Night has fallen in Israel, bringing with it one of the most solemn 24 hours in the calendar – Yom Hashoa – Holocaust Memorial Day.
So the paradox was clear: What better weekend than this could there have been to arrange a poetry presentation in a bomb shelter?
Moreover, the place where it happened is not simply a haven from potential murder but one now used as a synagogue bearing the name ‘Kehillla Emet v’Shalom – The Congregation of Truth and Peace’.
The meeting was arranged in the picturesque northern seaside resort of Nahariya and the poems were written and read by members of Voices Israel, Israel’s national English language poetry society. The organisation, established in the early 1970s, now has about 150 members living both in Israel and overseas.
“You who live secure
In your warm houses,
Who return at evening to find
Hot food and friendly faces:
‘Consider whether this is a man,
Who labours in the mud
Who knows no peace
Who fights for a crust of bread
Who dies at a yes or a no.
Consider whether this is a woman,
Without hair or name
With no more strength to remember
Eyes empty and womb cold
As a frog in winter.
“Consider that this has been:
I commend these words to you.
Engrave them on your hearts
When you are in your house, when you walk on your way,
When you go to bed, when you rise.
Repeat them to your children.
Or may your house crumble,
Disease render you powerless,
Your offspring avert their faces from you”.
© Natalie Wood (28 April 2014)