Poetry: “Growing Up Jewish”

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For my Bar Mitzvah I received, along with
some fountain pens and Israeli Savings Bonds, 
a few certificates informing me that, in Israel, 
trees had been planted in my honor. We were 
taught that Israel was an empty, unpopulated desert.
As a young teen, I was repeatedly shown films about the
horrors of Auschwitz, Dachau, and Buchenwald.

Somewhere in Israel there are trees,
planted in my name.

Somewhere in Israel,
in the eye of my young mind, the hands of young Jews
were turning desert sands 
into gardens.

Somewhere in Israel,
a vacant land was lingering,
longing for the chosen to return.
For the chosen to restore 
a longed-for lost glory,
a long before, long lost home.

Run and rerun for young hearts’ review, 
grainy film flickering shadows
of chambers and body mounds.
Picture shows of the shade millions, 
dead minions in black-and-white,
became the mental fertilizer of paradise

Never forget. Never forget,
yet,
the empty deserts were 
not. 

Never forget. Never forget.
(Whose tears could ever wash
those pictures away?)
But, 
Send them away. Send them away.

There was debt to pay,
(robbing Peter to pay Paul, as it were.)
Never forget.

Somewhere in Israel there are trees,
planted in my name, and other Bar-Mitzvah boys.
And in loving memory of; in honor of,
and in tribute to…

There must be too many trees,
somewhere in Israel, so some trees,
somewhere in Israel, must come down,
must be torn up.

Olive groves and 
orchards of oranges or, 
date-palms, perhaps.

And too many houses were built,
so others must be
“un-built.”

Isn’t that it?

My trees are 33 years old now.

Somewhere in Israel,
in the eye of my young mind, 
the trees that were mine
stood there with little signs,
bearing my name.

Now I’d go find them,
somewhere in Israel, and say:
“Give me my trees,
please.”

I’d hope they were useful,
Olive groves and 
orchards of oranges or,
date-palms, perhaps.

I’d dig them up, one at a time,
and carry them,
past the checkpoints into Gaza,
and plant them
somewhere in Palestine.

In loving memory of; in honor of,
and in tribute to…

By Paul Hershfield.

— May 2003

Paul is a Jewish socialist feminist man who lives in Los Angeles. A sole parent angered by the billions spent on the armaments industry, he is organising to build a world where his ten-year-old son can have a real future. 

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