Michael Jackson

Voltaire and Gaza   

On November 1st, 1755 an earthquake struck Lisbon, then the third-biggest port in Europe. A tsunami and fires followed the earthquake. It was 9:40 AM on All Saints Day and many devout Lisboners were at mass. 90,000 died. Voltaire wrote a devastating poem “Poem on the disaster of Lisbon” attacking those who believed it was the work of God. I have changed only the number of dead and place names. For those who see God’s hand behind the IDF bombing, this revised poem may be appropriate.

Behold these shreds and cinders of your race,

This child and mother heaped in common wreck,

These scattered limbs beneath the marble shafts—

Twenty-five thousand whom the earth devours,

Who, torn and bloody, palpitating yet,

Entombed beneath their hospitable roofs,

In racking torment end their stricken lives.

To those expiring murmurs of distress,

To that appalling spectacle of woe,

Will ye reply: “You do but illustrate

The iron laws that chain the will of God”?

Say ye, over that yet quivering mass of flesh:

“God is avenged: the wage of sin is death”?

What crime, what sin, had those young hearts conceived

That lie, bleeding and torn, on mother’s breast?

Did fallen Gaza deeper drink of vice

Than Jerusalem, Haifa, or sunlit Tel Aviv?

In these men dance; at Gaza yawns the abyss.

Those who can may wish to read the French original.

About the Author
Born in London in 1949. Studied Maths at Warwick University. Came to Israel (WUJS program at Arad) in 1971. I became a citizen and served in the army in 1973. Returned to the UK in 1974. Worked in Information Systems. Married an American Orthodox woman in 1977 and moved to America. For a few years I have led a retiree philosophy class.
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