the basement for a shelter, a local bum has parked his old battered shopping market cart in the yard and moved in. I’ve seen him before sleeping on benches around the neighborhood, and this is not the first time he has tried moving in. Last winter, when it got cold we found him huddled there one day when we left the door open by mistake. Now of course, it’s open all the time. I rolled his cart down street and hid it in another yard between two garbage cans. i don’t know why? It was just mean. Last winter we had to remove him because if something happened to him while there It would be a liability to all the tenants in the building. Besides, social welfare has shelters for homeless people, if only they would stay there. As I continued on my way, I was struck with a feeling of guilt. That moment of anger that caused me to roll his cart away turned my feet around, and I rolled it back to where I found it in the yard. It occurred to me that I have two shoes on when some children only have one.

4) Lost, I discovered that in an atmosphere of war, one develops a sense of closeness and intimacy with things most immediate and essential to life. We do this always, only here most urgent and unwilling.  The news creates an oppressive, instant mortification of things that seem to be continuing to happen without you. You don’t want war but here it comes, not only where you stand but also wherever you turn. So on my way to Gaza I got lost, only tunnels that could not be seen like pits of hell in lonely wheat fields. It was only then and at that moment I found the shoe I found, back where I started from on Dizengof and Nordau. This is a true story, truly! My father always wanted me to be a shoe maker, it was his culture of yiddishkeit. He once told me when he was old, ‘You know, even with all that i went though in the first war, i miss those times’. I guess at his age he would have missed just about anything of his youth that was still alive, at least in memory. Trouble is, the war is here and now filling my life with death and misfortune, with ugly facts and fears and booms, whatever news or memories linger on long past our bedtime. As Jews, we are hounded by the past but also loved by it.

31.07.2014

About the Author
Born April 15, 1941 in Manhattan, of Jewish immigrants from Poland and Galicia, Elazar spans three literary generations from the streets of New York to Tel Aviv. His poems and stories have appeared in numerous books, literary magazines, newspapers and anthologies throughout the world. Since first publishing in 1964, he has had 17 books published, including The Importance of Swimming, Television Analogs, Love Cycles, A Jew in the House of Harvard, Poet's Guide to the Holy Land, The World According to Animals and What Walks. A Jew in the House of Harvard was awarded first prize by the Israel Federation of Writers for the year 1987. Translated into 8 languages, including Hebrew, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Turkish and Hungarian, Elazar's readings and seminars include such venues as, The New School for Social Research, The Whitney Museum School of American Art, WBAI Radio, WNET TV/Channel 13, CBS TV/Video at The School of Visual Arts, and the American Embassy in Tel Aviv. During the Scud War in Israel, continuing a career begun in the U.S., Elazar wrote a weekly column for The Jerusalem Post and is now contributing editor of LeConte Publications, in Rome.
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