Saturday, 31 January 2015

Ada’s Prize-Winning Testimony to Peace

Ada Aharoni, the respected Israeli writer and peace activist,  has won an international prize for her biography of a heroic Egyptian Jewish nurse.

The French translation of Not in Vain – an Extraordinary Life (Thea Woolf – La Femme en Blanc de l’Hopital d’Alexandrie), which charts the life and work of  the head nurse of the Jewish Hospital in Alexandria, Egypt during World War II, won first place from 3,000 entries for the Prix du Temoignage (Testimony Prize) 2015.

Egyptian-born Aharoni explains that her French publisher, Manuscrit and the Huffington Post sponsored her trip to  Paris for the prize-giving. The video clip shows her receiving her prize from actor-director, Guillaume Gallienne. Ada.Aharoni.Guillaume Guillaine.Prize.Giving

”It was an awesome and most enjoyable event”, she said. 

Her entry was chosen by all 15 judges who admired the harmonious Jewish - Moslem relations evoked in the story, showing how through the hospital and aided by Egyptian officials, hundreds of European Jews found refuge from the Nazis.

Ada Aharoni (born Andrée Yadid in 1933) is founder-president of IFLAC - the International Forum for the Literature and Culture of Peace – and a recipient of the President Shimon Peres Award for Peace.

She has published more than 20 books, including peace poetry, historical novels and biographies since her first collection, Poems from Israel,  appeared in 1972.

The poem below, one of her best known works, is from her collection, Not In Your War Anymore (1997).



“A Bridge of Peace

"They shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and none shall make them afraid." (Micah, 4.4)

“My Arab sister,
Let us build a sturdy bridge
From your olive world to mine,
From my orange world to yours,
Above the boiling pain
Of acid rain prejudice—
And hold human hands high
Full of free stars
Of twinkling peace

“I do not want to be your oppressor
You do not want to be my oppressor,
Or your jailer
Or my jailer,
We do not want to make each other afraid
Under our vines
And under our fig trees
Blossoming on a silvered horizon
Above the bruising and the bleeding
Of poison gases and scuds.

“So, my Arab sister,
Let us build a bridge of
Jasmine understanding
Where each shall sit with her baby
Under her vine and under her fig tree—
And none shall make them afraid

© Natalie Wood (31 January 2015)

Friday, 23 January 2015

Giving the Killing Fields New Life

Elizabeth Rose MurrayElizabeth Rose Murray blogs as the ‘Green-Fingered Writer, living for adventure and word’.

A poet and short fiction writer, she is currently away from her base in Ireland and in Tanop, Cambodia where, as a volunteer English teacher  at the Singing Kites School, she has persuaded several girls to write their first verses in English.

Here is the simply terrific:

“Our Worries

“I worry…

about my exams and if I will fail,

if I’m absent from school then my study isn’t good enough,

about my eyes because I always use the computer on the weekend,

that my brain gets tired when I study so much,

when I go home at night, my bicycle will get broken,

about riding my motorbike on the road in case there is an accident

I will hear ghosts in the dark,

that when I go home there is no rice and I’ll be hungry,

for my brother in Korea because he is working with machines – it is very dangerous,

about not having money because I cannot study or buy things like *leashal,

that I make mistakes every day,

about not having enough water and the world getting hotter,

my face and skin is not white enough”.

* Murray explains that leishal are tiny clams, covered in salt and chilli and cooked in the sun.

© Natalie Wood (23 January 2015)

Sunday, 18 January 2015

A Tea Ceremony

Grandpa once made

tea in this – his stout silvered

pot with chain.

Pouring .Tea

He’d rise at six;

sit sideways on his bed;

grunt, shuffle on well-trained

leather shoes; stand,

spread stiff, blunt-edged fingers

to hold the wall, then

sway along the room,

the landing, grasp the rail

and somehow climb

downstairs, never falling.


The kitchen found,

But still half-stunned by sleep,

he’d stop, stare, shaken

by the loss of one last

melted dream, and

scratch his brow.


‘Where was I, now?

‘Ah, yes!’

The kettle ready-filled,

he’d concoct a favoured

pitch-dark stew, which

stirred, would smell of tar

and sooty English days

that never saw the light.


At last - an emperor again

enthroned - he’d sniff,

half-smile, raise his sceptred cup,

then through night-parched lips

drain his dominion dry.

© Natalie Wood (18 January 2015)

Friday, 2 January 2015

Keeping the Shabbat Bride on Trend

Israel never ceases to surprise. I was once in Nahariya, a quiet and refined northern coastal resort near Karmiel, and was intrigued to see a group of young women sharing a nargila (hooka pipe) at a seaside bar. And why not?!

I recalled the incident when I came across the video clip below  featuring the Revivo Project, whose members gather to sing Middle Eastern and North African Jewish tunes and Sephardic interpretations of Ashkenazi traditional melodies, while enjoying food, drink and yes - smoking the nargilaHookah.Smoking

The Revivo Project - הפרויקט של רביבו - is part of  a growing ‘spiritualisation’ of secular Israeli culture where pop musicians rework ancient material so creating a Jewish experience that is fixed neither to religious law nor to any religious group.

Yossi Klein HaleviIt is something that American-born Israeli author and journalist, Yossi Klein Halevi views as a response to the “disillusionment with the collapse of the "messianism" of both the left (via the Oslo Accords) and the right (via withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank)”.


