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At the gates of Gaza

Nurit Peled-Elhanan
26 January 2008

These words are dedicated to the heroes of Gaza who have proven once again that no fortified wall can imprison the free spirit of humanity and no form of violence can subdue life.

The appeal to go today to the gates of Gaza at the height of the pogrom being carried out by the thugs of the Occupation army against the residents of the Gaza Strip has terrible echoes of another appeal that was sent out into the air of the impassive world more than a hundred years ago.*

“Arise and go now to the city of slaughter;
Into its courtyard wind your way;
There with your own hand touch, and with the eyes of your head,
Behold on tree, on stone, on fence, on mural clay,
The spattered blood and dried brains of the dead.”

What can one think as one stands at the gates of Gaza?

Only this:

“There in the dismal corner, there in the shadowy nook,
Multitudinous eyes will look”

What can we imagine today as we stand at the gates of Gaza, other than

“A babe beside its mother flung,
Its mother speared, the poor chick finding rest
Upon its mother’s cold and milkless breast;

And “how a dagger halved an infant’s word,
Its ma was heard, its mama never heard.
O, even now its eyes from me demand accounting,”

And what can we say to this infant, who demands from us accounting – we who stand helpless at the gates of Gaza? What will we explain to him and to all the hungry, sick children locked in that terrible ghetto, surrounded by wire fences, what can we say to the babies whose lives have been choked out of them in incubators before they began their lives because the State of the Jews shut off the flow of oxygen? What can we say to all the mothers who are searching for bread for their children in the streets of Gaza and what can we say to ourselves? Only this: sixty years after Auschwitz the State of the Jews is confining people in ghettoes and is killing them with hunger, asphyxiation and disease.

“Brief-weary and forespent, a dark Shekinah
Runs to each nook and cannot find its rest;
Wishes to weep, but weeping does not come;
Would roar; is dumb.
Its head beneath its wing, its wing outspread
Over the shadows of the martyr’d dead,
Its tears in dimness and in silence shed.”

Because today, as we stand at the gates of Gaza, we have no voice, we have no words and we have no deeds. There is not a single Yanosh Korchak among us who will go in and protect the children from the fire. There are no Righteous Gentiles who will endanger their lives in order to save the victims of Gaza. We stand forlorn and contemptible in front of the gates of evil, in front of the fences of death, and obey the racist laws that have taken control over our lives, and all of us are helpless.

When Bialik wrote:
” Satan has not yet created Vengeance for the blood of a small child,”

It did not occur to him that the child would be a Palestinian child from Gaza and his slaughterers would be Jewish soldiers from the Land of Israel.

And when he wrote:

Let the blood pierce
through the abyss! Let the blood seep
down into the depths of darkness, and
eat away there, in the dark, and breach
all the rotting foundations of the earth.

He did not imagine that those foundations would be the foundations of the Land of Israel. That the Jewish and Democratic State of Israel that uses the expression “blood on his hands” to justify its refusal to release freedom fighters and peace leaders would submerge us all in the blood of innocent babes up to our necks, up to our nostrils, so that every breath we take sends red bubbles of blood into the air of the Holy Land.

“And I, my heart is dead, no longer is there prayer
on my lips;

All strength is gone, and
hope is no more.

Until when,

How much longer,

Until when?”

* The poems “City of Slaughter” and “On Slaughter” were written by the Jewish poet Haim Nahman Bialik in tribute to the victims of the Kishinev Pogrom in 1903, Russia – trans.