how to handle a war?

since the first shots
were fired in ukraine
barukh has been constantly thinking about his former classmates

the ukrainians and the russians

from the ulpan

those with whom five years ago
barukh started his hebrew studies
in the building of the yotvata council
on the eighth of january

barukh thinks about
the kind of atmosphere
there would be in class
if they attended

the army
of the old country
of those new immigrants
who made aliyah from russia
razes into the ground
the old country
of those new immigrants
who arrived from ukraine

those ukrainians
who started a new life in israel
pray to יהוה
or Бог
for their friends and family
who remained in ukraine
because close or distant relatives
of those russians
who started a new life in israel
may kill them

(barukh sighs)

on the first days
barukh had no idea
which of them in the class
were ukrainians
and which were russians

just as the two italians didn’t know
and neither the one from australia

they only sensed
that those sixteen
russian-speaking classmates
progressed with greater ease
in their hebrew studies
than they
the hungarians
the italians
and the australian did
since they had no common language

the „russians”
could talk to each other in russian
and if one of them
understood a hebrew word
or grammatical rule
they chirped along
to other „russians” right away
so after a second or two
all sixteen of them
kept nodding the same way
and repeated with satisfaction
the russian version
and the hebrew counterpart

the hungarians
the italians
and the australian
kept staring
or at each other
feeling useless
and frustrated …

it took barukh
a week or two
to recognize
the differences
between ukrainian
and russian characteristics

to be able to tell
not only in class
but also in the outside world
who were ukrainians
and who were russians
among russian speakers

because that was important

maybe not for barukh

but for those russian speakers
who kept in mind
who came from where

and for ukrainians
who mostly
took offense
being considered russians

just as
canadians wouldn’t be happy
to be regarded as americans

it took barukh a week or two
to realize
that ukrainians were
not only different from russians
but they were also similar to hungarians
in many ways

ukrainian classmates
just as hungarians
were born
and raised
on the fringes
of the big and powerful
soviet-russian empire

and although ukraine
was part of the soviet union
while hungary was only
one of the satellite states
the fates
of both countries
were sealed in moscow

even though
the soviet union
ceased to function already
and even though
ukrainian and hungarian classmates
have become citizens
of the free jewish state
they were used to
watching their steps
not sticking out their necks
laughing softly
when they hear a joke
and using humour
and guitar music
as a way to ease their pain
not to entertain others

on the other hand
were born
and raised
as subjects of an empire

for them
has always been
the magnetic capital city
of mother russia
not the seat of an occupying power

and in the ulpan
and on the kibbutzim
they walked effortlessly
puffed up their chests
held their heads up high
they laughed out loud
if they heard something funny
and humour and guitar music
were primarily the tools
for entertaining others
and charming the world

they were less miffed
if random israelis
called the ukrainians russians
because as subjects of an empire
they believed
the more the merrier …

barukh recalls
the way
two years after the ulpan
his ukrainian colleague
when random israeli customers
asked him
ukrainians and russians
are not the same people?

dima’s eyes clouded
and he said:


and when customers
kept nagging him
about the differences
between the two peoples
all dima said was:

ukranians and russians are like
arabs and jews …

barukh is browsing
facebook and instagram
to see
what his classmates
have posted
since the beginning of the war

on the first day
the posts were
the same
just as they had been
before the war

but on the second day
something changed

angel statues
came out of nowhere
political statements
the sound of silence
from simon and garfunkel
and hysterical escapist humour

the tension is palpable

the tension
the fear
the pain

(barukh sighs)

he doesn’t know
how he would act
if they were sitting together
in the ulpan today

how would he
not set his classmates apart?

how would he
not smile more
at the ukranians?

with empathy
with reassurance

even at those
he couldn’t stand

how would he
not try to avoid
the eyes of the russians?

not try to punish
in a socially
and morally incompetent way
totally innocent people

even of those
he liked

how would he
be able to handle
this war

how would anyone
be able to handle
any war

About the Author
a wandering aramean poet / born in hungary / living in israel / longing for a home / and peace / outside and inside // he writes about his new life / and his old one / his adhd and asd / his adonayush / and war and coexistence / in israel / in the middle east / and in the world // hundreds of his poems are available in hungarian / and in a weekly increasing number also in english // “self-appointed poet” (“önjelölt költő”) / his first book of poems / was published in budapest in 2021 / "twelve points of barukh" ("barukh tizenkét pontja") his second book was published in 2022 // he lives in the kurdish suburbs of jerusalem / with his wife and two sons
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