Nova: A Reflection

I am a sixth grade Humanities teacher in New York City and two weeks ago I spent my spring break on a Jewish National Fund Mission trip to Israel. On our itinerary was a visit to the site of the Nova Music Festival.  During the bus ride back to the hotel I felt compelled to write this poem about my impressions:




What does it mean to witness?


There is a grove of willow trees leaning

toward Jerusalem

Branches reaching out, like fingers 

stretching in all directions under a cloudless sky.

Ribbons of light cut through the thin leaves,

Making them nearly transparent as they filter the sun.

A breeze blows from the west

Clearing some sand off my sneakers,

Upsetting the stillness of the sunlight.

A more tranquil place cannot be found.


And yet.


And yet.


The nightmares those trees have seen.

The screams those trees have heard. 

Screams from women being ripped apart

Clawing the earth



like those trunks to their roots.

Women’s blood covering those roots,

A horrifying imitation of irrigation.

Men too.

Raped, butchered beyond recognition,

The pain swallowed by the earth beneath.


Those trees have felt the vibrations of

pounding feet on that earth.

The desperate attempts at escape.

The out of breath, heart racing run


So too have they felt the tip toe silent feet,

in hiding.

Knowing that a single sigh

A single sob

A single sound of despair

Could mean despair.


The four o’clock sun is warming my cheeks.

I imagine each pair of eyes looking into mine

as I close my lids.

I imagine how different the sun may have looked at sunrise

in October,

That fateful morning,

Coming through those same branches.

I imagine that the trees are bent in deference,

An apologetic bow,

In quiet repentance

For standing by 

as witness. 

About the Author
Dena Rothstein is a sixth grade Social Studies teacher in New York City, where she lives with her husband and three children.
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