Praying at the Western Wall, Jerusalem

“Jerusalem is full of used Jews, worn out by history…”

Woman Praying, Western Wall, Jerusalem 2011

© Leslie Hossack

Jerusalem is full of used Jews, worn out by history,
Jews second-hand, slightly damaged, at bargain prices.

And the eye yearns toward Zion all the time. And all the eyes
of the living and the dead are cracked like eggs
on the rim of the bowl, to make the city
puff up rich and fat.

Jerusalem is full of tired Jews,
always goaded on again for holidays, for memorial days,
like circus bears dancing on aching legs.

excerpt from Jerusalem Is Full of Used Jews, in Poems of Jerusalem and Love Poems, by Yehuda Amichai

The lines above are taken from the same poem that I quoted yesterday, written by the celebrated Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai. He was born in 1924 in Germany to an Orthodox Jewish family that immigrated to British Palestine in 1935 and settled in Jerusalem. When he was 22, Amichai started writing poetry, and he later became poet in residence at several universities, including Berkeley, New York University, and Yale.

Amichai was a soldier, a teacher, a scholar, and an internationally acclaimed poet. He wrote in Hebrew, and his works have been translated into more than 35 languages. Yehuda Amichai is also known as a peace advocate who worked with many Arab writers and Palestinian poets. He is quoted as saying: “I have no illusions. It’s quite difficult for poets to communicate with one another in a society that is politically torn apart the way ours is.” Amichai continued to live in Jerusalem until his death in 2000.

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