Sunrise in Susiya – A Poem for the Global Shabbat Against Demolitions

Photo by A. Daniel Roth.

This Shabbat, activists in 15 locations around the world will hold events, actions and Shabbat services under the framework of a Global Shabbat Against Demolition (New York City, London, Pittsburgh, Susiya, Chicago, Melbourne, Cleveland, North Texas Bay Area, Tucson, Ithaca, Washington DC, St. Louis, Boston & Belgium).

The #ShabbatAgainstDemoliton is organized by folks from All That’s Left and the Center for Jewish Nonviolence, in solidarity with Palestinian communities, on both sides of the Green Line, who are facing immediate threats of demolition and destruction:

”The State of Israel is threatening the immanent demolition of four villages home to hundreds of Palestinian families. In the past weeks, bulldozers continued preparing the land of Al Araqib for a future JNF forest, and crept closer to Umm El-Hiran, a village set for demolition to make room for a new Jewish town. Meanwhile, the fate of Susiya lies in the hands of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and residents of Um Il-Khier report being in immediate threat of demolition as well.

As Jews, we say emphatically that forced displacement, dislocation, and demolition do not represent our values. These demolitions represent a continued policy of systematic discrimination. As members of a people who have experienced expulsion, persecution, and dispossession, we stand with all Palestinian communities facing eviction.”

In this vein, I want to re-offer a poem I wrote last summer, after about 100 of us from All That’s Left spent the night in Susiya, and held our first Shabbat service there, with the blessing of the residents.


Sunrise in Susiya 

I woke in the middle of the night laughing

from fear of a dog or a coyote or a ghoul

that wandered by my head snuffling

and grumbling and my god the stars!

And then The Orders

crawled into my mind

and I thought:

But the people would be so cold

Without their homes.

And I thought:

Who would want to demolish

A jungle gym.

And I think and think my thoughts are tangles

of smoke. The Orders surround the village

like pillars of dust and sand swirling

into the sky sourced by some unseen

force, by a cruelty that need not look

into the faces of its consequence.

Shooting stars, Musab told me, as we gathered

rocks into buckets made of tires so as

to make the Bir el-Eid road be more bearable,

are God blasting the demons from the sky

so we can sleep.


Come on!

The wild symphony of snorting

goats and the nasal bleat of a young man

stubbled and snoring next to me.

We were all sunned and satiated

and stunned, around the fire

the men and boys of the village got up

to do a dance to the music shronkling

out of the car’s stereo. Dabka, I murmured,

as my fingers walked along the ridges

of my love’s palm and she nodded

but their circle never broke into a line

they just stood around the fire, bobbing

their knees, grinning and clapping off

rhythm and laughing shyly until Sho

from our group got up to join them

Bending his knees and bobbing in perfect

rhythm to the dance’s imperfect rhythm.

O God Who Bops the Demons

Bless this car’s stereo that it’s crinkly hymns

May grace the face of this desert forever

O God Who Lets the Rooster Crow All Night

Bless the hands of the Order Writers that they may

forget goddam all of their cunning and instead write love

poems to Susiya, letters of apology to Bir el-Eid

to Um al-Kheir.

Sonnets of sorrow and gentleness.

O God

Bless little Hamudi who chased a rabbit into the hills

Laughing and Isaac who was worried that Hamudi would

be hurt, not by circumstance,

but by people

who would hurt

the little Hamudis out there.

Accept our prayers although we are

but dust and Twitter accounts and overeager smiles.

You must have felt the holiness of our Kabbalat Shabbat

prayed on Palestinian Susiya’s rocks, wielded not as a weapon

Against the Palestinian Susiyans

but with their blessing.

A timid and aching rebuke echoing off the walls of settlement

smugly snuggled into the hill, whose residents are much like us

and who we might much like (if we didn’t talk Susiyas).

You’re not Jews, though, right, Musab said.

We are Jews, I said in Arabic.

And he kicked a rock and then grinned

OK, you are Jews.

Later, he friended me on Facebook.

The sun rises in Susiya

As it does every morning.

But this is the first time

I am here to see it cresting

over the village.

And the Olive Trees

And Hives of Bees

And Hillsides Made of Stone

And the Bobbing Knees

And the Cups of Teas

Know that you aren’t alone,