Who’s Celebrating this 70th Anniversary?
Mohammed scrunches his eyes
to gaze at the forever blue of the sky
above the razor wire fence
he can feel his quickening breath, moisten
the black and white Kaffiyeh he uses to hide
his head and face.
At nineteen he has no prospect of a job
and in the living space he shares
with his mother, father,
sister and brother, he sleeps most of the day.
It’s better, he says, than just staring into
the abyss of the future
he is there to protest.
His anger, like the hot stone in his hand
has become heavy as he places it in the sling,
anticipating the Tzahal, in full battle fatigues
on the other side of the fence.
Some only evidenced by their military helmets
and Bullpup assault rifles rising above
their sniper range positions.
Across the divide coloured kites blaze,
with lines set to ensnare the MQ-9 Reaper drones…
defending their place in the world,
between counting down the days
to a life beyond military combat
to, on others like today, as he eyes Mohammed,
his anger, like the Jewish skin once stretched
across a lampshade frame, is taut
with a burning desire to avenge
over two millennia of persecution
which culminated in pyres of tangled bodies,
with twisted death-throes
baked into their bones and faces
in kilns filled with the poison gas
to ensure, Never Again.
Forged from Zionist dreams
and the British government’s broken promises
the Jewish State of Israel
became a shining beacon of freedom
on one side of the fence.
On the other, Mohammed is pent-up
by illegal Israeli expansion, walls and settlements.
Contaminated drinking water a slow contagion
like the quasi-religious polemic justifying the means
and a fundamentalist commitment to the US alliance,
which provides enough military funding to fulfil
Kahane’s dream of for Every Jew a 22.
Armed to the teeth, so that no-one can argue
with them, for fear of being branded anti-semitic.
While live ammunition ricochets around him…
Mohammed begins to swing, his slingshot
slowly at first
and then with a furious momentum.
The saying, Never Again, gained currency in English thanks in large part to Meir Kahane, the militant rabbi who popularised it in America when he created the Jewish Defense League in 1968 and used it as the title of a 1972 book-length manifesto. It became the battle cry of post-Holocaust Jewry.
Lesley Benzie is a poet, who has also written for film. She was born and grew up in Aberdeen and has more recently settled in Kirriemuir after more than 25 years of working and raising a family in Glasgow. While living there her vernacular was both a novelty and her initial impetus for writing, which resulted in numerous readings, publication in a variety of literary magazines and her first collection, SEWN UP. A year or so later she was awarded a place on the first Antonine Short film scheme and her short film ‘Drama Queen’ received funding from Scottish Screen and Glasgow Film Fund to support its production.
Shortly thereafter, life events consumed her attention and there was a hiatus and very intermittent periods of writing for a number of years. More recently she has been able to focus on her writing again as well as maintaining weekly contact with Glasgow through her part time job as a counsellor there. She was published in a recent edition of The Poets Republic Magazine and one of her poems was shortlisted in the FWS Vernal Equinox 2019 competition.