Because it has been rattling around in my head the last few days, and because it is beautiful and powerful, I thought I’d share a poem by my friend Yosefa Raz, from her book In Exchange for a Homeland. The third stanza from the bottom is the one that really kills me (but read the whole thing, for pete’s sake.)
by Yosefa Raz
They consider themselves to be allowed to own only what they hold in their hands, or between their teeth.
â€“ Franz Kafka on Jews
On Shabbat Abu Gosh is bumper to bumper.
What mirror land
where we seek only Lebanese hummus,
Syrian olives, to hold between our teeth?
Up the road you can buy wicker chairs and potted plants,
Armenian pottery, pink almond sweets off a truck.
The first restaurant was built with lottery money.
Hummus joints were fruitful; they multiplied.
Are they happy to feed us?
Better this than construction work,
building our squat, red-roofed houses.
We ask about the waiterâ€™s family: family is important to them.
The lemon tree courtyards are walled; they hide their women.
We gorge on stuffed grape leaves,
skewered meat. Itâ€™s cheaper here.
Theyâ€™re even learning to serve ketchup with the chips.
In this spring day weâ€™re tourists in our own imagined future.
Peace might be like this:
curly haired boys bringing out plates of little salads:
no extra charge
and the village of white-washed houses, feeding us
as if it knew down under we were still refugees;
needed the famous Arab hospitality
to help us acclimate, forget our scars.
This is the land itself: the dark olive oil, almost muddy,
how even the cookies are a little salty.
We say thereâ€™s nothing like Arab hummus,
but learn nothing.