In July, as the Israel/Gaza conflict heated up again, I was studying in the Rabbinic Leadership Initiative at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. Despite the conflict, our rabbinic group decided to stay throughout the entire program. The experience was profound and life-changing. Spending my days studying with some of the leading thinkers on Jewish tradition, ethics, philosophy and contemporary realities underpinned an emotionally stirring environment, where my teachers all had close kin involved in the conflict, and “Code Red” sirens had inserted themselves into our daily existence.
This “poem” for peace was motivated by the news stories reporting leaflets dropped on Gaza residential neighbourhoods by the IDF, warning of impending military operations. I was struck by the imagery of the thousands of pieces of paper drifting in the hot Mediterranean wind, over civilians trapped in a conflict zone with whom I shared the fear of war.
Inspired by the famous poem of Shaul Tchernikovsky, I believe, words from which appear on the back of the new Israeli 50 shekel bill, I dedicate these verses to all those living in fear under the hot Middle Eastern sun.
Laugh at me, Laugh at my dreams,
So say I, the dreamer,
Laugh at me because I still believe in man,
Because I still believe in you.
Because my soul still yearns for freedom,
I haven't sold it for a golden calf,
Because I still believe in man,
In his powerful spirit.
Shaul Tchernichovsky 1875-1943
I dreamt a dream…
They came from the sky. Thousands of white leaflets floated over streets, homes and ruins of Gaza. But the hot wind caressed these pages and carried some of them back to Israel and even into my small room.
Black over white, the paper read: “Get out, Get out…” But as the papers began to fall over the land, in the midst of their flight, the leaflets turned into hundreds of white doves. I have never seen so many doves before; hundreds, maybe thousands. The people of Gaza and Israel turned towards heaven, and at first, fear was upon their faces… but then it changed to expressions of wonder as these white doves landed on the streets, shoulders and outstretched arms of the inhabitants of Gaza and Israel. So rare is this creature in these parts of the earth, that none has been seen since the time of Noah. There was so much white in my dream that it looked like the first, pure snow… I reached out for my dove, my Yonah, the one on the edge of my bed…
I was awakened, startled, by a loud noise. My window banged shut by the chilly Jerusalem night wind. I shivered, and from the dark a verse of a poem found me. The one I read on Shabbat eve:
“Laugh at me, Laugh at my dreams, So say I, the dreamer…”
On the streets of Jerusalem people seem to go about their business, but all of us have war and dreams on our mind.
HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, WE SAY,
YOU ARE THE LOVER OF LIFE, MY YONAH, YOU ARE THE LOVER OF LIFE,
YOU HEAL THE FLESH AND MEND A BROKEN HEART,
YOU UNITE AND YOU GIVE UNDERSTANDING…
AND THERE ARE THOSE WHO WILL LAUGH AT OUR DREAMS,
SO SAY I, THE DREAMER…
BUT I STILL BELIEVE IN MAN AND I STILL BELIEVE IN YOU.