Author’s note: Like many Jews around the world, I’ve been following the news out of Israel closely the past month and a half. In this piece, I continue to explore my responses to the conflict in Israel and Gaza. I began these explorations in my previous post, “Sitting in Pain in Israel and Gaza.”
The enemy of Israel shakes hands with the enemy of the Jews. The mother of the kidnapped scholar shakes. Just after the explosion, five fresh eggs shake.
In some places, the enemies of the Jews disguise themselves as enemies of Israel. In some places, an enemy of Israel disguises himself as a Jew, a Hasid in fedora boarding an egged bus.
Some days, the enemies of Israel and the enemies of the Jews quietly sip coffee. Yesterday, you had to listen carefully to hear a thin sliver of quiet while the mob on the Parisian street caught its breath.
You going to the Enemies of the Jews show? The Enemies of Israel is opening. I have to show my face at the solidarity rally. Besides, I hate heavy metal music.
An enemy of Israel marries an enemy of the Jews. Their daughter, a religious Zionist, marries a boy in the Givati Brigade.
Enemies of Israel come and go and come. Come, says God, at the start of each new day. Come, says God, to the enemy of the Jews, be part of my creation.
The enemies of the Jews cheer when the enemies of Israel have their day. But their cheer turns to anger when a Jew pops up alive here and there, on CNN, in the Jew York Times.
Like Israel, the enemies of Israel dream of peace. Like Jews, the enemies of the Jews dream (some call it a nightmare) in white and blue.
I’m an American Jew, but sometimes it seems that I, too, live within the borders of Israel, greater Israel. Is that how you see me, enemy of Israel? Or do you see me as an old-fashioned cosmopolitan Jew?
After fighting ends, the enemies of Israel gather remains of dead houses, donkeys, sons. Around the world, enemies of the Jews grumble, mutter, vow not to rest as long as there is a Jew somewhere in the world who prays, “You have not granted this day, Shabbat, Lord our God, to other peoples of the world.”
At the beach in August, the tide is high then low, high then low. Are any of the vacationers on Kitty Hawk Beach enemies of Israel or enemies of the Jews? Yes? No? Judging only by their skimpy and modest bathing suits, their splendid, bulging, or sagging flesh, it’s hard to know.
The enemies of Israel, enemies of the Jews: journalists? architects? engineers? Bankers, barbers, athletes, clerks? Look around the room. There’s room enough for everyone to join the party, room enough even for an Israeli, even a Jew. (“Some of us,” says one congregational rabbi, “are our own worst enemies.”)
The enemies of the Jews know better than you how hard it is to rid the world, as God has commanded them, of Jews. The enemies of Israel know enough about Israel to rage against those who shatter holy light!
The friends of Israel? I will get to them another day.
Even when Israel recedes, for a period, from the news, the enemies of Israel continue to gather material for the day when Israel will explode again in print and on screens around the world.
And what of the famous lion, the famous lamb? They are weary, they would like to lie, already, side by side, on the grass. Some days the enemies of Israel and Israel seem weary, too. So, they agree to a fragile, fraught, fierce truce, and lie, each in their place, suspicious neighbors in a somewhat long and narrow land.
I have placed before you, said God to the ancient Israelites, a curse and a curse. Secure a path between them. So they tried, in ancient times, and try today. Meanwhile, the enemies of Israel, the enemies of the Jews seek a cure for modernity.
Those who kill our children must be killed. Who said this, the enemies of Israel or Israelis, the enemies of the Jews or Jews?
It’s unlikely that Jerusalem will be destroyed, but who knows? It’s happened before. Before the Dome of the Rock. Before the Iron Dome.
So many Jews, so many kinds of Jews gathered in all-purpose rooms all across America to support Israel and learn a thing or two about its latest war. What unites is what divides them: a speaker’s characterization of the enemies of Israel and the superiority of Jews.
The enemies of the Jews love the Jew, their creator without whom they would not exist. The enemies of Israel love Israel, which, after all, they helped create.
Their theme is well known, but do they, the enemies of Israel, enemies of the Jews, have an anthem?
If there’s a solution to the problem of Israel and its enemies, it’s unlikely to come from a U.N. resolution.
For some, the hour is late. What do they hear as they lie in bed awake all night? The chink, chink of the digging of tunnels? The whistle of rockets? The hum of drones? Will better angels ever return to a broken, divided land? To whom will they speak? What will they say?
For now, at night, some pray, some tremble, some weep.
Richard Chess is the author of threebooks of poetry,Tekiah, Chair in the Desert, and Third Temple. Poems of his have appeared in Telling and Remembering: A Century of American Jewish Poetry, Bearing the Mystery: Twenty Years of IMAGE, and Best Spiritual Writing 2005. He is the Roy Carroll Professor of Honors Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. He is also the director of UNC Asheville’s Center for Jewish Studies.