An Old Palestinian Heart still Beats on
Mon 26th Dec 2016
In the bleak midwinter I dragged my aching bones and sagging flesh
Up so many steps that I had to stop awhile to catch a breath or two.
I like that witching hour of the night when my bed opens up and engulfs me.
I rest my large square head upon my right arm as I hold a yellowing novel in my left.
Head resting and so eyes roving away from the page to my enlarged arm;
Which, behold, shocks my younger self with its wrinkled skin fluttering away,
Toward younger and firmer days when my beloved lay aside me whispering
Such words of love that make the heart flutter, the mind mutter and that other -
Rampant with youth, manhood and coursing love running in every vein.
Now, it is an effort to read as the eyes dim a little and the ears hear even less
Not that there is a beloved to whisper since she has lain below ground for these
Many decades gone since by the River Thames sat we so in love and she dedicated
It all to one long gallop over the green green Oxford fields and let her soul float away.
A long long time ago and with her went a greater part of me aloft in search
Of her who will never be found and who was never lost in the first place.
And eyes gather their nightly heaviness and the book falls over the side
And all daily strife slowly ebbs away as youth returns in dreams full of all
That has been, has not been, can be and cannot be - the colours of dreams.
And I dream of Palestine. The Holy Land. Bilad al Sham. Israel. Palaestina.
That province in the Roman Empire.
Jund Filastin. Jund al-Urdun. Jebel el-Tih and the Jifar.
What's in a name? That which we call Palestine by any other name would smell as sweet.
For, what it is or was matters little in dreams - they are the realities we wish for ourselves.
I think that this is Netanya where my father is, was, has been, will be, had been.
Netanya in Ottoman days so recently just before he even thought of Der Judenstaat and they all laughed at him.
Behold. Look. See. It is all there right before my sharp young vision as far as the eyes can see.
Gentle hills undulating upwards
Smiling down on the golden beaches
Empty of life except for warmth
Streaming from the midday sun.
Children run in from the left
As if the vision were a picture
Four or five running toward the waves.
Wave after wave rises up and crashes
Athwart their shining legs embraced
In childish laughter where tomorrow.
Will never come and yesterday is forgot.
And these children will not grow
Because the now is just right -
So, why leave it and lose its magic.
I float above their joy and laughter
Towards the east because I can.
And there lies Bethlehem with its
Little church recounting many lives.
And a little away is Nazareth
Where He was said to have been born
On a bleak midwinter like this one
And where was also born a love
That will one day be sorely needed again.
But that was in the future.
For now, all time stands still
And those living on the land
Have eternity before them
Because this was their land
And could never have been otherwise.
Side by side watering the land
With the sweat of their brows
And the waters of their births
Beast and man in peace and harmony.
Even in my sleep I knew 'twas a dream.
There before me are rocky mountains
Cascading little stones to remind the passer by
Of a past now gone melded into a present that is
And a future that we now know will never be.
The olive tree, gnarled with age, cannot speak
Of all that it has seen and knows not the inhumanity
Of its future immolation as a symbol of an erased history
Still to come: but for now, in this dream, is my father
and there my mother having spent that night
Side by side, as one, making the future that writes these lines.
She loves him and he, severe looking, smiles
For her eyes can bewitch any growl and soften any pomposity
Into dulcet whispers of love, eternal love, never ceasing love
Here in green, hilly, fecund, ancient, happy happy land
Of my father and his before him to time immemorial.
This is Palestine with its people of all faiths
And its history of mixed pasts seeped in Semitic humanity.
And by the beaches stand a mother and her child
The child in me asking: "Who are these people born of waves?"
"Jews. Jews that nobody wants. Jews that nobody cares about."
And the boy walks down the slope and takes a trembling hand
Leading its owner past British guns and into Palestine.
And then, the land was shared in accordance with the Golden Rule.
And 1948 never was and all that came beyond.
As all humans in Palestine lived in harmony and peace
Until the end of days when, the greater being
Resolved their differences of the real world
And pushed all back into the dream world that led to the end of days.
Jew, Christian, Muslim or none.
What separates one from the other?
And what unites?
What causes the hatred and its cruelty.
And what the love?
What pushes one to starve the other?
And what to feed?
What to hate one another?
And what to nurture?
Why the differences - so few - separated by the piercing bullet?
What the similarities? The commonalities?
That bind each to each and keep these
Hills, rocks, beaches, towns, cities, green fields
A shared home not in the dream
But in that reality that makes you love your son
As I do my daughter
Just as you value your daughter
And I my son
And you love your parents
As I do mine
Both to obey
And, most of all,
To cherish your brother and sister
And so to cherish me as I will you.
Wake up from your dream and join your ageless hand in mine
Let us go forth into the land and make all thereafter just fine
And turn the dream of peace, love and family lore
Our common fate that will hold us in peace forevermore.