Among the traditional melodies that the Revivo gang has explored is the Sabbath eve favourite, Lecha Dodi  - לכה דודי‎),  a prayerful poem that is traditionally recited at Friday evening synagogue services. In it, the concept of the Sabbath is anthropomorphised as a ‘queen’ or a ‘bride’ and much of the phrasing is taken from the prophet Isaiah’s vision of Israel’s restoration.

The composer was Rabbi Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz, a 16th century mystic based in Tzfat, a northern Galilee town regarded as one of the four holy cities of Israel. Alkabetz wrote the piece as an acrostic with the first letter of each of the first eight verses spelling his name.

The text of the prayer is reproduced below with an English translation and transliteration along with the Hebrew original.

“Lecha Dodi

Let’s go, my beloved, to meet the bride,
Lekhah dodi liqrat kallah
לכה דודי לקראת כלה

and let us welcome the presence of Shabbat.
p'nei Shabbat neqabelah
פני שבת נקבלה

Verse 1:

"Observe" and "recall" in a single utterance,
Shamor v'zakhor b'dibur eḥad
שמור וזכור בדבור אחד

We were made to hear by the unified God,
hishmiʿanu El hameyuḥad
השמיענו אל המיחד

God is one and God’s Name is one,
Adonai eḥad ushemo eḥad
יי אחד ושמו אחד

In fame and splendor and praiseful song.
L'Sheim ulitiferet v'lit'hilah
לשם ולתפארת ולתהלה

Verse 2:

To greet Shabbat let’s go, let’s travel,
Liqrat Shabbat lekhu v'nelekhah
לקראת שבת לכו ונלכה

For she is the wellspring of blessing,
ki hi maqor haberakhah
כי היא מקור הברכה

From the start, from ancient times she was chosen,
merosh miqedem nesukhah
מראש מקדם נסוכה

Last made, but first planned.
sof maʿaseh b'maḥashavah teḥilah                      Lecha.Dodi
סוף מעשה במחשבה תחלה

Verse 3:

Sanctuary of the king, royal city,
Miqdash melekh ʿir melukhah
מקדש מלך עיר מלוכה

Arise! Leave from the midst of the turmoil;
Qumi tze'i mitokh ha-hafeikhah
קומי צאי מתוך ההפכה

Long enough have you sat in the valley of tears
Rav lakh shevet b'ʿeimeq habakha
רב לך שבת בעמק הבכא

And He will take great pity upon you compassionately.
v'hu yaḥamol ʿalayikh ḥemlah
והוא יחמול עליך חמלה

Verse 4:

Shake yourself free, rise from the dust,
Hitnaʿari me'afar qumi
התנערי מעפר קומי

Dress in your garments of splendor, my people,
Livshi bigdei tifartekh ʿami
לבשי בגדי תפארתך עמי

By the hand of Jesse’s son of Bethlehem,
ʿAl yad ben Yishai beit ha-laḥmi
על יד בן ישי בית הלחמי

Redemption draws near to my soul.
Qorvah el nafshi g'alah
קרבה אל נפשי גאלה

Verse 5:

Rouse yourselves! Rouse yourselves!
Hitʿoreri hitʿoreri
התעוררי התעוררי

Your light is coming, rise up and shine.
Ki va oreikh qumi ori
כי בא אורך קומי אורי

Awaken! Awaken! utter a song,
ʿUri ʿuri shir dabeiri
עורי עורי שיר דברי

The glory of the Lord is revealed upon you.
K'vod Adonai ʿalayikh niglah
כבוד יי עליך נגלה

Verse 6:

Do not be embarrassed! Do not be ashamed!
Lo tivoshi v'lo tikalmi
לא תבושי ולא תכלמי

Why be downcast? Why groan?
Mah tishtoḥai umah tehemi
מה תשתוחחי ומה תהמי

All my afflicted people will find refuge within you
bakh yeḥesu ʿaniyei ʿami
בך יחסו עניי עמי

And the city shall be rebuilt on her hill.
v'nivnetah ʿir ʿal tilah
ונבנתה עיר על תלה

Verse 7:

Your despoilers will become your spoil,
V'hayu limshisah shosayikh
והיו למשסה שאסיך

Far away shall be any who would devour you,
V'raḥaqu kol mevalʿayikh
ורחקו כל מבלעיך

Your God will rejoice concerning you,
Yasis ʿalayikh Elohayikh
ישיש עליך אלהיך

As a groom rejoices over a bride.
Kimsos ḥatan ʿal kalah
כמשוש חתן על כלה

Verse 8:

To your right and your left you will burst forth,
Yamin usmol tifrotzi
ימין ושמאל תפרוצי

And the Lord will you revere
V'et Adonai taʿaritzi
ואת יי תעריצי

By the hand of a child of Perez,
ʿAl yad ish ben Partzi
על יד איש בן פרצי

We will rejoice and sing happily.
V'nismeḥah v'nagilah
ונשמחה ונגילה

Verse 9:

Come in peace, crown of her husband,
Boi v'shalom ateret baʿalah
בואי בשלום עטרת בעלה

Both in happiness and in jubilation
Gam b'simḥah uvetzahalah
גם בשמחה ובצהלה

Amidst the faithful of the treasured nation

Come O Bride! Come O Bride!
Boi khalah boi khalah
”בואי כלה בואי כלה


As this is my first post here for some months, I’d like to wish Jewish readers ‘Shabbat shalom’ and everyone very best wishes for a happy and healthy 2015.

© Natalie Wood (02 January 2015)