“Moshe Dor’s poems breathe, smell and taste like Israel. They express the pressures of living in a land constantly under siege, where hope and terror live side by side, where there is a fierce hatred of war and a fierce craving for peace. Here current events unfold in biblical landscapes.” (by unknown reviewer)
Moshe Dor (1932-2016) was born in Tel Aviv and authored 40 books of poetry, essays, interviews, and children’s books. He was a recipient of Israel’s highest literary honor, the Bialik Prize for Literature, and twice was the recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award in Literature.
Dor was one of the founders and editors of the literary journal Likrat, which launched, in the early 50s, a new direction in Hebrew poetry, and from 1958 for many years he served as literary editor and member of the Maariv newspaper editorial board. He was Counselor for Cultural Affairs at the Embassy of Israel in London and a Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at American University in Washington, D.C.
I share three of Dor’s poems just published in a volume called Shirim: A Jewish Poetry Journal – Contemporary Israeli Poets in Translation, guest edited by Barbara Goldberg, a translator of Dor’s poetry.
There Are Just Wars
There are just wars / and there are wrong wars / but every war is / anguish and untimely death / and cripples and smitten souls
There are wars that break out / in daylight and those that begin / at night but every war / is darkness even on sunny days
and even when flares / turn night into day
Spring has also arrived here / and walking along our street / I hear the song birds and ask, / “Birds, why are you singing, don’t / you know it’s war?” but they / don’t listen and keep on singing
The melon we ate at the Arab restaurant / was summer and Israel and Palestine and each / slice that graced our eager palates welcomed / peace to those who tasted it and those / who placed it before us.
At Abu Khaled’s
Abu Khaled’s restaurant in Herzliya / abounds with Arab dishes that delight / our taste buds and both majority / and minority diners eat with gusto / and no one can distinguish Isaac from Ishmael.
Summer and a late afternoon hour / wraps us up in tranquility as we sip / from small cups of bitter black coffee / that sweetens on the tongue. No one / pays attention to History crouching / in a kitchen corner. / If she wants / to remind us of past grievances / her voice is drowned out by running / water cleaning the cutlery / we humans use for eating.
Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs can live side by side, and the peoples, in places, are already enmeshed with one another (as Moshe Dor’s poetry suggests). His commentary on the tragedy of war (every war – both just and unjust) and his reflections on the potential for living together can become reality in a two-states for two peoples resolution of the conflict. Though the two peoples are now alienated from and distrustful of one another, both claiming Israel-Palestine as their rightful national Homeland, there is no alternative that preserves Israel’s democratic and Jewish character and enables justice for the Palestinian people except to make peace in a two-state solution of this century-long conflict. The question is whether to hold out for a divorce and separation in a hard border and a mutual security agreement, or integration and shared resources through confederation embracing two separate states with a clear but soft and open border.
For those interested in the latter, I refer you to a new paradigm being developed by Israelis and Palestinians together called Eretz L’kulam – Two States, One Homeland: A Confederation of Israel and Palestine https://www.alandforall.org/english/?d=ltr