Peace Shackled, Justice Buried
I try in vain to put my children to sleep amidst shouts of “Death to Arabs!” mixed with chants threatening homosexuals, mixed-race couples and anyone in relationship with Palestinians. The extremist right-wing group Lehava is staging a protest in response to a neighboring art gallery’s hosting activists to speak against the occupation.
Lehava is known for incitement and even violence and last year, this same group burned a classroom in the school my oldest son attends, leaving hate scrawled on the walls.
Anger rises within me, not only at my peaceful night being disturbed by hate, but at something else. This same day, two different friends, both generous and peaceful, sit in prison for menial matters.
Here you have a group that freely threatens and even commits violent acts, marching through the streets as if it is a children’s parade, with only glances from bored police, knowing that even if they are arrested, they will be quickly released, while peaceful young people sit in jail cells. The glaring injustice of the city’s reality hits me and I am restless, prompting the following poem:
Voices shout outside the window
Punctuating the night, fierce and low
Bullets of words hurled in hate
Palestinians, homosexuals and any who love them the target of this spate
An eerie melody of right and left
Leaving the air heavy with children’s questions bereft
How can hearts, like coal, be so dark?
The violent free like birds simply for privilege’s mark
Same city, same night, but East’s despair
Young men rounded up in crisp night air
Peace shackled for daring to exist
For an identity that won’t be denied and continues to resist
Innocence plucked from the stem of youth
The reflection of occupation’s deep wounds and harsh truth
Found gleaming in young eyes
Justice buried in the name of security’s guise
On the outskirts of the city sits a dividing mark
A wall looms ominously high and dark
Yet another message added to its canvas
By a solitary figure wondering about hope in sadness
Change seems an illusion not found,
Like the promised end of a rainbow sought around
A pot of gold not meant for this divided, bloody land
Yet in the darkest is when history always makes its stand
I fall asleep only to awaken to news of a peace activist attacked in the night, her attackers still free. I am not surprised, but anger rises in me again, like a persistent case of heartburn.
I try to reach into myself to pull out even the smallest fiber of hope for the situation, hope that justice will eventually prevail, but it seems to elude me. The violent run free and peace is shackled. This is the reality of the situation.
And my kids and I must get dressed and ready for another day of this reality in this complex and beautiful city we love.
What can individuals do to change the situation, even individuals who, like myself, are really short on hope?
I am reminded that it was just when people thought there was no hope, when it seemed the situation could never be changed, that apartheid was dismantled and that the Berlin Wall fell. So, if there is any cause for hope, it could at least be that, perhaps, people will not tolerate such injustice any longer.
Meanwhile, I can only look for ways to change the situation, even when hope is elusive. We can all look to slowly, bit by bit, unshackle peace and those seeking it while not giving in to hatred. We will have to face the injustices that are systemic and face them with courage, not choosing to look away. Maybe it is possible and maybe a time will come when peace and justice will no longer be chained or buried.