Hold It All


Category: Israel

The Good News of the Barakats, 4.6.2017

Last night, Sharifa Barakat and I had dinner at Central Cafe (along with Imman Musa and Dania Saffaf Atienza).  Sarah Dwidar introduced me to Sharifa her freshman year at SLU on  sunny day on West Pine.  Later, she took a Social Justice  class with me, and we were part of SLU Solidarity with Palestine.  I have long been impressed with her humor,  love of literature, and keen sense  of responsibility.

After dinner, we walked to Left Bank Books to hear author Ibtisam Barakat (no relation to Sharifa) share her philosophy and read from her new book, Balcony on the Moon: Coming of Age in Palestine.  Someone asked her a question about the political solution to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian people, culture, and land, and she said point-blank, there’s no solution politically, there can only be a “soul-lution.”  Accordingly, her contribution is to tell the story of her life as a Palestinian in Palestine and the Diaspora.  She has  published two books so far, and she mentioned at least three others to come, insha’allah.

I was struck by Ibtisam’s clarity, calm, and compassion. Her presence is her message.

It was an intense, gentle, and inspiring evening.

The Way It Looked In 1968

Within a short period of time there will be no Jewish workers in Israel. The Arabs shall be the workers; the Jews shall be the managers, inspectors, officials, and policemen and mainly secret service men. A state governing a hostile population of 1.5 to 2 million foreigners is bound to become a Shin Bet state, with all that this would imply to the spirit of education, freedom of speech and thought and democracy. This corruption, characteristic of any colonial regime, would be true for Israel. The administration will be forced to deal with the suppression of an Arab protest movement and the acquisition of Arab quislings. We must fear that even the army and its officers, a people’s army, will deteriorate by becoming an occupation army, and its officers, turned into military governors, will not differ from military governors elsewhere in the world.

Yeshayahu Leibowitz, Israeli philosopher and scholar
Yediot Ahronot
March 1968
Quoted in George Baramki Azar, Palestine: A Photographic Journey

Yesh Leibowitz


The Good News, 3.4.2017

The Good News is that Dianne Lee sent me the following letter, which reminds me of Hedy’s sharp wit, deep commitment to the Palestinian people, and support of people seeking justice.

Hedy letter to Burke

Laura Bronstein Goes for Broke (Compromismo/7)

Because she’d gotten close to Henry
I got to learn more about Laura Bronstein

She returned to Israel
To the chagrin of her conservative family members

She wasn’t going to sit around and be polite
And think about herself and make more shrewd investments for her retirement

Although she was persona non grata in some circles
She knew lots of people and lots knew her

Oddest thing though
She went everyday to a church for an hour Read the rest of this entry »

Saturday 15 October: Share the Wealth with Yael Shomroni

I immigrated to the US from Israel and I’m a potter. I will be talking about being an artist in St. Louis, being an immigrant, about leaving Israel because of the Apartheid and my favorite subject…  the necessity of challenging progressive Jews in the US on Palestine.

Join us
Saturday 15 October
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00 p.m.
Yael begins sharing at 6:45
At the home of Fatima Rhodes
4406 A Laclede
Central West End


One of the Early Influences on “Dear Layla”



We could be like two people who inject themselves with truth serum and at long last have to tell it, the truth. I want to be able to say to myself, “I bled truth with her,” yes. That’s what I want. Be a knife for me, and I, I swear, will be a knife for you: sharp but compassionate, your word, not mine.

–David Grossman, Israeli novelist

The Way It Looked in 1976

Thus goes the fate of Israel. Tragedy upon tragedy, folly on folly. Foreign “advisers” dumping their witless plans on its benighted leaders, its people increasingly helpless and isolated, embittered, at sea, denied world sympathy, urged on to a hapless heroism by compatriots elsewhere, paramilitarized, taxed to exhaustion, under permanent marching orders, forced to witness in silence the moral outrage once inflicted on its own (now inflicted within its borders by its own authorities, on a people helpless and homeless, as its once were)—what catastrophe!

–Daniel Berrigan, S.J., “Israel, as Presently Constituted, in Michael True’s Daniel Berrigan: Poetry, Drama, Prose, p. 163.

Yibneh, Gaza, Palestine; November 2003

Yibneh, Gaza, Palestine; November 2003

Life under Occupation/95

With the passing of every day I feel angrier because I am restricted from walking, from going places in my car, from taking breaks away from the house, from going on with my life, going to my office, seeing my nephew and niece, going out for dinner or to see a film. My car battery has died from non-use.

–Palestinian phenomenologist of Israeli-enforced curfew, Raja Shehadeh, in his book, When the Birds Stopped Singing: Life in Ramallah under Siege

My Bronx, Your Bronx

When Allen Ginsberg visited Israel in 1961, he met up with the eminent scholar Gerschom Scholem.   Scholem found Ginsberg “A likable fellow. Genuine. Strange, mad, but genuine.”  At one point in their getting acquainted, Fania Freud, Gerschom’s wife, asked Ginsberg, “Why don’t you come to live here?” Ginsberg’s response:  “Me? Your great ideal is to build a new Bronx here. All my life I’ve been running away from the Bronx, and here I come to the Jewish State and find that the whole big deal of the Zionists is to build a giant Bronx here. If I have to go back to the Bronx, I may as well stay in the original one.”

On the Phone with Hedy

Even her detractors might agree:
Two of Hedy Epstein’s characteristics—
Pertinacity and indomitability

I’ll add a third and fourth
Tenderness and compassion
As when I called her from Ramallah

To explain why I was unable the day before
To pick up her and friends at Ben-Gurion Airport
After their long flight from Saint Louis

The IDF had detained me and friends for hours
Granting me the most infinitesimal taste
Of what Palestinians routinely undergo

Hedy took this in …
Then the tremulous softness in her voice as she asked
“Did … they … torture … you?”