A Dialogue Among the Deaf

On Tuesday, the uncle of one of my Arabic-language students was slaughtered by an axe-wielding Palestinian man in Synagogue as he prayed.

On Tuesday, the uncle of one of my Arabic students was slaughtered by an axe-wielding Palestinian man in Synagogue as he prayed.

On Tuesday, the uncle of one of my Arabic students was slaughtered by an axe-wielding Palestinian man in Synagogue as he prayed.

I write it over and over again to make the words real, because I do not and cannot believe them. Even though tomorrow I will go sit Shiva with my student and her family. Even though yesterday I cried what felt like tears of poisoned gas, sobbing on a park bench as a new friend held my hand in uncomfortable silence.

I cannot work today. I can take no solace in the comforts of Arabic Grammar or Hebrew flashcards. My class on the Talmud was an exercise in misery, my Kaballah seminar left me numb. I cannot eat, or breathe, or forget, or pretend to be normal.

My two best friends here in Jerusalem are Palestinian Christians, so young as to be just hatched, children old before their time, in pain and in resignation. I love them both so much, so quickly, it hurts. And Tuesday, after the balagan (craziness) in the morning, I invited them over for dinner, because, like a good Jewish woman, I have a need to heal people by feeding them. They both declined–if they stayed out too late, the road home would be barricaded by the Israeli army, collective punishment for a crime neither of them committed.

I want to scream at somebody, but I don’t know at who: WHAT IS GOING ON? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE? Why are you doing this to one another? I love you both so, so much–my Jews in their prayer shawls, my Palestinians in their Keffiyat, I love you. Why do you dance in the streets and celebrate the death of one another? Why do we do this to each other? Where is God today?

Eli, Eli, Lama, Lama Sabachthani?

I lack the words to tell you the joy that fills me when I leave my house every morning and I see the Dome of the Rock. It is the first thing I notice on my walk to school, it is the golden gleam that illuminates my days and my twilights. It is where paradise begins for me, lit from within by the devotion of the faithful. When I stood and prayed at the Western Wall, I could not stop my smiles, standing at the feet of the Holy of Holies, sending my love into the very stones upon which my faith was built.

I overflow with אהבה, with الحب. When the call to prayer rises for the Haram al-Sharif, I quiet myself and sit in rapture. When I see the Rabbi wrap himself in tefilin and sway in devotion at the Wall, a great peace steals over me.

I do not understand the hate that surrounds me in this holy city. I literally do not comprehend it, not in the slightest. I feel so much love, so much love, I cannot contain it, I feel that it spills out from me in my voice and in my touch and through the very soles of my feet, healing the cracked limestones of this yellowed city.

I pray constantly. I am not a religious woman, and I am not what anyone in their right mind would call devout. But this city calls out to me, this broken, beautiful place, it cries out in the rattling of bombed-out windows, in the throwing of bloodied stones: Hear, Oh Israel! Jews and Palestinians cannot continue like this. Humanity is one! Humanity is one!

But I fear I am-in the words of Nizar Qabanni–“inventing a new alphabet for an illiterate city, saying my prayers in an empty church, pouring my wine for those who cannot taste it.” Is this merely a dialogue among the deaf? Are my words of love fighting an unwinnable war against hatreds I cannot comprehend?

God of my fathers I know I am a sinner and a heretic and I am all that your holy books condemn. I flout the commandments, and I take joy in my iniquities. But I beg of you, heed the cries of your most wicked child. Let there be peace.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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2 thoughts on “A Dialogue Among the Deaf

    1. thank you. I’m trying to write the unwritable, and I appreciate your kind words.

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