By the time I reached graduate school in 1976, I had formed an unwavering belief that the state of Israel is a historical imperative. During the days following the October 7 terrorist attack, memories of a visit to Israel in 1997 preoccupied my thoughts. Each memory slowly faded to a Holocaust image, time after time. The poem, “I’m in Israel today” depicts the memories and fears that I felt when Israel was brutally attacked by Hamas.
October 15, 2023
* * *
I’m in Israel today.
Through the window of memory, I see
young parents, caressing their newborn,
at rest in a Jerusalem park.
The infant’s blue blanket
fades to black and white.
A well-dressed Nazi smashes the baby against the wall.
I hear my Dad say, “Their boots were really shiny, just like the movies”.
My toes snuggle with the sand in Haifa.
The tide rolls out and azure drains from the sea.
Six million pair of shoes smell like ashes and hatred.
I’m walking to the Wall, tonight is Simchat Torah!
Joy becomes a shadow at the gate.
Bubbe and her granddaughter walk to the left.
Both will be smoke before dawn.
An ancient copper tray sits on carpets in the Old City.
We drink Turkish coffee and speak of peace.
I close my eyes.
A can of Zyklon B spills screams and kaddish.
We drive through the territories
en route to Tiberias.
Our driver says, “Keep silent if we’re stopped.”
I slink down in my seat
to the putrid floor of the boxcar.
“Rebbe, what will become of us?”
“Listen to the sound of the wheels screaming.”
In Safed, or Zefat, as we say.
An old Jewish women stares at my Magen David,
leans in and whispers, “Aren’t you afraid?”