Madness in Gaza

Spikenard

I don’t pretend to understand a fraction of what is going on in Gaza at present. Suffice to say that Israel has lost the PR war on this one. There is no redeeming feature of what the IDF is doing when viewed from outside. Noises from inside Israel suggest that there is weak support from the centre and left for the current incursions. The heavy death toll of Palestinians, especially children, cannot be justified.

Israel would do well to stand back and rethink this time. Pour some oil on troubled waters. There is a story from the Bible of a woman pouring a pint of Nard over Jesus’ feet in Bethany. Nard is a fragrant oil, probably derived from Spikenard, a plant native to Israel. The cost of a pint of the oil could have fed hundreds of poor. How many Palestinians could have been fed for the cost of munitions expended in the last Month?

Spikenard seems to be all the rage at present. Pope Francis adopted it for his papal coat of arms, as it represents Saint Joseph.

I never heard of the plant until I read the poem below!

To the Bird; Haim Nahman Bialik

Greetings on your return, lovely bird,
to my window from warmer climes—
how my soul longed to hear your voice,
in the winter when you left my dwelling.

Sing to me, tell me, dear bird
from far-off wondrous places,
there in that warm and beautiful land,
do evil events and calamities happen too?

Do you bring greetings from my fellows in Zion,
from my brothers near and far?
O happy ones! Surely they must know
that I suffer, oh, how I suffer in pain.

Do they know how great are my enemies here,
how many rise up against me?
Sing to me, my bird, of the wonders of that land
where springtime ever dwells.

Do you bring me greetings from the land’s abundance,
from vale and from mountain top?
Does God have mercy on Zion,
though she is yet left with her graves?

And the Sharon Valley and the hills of myrrh—
do they give their spikenard and spice?
Does the ancient forest, the old Lebanon,
awake from its slumber?

Does the dew fall like pearls upon Mount Hermon,
or does it descend like tears?
And how fares the Jordan and its bright waters?
And each mountain and hill?

Has the heavy cloud withdrawn from them,
that had spread pitch black darkness –
o sing to me, my bird, of the land in which
my fathers found life and death!

Are the flowers I planted yet unwithered,
while I myself am withered?
They remind me of the days in which I bloomed,
but now I am grown old, my strength has gone.

Tell me, my bird, what each tree and shrub whisper,
what do their leaves murmur to you?
Do they tell tidings of comfort for which they wait so long,
as their foliage rustles like the forests of Lebanon?

And my brothers the workers, who sowed in tears—
do they harvest their sheaves in joy?
Who will give me wings that I may fly to the land
in which the almond and date-palm bloom?

And what can I tell you, lovely bird,
what do you hope to hear from me?
From this cold and distant land you will not hear songs,
only lamentations, only weeping and wailing.

Shall I tell of the hardships which are already
well known in the lands of the living –
o who can number the troubles past
and present and yet to come?

Migrate, my bird, to your mountain, your desert!
Be happy that you have left my house;
if you dwelt with me, then you too, winged creature,
would weep bitterly over my fate.

Yet weeping and tears are not the best remedy,
they will not heal my affliction;
my eyes have already darkened, I have filled a waterskin with tears,
my heart has already dried like grass;

The tears have already reached their end—
yet there is no end to my grief.
Greetings on your return, my dear bird,
let your song give me some happiness!

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