Noise and Silence in Israel/Palestine Today

By Shachar Pinsker

This is a rather long and not very happy post. You wouldn’t find here much that is new in terms of facts or even analysis of what’s going on in Israel/Palestine. It’s just a personal account of, and some reflections on one eventful night around here. If you are reading it, please feel free to share it, but only with people who might appreciate it (I’m not in a mood for arguments now).

So, on Thursday, July 17, 8 PM, I made my way to Ha-Bima Sq. in the heart of Tel Aviv in order to attend an event organized by “Breaking the Silence.” This is an organization of “veteran combatants who have served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories.” ( Breakingthesilence.org.il)

This particular event was designed as a two hours series of testimony readings by soldiers who fought in Gaza. It was a haunting, chilly series of testimonies, and it seemed to me to be the most fitting and dignified response (for Israeli Jews) to the war raging around us.

It was small but relatively well attended event (perhaps a few hundred people – including some good friends and colleagues), but it is impossible to ignore the noisy rally of people who came – quite literally – to silence it. This motley crew of people (I have no idea where they came from, and it’s probably futile to guess) came armed with huge flags of Israel, and with deafening singing and shouting. At some point, a few of them tried to break in the small crowd into the improvised stage and stop the reading, but the police – which was on high alert after the violence that happened in a previous demonstration in the same square a few days ago – stopped them and apparently took them away. At some point, some people came to the square with huge noisy motorcycles (Harley, or something similar) and joined in the attempt to silence and intimidate. Their noise and the images of the motorcycles reminded me of other places and times and sent chills down my spine. This frightening noise continued for quite some time, but the evening proceeded smoothly if tensely without much visible violence.

Around 10 PM, as the reading was about to commence, I began to make my way home via an exhibition/gallery space (The Helena Rubinstein Pavilion)… and then the noisy siren came. At this point in time, everybody in Tel Aviv is very used to the sirens and most people went quickly to a shelter or any indoor space. I waited a few seconds to hear the noisy booms that supposed to quiet the people and to indicate the Iron Dome system intercepting the rackets, and I went out.

Then I heard very noisy shouts and I was worried, because my son was around there with some of his Tel Aviv friends. I went close by, and I sew a small group of young people (probably those of attended the reading) chanting: “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies.” Opposite them, there was what sounded like a huge and very noisy crowd shouting: “Death to the Arabs; Death to the left-wingers” (perhaps they said “left-wingers are traitors” – nuances get lost in the noise!). It seemed that if the police would not have been there in the middle, these angry, hateful people will really kill the “left-wingers” who dared to express some Jewish-Arab solidarity and friendship. I was so depressed, shocked (and also very tired) that I was silent and decided to be straight home….and then I saw and heard in the news that a massive IDF force has entered Gaza, for what was described by the army spokesman to be “a messy operation.” It seemed to me that all hell broke loose. Even more desperation and hopelessness overcame me.

It was very difficult for me to sleep last night, as the noise of combat airplanes flying over Tel Aviv intermingled with the memory of these heinous shouts: “Death to the Arabs; Death to the left-wingers.”I don’t have any words of wisdom or comfort for you. There is too much noise, and even the silence is scary these days, as if waiting for something more terrible to happen.

Since today is Friday (and a Ramadan Friday) and it will be Shabbat here in just a few hours, I think that all is left to do – even for the most secular and/or cynical among us – is to pray, in silence or in noise.

Here is a beautiful prayer written commonly by two local women and religious leaders, Sheikh Ibtisam Mahameed and Rabbi Tamar Elad-Appelbaum, in response to the bloodshed and horror.

(you can find the Hebrew and Arabic version of the prayer and more background about a wonderful event that took place two days ago here) https://www.facebook.com/events/1436279683313129/:

God of Life
Who heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds
May it be your will to hear the prayer of mothers
For you did not create us to kill each other
Nor to live in fear, anger or hatred in your world
But rather you have created us so we can grant permission to one another to sanctify
Your name of Life, your name of Peace in this world.
For these things I weep, my eye, my eye runs down with water
For our children crying at nights,
For parents holding their children with despair and darkness in their hearts
For a gate that is closing and who will open it while day has not yet dawned.
And with my tears and prayers which I pray
And with the tears of all women who deeply feel the pain of these difficult days
I raise my hands to you please God have mercy on us
Hear our voice that we shall not despair
That we shall see life in each other,
That we shall have mercy for each other,
That we shall have pity on each other,
That we shall hope for each other
And we shall write our lives in the book of Life
For your sake God of Life
Let us choose Life.
For you are Peace, your world is Peace and all that is yours is Peace,
And so shall be your will and let us say Amen.

 

מלך חפץ בחיים
הרופא לשבורי לב ומחבש לעצבותם

שמע נא תפילת אמהות
שאתה לא בראתנו על מנת שנהרוג זה בזה
ולא על מנת שנחיה בפחד, כעס ושנאה בעולמך
אלא על מנת שנדע לתת רשות זה לזה לקיים את שמך
שם חיים, שם שלום בעולם.

על אלה אני בוכיה עיני עיני יורדה מים
על ילדים בוכים מפחד בלילות
על הורים אוחזים עולליהם וייאוש ואפלה בלבם
על שער אשר נסגר ומי יקום ויפתחהו טרם פנה יום.

ובדמעות ובתפלות שאני מתפללת כל הזמן
ובדמעות כל הנשים שכואבות את הכאב החזק בזמן הקשה הזה
הריני מרימה את ידיי למעלה אנא ממך אדוני רחם עלינו
שמע קולנו ה׳ אלהינו בימי הרעה האלה שלא נתייאש
ונראה חיים זה בזה
ונרחם זה על זה
ונצטער זה על זה
ונקווה לזה לזה

ונכתוב את חיינו בספר החיים
למענך אלהים חיים.
תן שנבחר בחיים.
כי אתה שלום וביתך שלום וכל אשר לך שלום
וכן יהי רצון ונאמר אמן.

أغنية الحياة والسلام
صلاة مشتركة
اله الحياة
الذي يُشفي القلوب الحزينة والمتألمة
استمع لو سمحت الى صلاة الأمهات
لأنك لم تخلقنا لكي نقتل بعضنا بعضاً
وليس لكي نعيش بحالة من الخوف, الغضب والكراهية في عالمك هذا
بل لكي نسمح لبعضنا البعض أن نذكر أسمك
اسم الحياة, اسم السلام في العالم.

على جميع هؤلاء أنا أبكي دوماً
أبكي خوفاً على الأطفال في الليالي
يحمل الآباء أطفالهم الصغار واليأس والظلام في قلوبهم
على البوابة التي أغلقت والتي لا نعرف من سوف يقوم بفتحها

وبالدموع والصلوات التي أصليها طيلة الوقت
وبدموع النساء اللواتي يشعرن بهذا الألم القوي في هذه الأوقات العصيبة
أنا أرفع يدي اليك يا ربي أن ترحمنا
لنعيش مع بعضنا البعض
ونشفق على بعضنا البعض
ونواسي بعضنا البعض
ونأمل الخير لبعضنا البعض

ولكي نكتب قصة حياتنا في كتاب الحياة
من أجلك يا اله الحياة
امنحنا أن نختار الحياة
لأنك السلام ومنزلتك السلام وكل ما لديك سلام
بإذن الله لنقل آمين
ابتسام محاميد وتمار العاد- أفلڨوم

Mirrored from Shachar Pinsker’s University of Michigan Homepage

Shachar Pinsker is Associate Professor of Hebrew Literature at the University of Michigan and author of Literary Passports: The Making of Modernist Hebrew Fiction in Europe
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