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Lamentation from Both Sides of the Fence

Lamentation from Both Sides of the Fence

Small candles lit in the shape of a heart

On a bus-stop bench in my Jerusalem neighborhood this morning, a couple in Muslim garb spoke softly to each other. On the same bench, an ultra-Orthodox man sat studying Talmud. Signs of hope for peace, for coexistence, are abundant in this city. They’ve been overwhelmed by images and emotions from actions at the Gaza border fence. What do we say to God in these moments of anguish? We cry in pain, we beseech heaven with our lamentations, and we beseech each other with our wailing. We ask, isn’t there a better way?

Crafted to avoid politics or accusation, it’s for everyone who has hardened their positions, be they politically right or left, Israeli or Palestinian. It’s for everyone on both sides of the fence and around the world who claim to know the truth, the undeniable validity of their views and exactly who to blame. It asks simply this: that we weep together.

The first stanza alludes to Isaiah 2:4:

“They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks, nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”

The final stanza quotes Lamentations 1:16:

“For these things do I weep, my eyes are flowing with tears.”

Let this wailing crack open our hearts to each other: Jew to Jew, Jew to Muslim, Muslim to Jew, Muslim to Muslim, Israeli to Palestinian, Palestinian to Israeli. And after we wail, let us pray for peace, let us pray that we sit together on the same benches, in friendship, creating a new legacy, together.

Lamentation from Both Sides of the Fence

Oh, my people,
Look at what we’ve done,
And look at what we’ve become,
Hardening our hearts,
Shutting our eyes,
Closing our minds,
Banishing justice and love from our midst,
Turning fears into swords,
And hopes into spears,
Defending, always defending,
Our divine rights
To sovereign land.

Woe to the land that has soaked up so much blood.
Woe to the sky that has witnessed so much death.
Woe to the sea that cannot calm our grieving souls.

You who cast peace and prosperity to the winds,
Chasing hope to the clouds,
Banishing sanity to the netherworlds,
We have lost too many sons,
We have grieved too many daughters,
We rend our clothes and sit in sackcloth too often,
And we are crying, always crying,
Deep in our veins.

Alas!
Darkness marches and madness sings,
‘Keep on, keep on, for this is the only path,’
While death dances with glee shouting,
‘Keep on, keep on, there is no other way.’

Oh, my people,
Look at what we’ve done,
And look at what we’ve become.
For these things do I weep,
My eyes are flowing with tears:
For the dead,
For the children,
For our aching hearts,
For this yearning for peace.

© 2018 Alden Solovy and tobendlight.com. All rights reserved.

Postscript: See also "For Peace in the Middle East" and "When Peace Comes: A Meditation."

Alden Solovy is a liturgist, poet, and teacher. His teaching spans from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem to Limmud UK and synagogues throughout the U.S. Before making aliyah to Israel in 2012, Alden was a member of Beth Emet-The Free Synagogue, Evanston, IL, and a regular participant in worship at B'nai Jeshoshua Beth Elohim, Deerfield, IL. He’s the author of Jewish Prayers of Hope and Healing. His writing also appears in several CCAR Press books, including the newly published anthology of his work, This Grateful Heart: Psalms and Prayers for a New Day.

Alden Solovy
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