In This Land – Israel Impressions

A week ago, just before I left the States to fly to Israel, this land was an idea, vivid mental and emotional impressions based on Torah and generations of Jewish stories and song. All of this information was spiced with pieces of “real time” friendly advice from people who knew I was about to embark on my first trip to Israel. “The produce is amazing,” one said. “The people can be chutzpadik, sometimes abrupt, seemingly unfriendly,” another warned me. “But if you really need help, most Israelis will offer some,” said another.

On the two nights before I left, I awoke shortly after midnight, not tired, or worried, not even overly excited; simply awake. Considering the time difference (Israel is seven hours ahead of Vermont), I was actually waking up around my usual time, and I sensed that my body and spirit were starting to make some mysterious adjustments in anticipation of being in this land.

I wrote “In This Land,” before leaving the US, weaving together all the many impressions and information – ancient and modern – described above. The only thing added to it since arriving here is the jackal. Outside the apartment where I am staying is a large area of small trees, shrubs, and tangled foliage. Every night I hear the howling of jackals on the hunt in the darkness. The howling reminds me of the coydogs back in New England. For me, a die-hard country girl, the howling is both scary and surprisingly comforting!

I’m curious to see how all the impressions, assumptions, information and advice from others who had previously been here match those I will make as the people and landscape become more familiar to me. Will the images and pre-impressions of Israel contained in the piece “In This Land” hold up in the light of being here? Only time will tell.

In this land the rocks speak holy words
the wind chants psalms as it blows through 
branches of date palms,
the jackal howls in the wilderness.

The people in this land are complex
rushing here and there like New Yorkers
on steroids, yet stopping to offer 
the stranger a cup of water

The people of this land know
a cup of water comes from the narrow place
between life and death.

In this land people have claims
to places that may never have existed.

that Place in the desert where Hagar’s son
almost died of thirst
that Place on the mountain where Sarah’s son
was bound and almost sacrificed.

What places in the desert belong to
the children of Ishmael?
What mountains belong to
the children of Isaac?

The stones keep speaking holy words
the wind keeps chanting psalms
the people keep rushing here and there,
stumbling toward an uncertain future.

The jackal still howls in the wilderness,
but the land will endure forever.



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