Sleepless in Jerusalem and other Poems

Journal of Unification Studies Vol. 11, 2010 - Pages 131-136

for M, a Jewish friend

Behold, he who keeps Israel will
neither slumber nor sleep. Ps. 121:4

Visiting your ancestral homeland for the first time,

you say that you had the best sleep

      of your life –

the kind that only babies have!


I know what you mean but I pray

     that you wake quickly

     to the facts across town;

where the lines are being redrawn

and homes declared illegal

      by bureaucratic fiat

to be bulldozed, without compensation.



     no, I mean families;

     to be exact, non-Jewish families,

removed by armed soldiers

     following faceless orders from above

to soon stand, teeth gnashing,

     in utter despair

         amid unrecognizable rubble

children screaming, crying

     their toys crushed,

     their world gone,

now exposed to life’s inequities

at all too young an age.


Wake up!

There on the other side of town

enemies are being made;

yea, mass produced –

a house goes down,

     a wall goes up

cutting off the ‘Arabs’ from you

     and each other and jobs.

Soon you both will be totally

     estranged from each other.


Wake up –

there on the other side [of town]


     is having a nightmare,


     arm is reaching out

     as they are being pulled under by a tide of hate!


Wake up –

     join me in my sleeplessness.

For what kind of friend would I be

     to let you sleep in false tranquility?


My Beloved Holy Land

for all those who live there, especially my friends


Inside the old city of Jerusalem

there are many walls

with stone dry as bone bleached in desert sun

upon which,

in stark contrast and in random locations,

tenaciously and wondrously cling

tufts of green plants;

their names being

     Peace, Shalom and Salaam Alaikum.


Surrounding Jerusalem

there are rounded rocky parched hills

upon which gnarly twisted shrubs and trees

amazingly persist.

They are the cousins of

Peace, Shalom and Salaam Alaikum

and their names are

     Hope, Faith and Perseverance.


In and around Jerusalem

there are countless barren spots

and dusty empty lots

upon which are strewn

innumerable stones and rocks,

unlike those of my Long Island,

they are coarse and harsh

with sharp protruding edges

and in the hands of the displaced and occupied

their names are

     Hate, Anger and Frustration.


Above the thirsty troubled land

there is a pretty blue but empty sky;

the dry earth and plants below

cry out, wait and silently pray

for the return of messianic clouds

whose names are

     Prosperity, Forgiveness and Abundance.


Upon the many municipal hilltops

are dwellings,

stacked and tiered

spreading outward and down

made of that dry bleached stone,

which when hit by beams of golden sunlight

are mystically transformed

to an ethereal gleam

of cities that seem so close and yet so far away

their names being

     Redemption, Heaven and Paradise.


Silence Louder Than Words

Attending the Dialogue

at a time of terrible tragedy

between Israelis and Palestinians.


Many had much to say

but the one who said most of all


lips shivering, body trembling,

as rivers of words

ran silently down her cheeks.


The Jihad Within

There is within

every man

a Judas:

     grievance, jealousy

     that can fester, overwhelm

     and bring down

     the un-inoculated soul.


There is within

every man

a Christ;

     for otherwise

     how would we recognize

     the light, the spark,

     that pinch of leaven

     by which our soul

     can rise up to heaven.


Silent Night(s)


a Judean village,

a cold night,

a barn of sorts,

a baby born,

angels attending,

curious shepherds dropping in,

a guiding star,

strangers bearing gifts.


God watching,

a jealous king fearing for his sovereignty,

Barabbas scheming crime.

Love seeking a way out.


Not long ago:

a Korean village,

a cold night,

a thatched-roof house,

a newborn’s cry,

rice-growing farmers stopping by,

a mysterious golden crane arrives,

villagers bringing ginseng and herbs.


God all around,

trouble makers aplenty,

Japanese potentates with iron-like grip,

an almond-eyed Judas lurking in the shadows.

Love rising from the rice paddies

taking root, growing, pollinating

a new Roman Empire

and then the world beyond.


Author’s Note: Who’s to say there can’t and won’t be another ‘silent night’ catching all by surprise. Pick an unlikely place and meditate on it.