A free translation of Lamentations chapter 1
Lamentations is an acrostic poem ... the first word of the first verse begins with Aleph,
the first letter of the hebrew alphabet, the second verse begins with Beth, and so on.
The pictures above show the death of Mohammad al-Durah
Mohammad, 12, died as his father tried to shield him from Israeli gunfire near Netzarim,
in the Gaza Strip. The gunfire lasted 45 minutes.
Mohammad al-Durah was shot dead in the arms of his father who was trying to shield him
after they became caught under Israeli fire near Netzarim in the Gaza Strip.
Gunfire was also directed at an ambulance that tried to rescue Mohammad and his father,
killing ambulance driver Bassam al-Balbesi and wounding a second ambulance driver.
Mohammad's father, Jamal al-Durah survived but was critically wounded
and will suffer permanent paralysis in his right hand.
Jamah al-Durah said: "I appeal to the entire world, to all those who have seen
this crime to act and help me avenge my son's death and to put on trial Israel.
I also plan to take Israel to the international courts and ask that the criminals
responsible for the death of my son be punished.
It is the worst nightmare of my life... My son was terrified, he pleaded with me,
'For the love of God protect me, Baba'.
I will never forget these words."
(source: Palestine, Home of History
Ruins of buildings crushed by Israeli bulldozers in the Gaza strip.
(source: Iowans for Peace with Iraq)
During the course of the intifada, Israel has deployed many US-made
and/or funded weapons including:
F-16 fighter planes, Apache and Cobra attack helicopters, and
Reshef patrol boats to attack Palestinian buildings and vehicles;
Armoured pile drivers and armoured bulldozers to destroy
Palestinian homes and agricultural land.
Naval and tank artillery including 76mm, 105mm and
120mm high explosive rounds;
M114 TOW rockets and Hell-Fire air-to-ground missiles;
Shoulder-fired, anti-armour Light Anti-tank Weapons (LAW)
rocket launchers firing 84mm or 90mm rockets;
M203 and MK19 grenade launchers;
40-90 mm mortars;
A modified version of the M494 105mm, an anti-personnel cluster bomb.
5.56 mm bullets for M-16 machine guns;
7.62 mm high velocity bullets for general purpose machine
guns and Galil sniper rifles;
12.7 mm bullets for Browning machine guns and Barret sniper rifles;
The "less lethal" rubber-coated and plastic-coated metal bullets.
(source: Nigel Parry at The Electronic Intifada)
Palestinian doctors tending the wounds of demonstrators shot by the Israelis
accused Israel of using explosive or "dum-dum" bullets. But the Israeli army says
the reality is that sniper rifles use a weightier round - 7.62mm against
5.56mm for the usual M-16 assault rifle - which causes more damage to
internal organs. It says it has no explosive bullets in its arsenal.
(source: Alan Philps for the Daily Telegraph, 5. Oct. 2000)
A useful source of documentation on the intifada is B'T selem,
The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.
Liber Threnorum Caput I
1. Aleph: 'Eychah
Abraham, abandoned, inarticulate,
bleeds from his mouth a string of vowels,
an Aaaah!, coughs out an, Ach, 'Eychah
that echoes round the empty city squares,
four thousand years of wandering noise,
until it lands like slander in our ears which we translate
into organised religion; Ach.
Ach, Sar-ah, my Princess and my Queen,
Sarah, where have all our children gone?
Where is there to search except among the chain-gang
lines of prisoners, numbers gone beyond control,
a massive hex-dump of dumb lines
that slave for Babylon and empire
slave just like the Israelites
slaved beneath the God-like sun of Egypt.
2. Beth: Bacho
By day we haven't time, haven't energy to weep
Only in the night have we the time to weep.
By night Jerusalem is loud with crying,
broken hearted, she laments,
sobs out her Ach, 'Eychah. Her Jonathan and Saul are dead;
Jerusalem is dead. Her lovers did their deals,
paid out their bribes to Babylon and disappeared.
3. Gimel: Galtah
Glory! Give it up! Let's hear it for Jerusalem,
involuntary stripper, and her daughters, ball-gowns torn
from off their backs, their skirts, silk knickers
grabbed, ripped off, and thrown down in the gutter.
Gangs of soldiers tear through Judah's capital, looting
God-forsaken city streets. Battered and defiled,
the people, gathered into columns,
will be hauled off into exile.
4. Daleth: Darchey
Death instead of life in Zion, darkness; grief
has made the memory of festival absurd;
the feast of booths, the festival of lights;
this is no Hannukah, this is Passover
gone badly wrong, no lamb's blood at the door;
death has made its presence known at every door.
Door and gate are broken, every street is derelict;
priests, redundant, and the daughters
of Jerusalem, not one is still intact.
Every breath of wind is bitter with the smell of myrrh.
5. He, Ha-u
Her majesty, highness, hurled down in the dust;
her enemies hooting for joy at every turn.
Schadenfreude? Schaden-ecstasy, Schaden-
heaven, for Israel's enemies. Hu, Yahweh.
Who has done this but Yahweh.
Who can Judah blame but Judah? Judah and her fuckwit heart.
Her princes are hunted as dogs hunt hares in a field;
her children are torn from her arms by screaming crowds.
6. Vav, Va-yeytseh
Va-voom! What a woman! Vivid and vital.
Wonderful. She really was,
wonderful, like that Clapton song,
`You look wonderful tonight'.
No other word for it; that's what she was.
Once. Was. Was before Yahweh wasted her -
exit, vanished, all of her `glory'.
Now she's a mess; you might say `haggard',
or, if you're religious you might say `defiled';
what she is is a poxy, whining, whore.
A what? A whore. And what of her princes?
Her Royal Protectors? Her Knights in White Satin?
How are they handling the hounds at their heels?
Wounded and weakened. The last bit's soon over.
Dogs' slobbery tongues are lapping up royal blood.
7. Zayin, Zachrah
Zero year, remember it. Sabbath to the power ten,
cessation characterised, not by rest, but Zwangsarbeit,
a butt for neighbours' sarcasm; the precious Sabbath
but no sacrifice; a jubilee of jubilees but none set free.
Judah's gold and silver ages nothing but a memory
recalled in bitterness; Babylon has seen to that.
And what, pray, did the neighbours do? Zilch.
Already we can see beyond the ziggurat, anti-Semitism's
zenith. In the A to Z of Judah's story, we've reached
our first Ka-Zet, arrived at our first Auschwitz.
In time, hard time, we might intone the OM of Oswiecim,
or return again to Alpha - `A' is for Assyria,
`B' for Babylon, `C' for see if we can find
a way through Qoph and Resh and Shin and Tav,
following the true orthography of exile,
try to find the Omega, the final `home again'.
8. Cheyt, Cheyt'
Hawk it up, raucous, Raucher's rattle
in the throat drives up the phlegm;
hawk it up and spit it out, the truth:
she has sinned sins, Jerusalem.
Voices that were hoarse with shouting out
`Yirushlaim', honouring the city as a heavyweight
among the nations; now those same mouths
spatter her with spit, she's glistening with green
and ochre mucous, every sort of curse.
The lining of her womb runs down her thighs
like gobs of bloody spit and no-one will go near her,
poor, starved bitch, poor skin and bones
and huddled creature that she is.
Her hands can't hide her tits and cunt
together so she turns her back and shows
her naked, mud-streaked, spit-wet arse instead.
9. Tet, Tum'atah
Tomatoes, rotten, tarts for the pelting of;
stalks and rinds and rancid fruit and veg,
if that were all they'd flung at you, my ashen
Shulamith, you'd have scraped the scraps up
from the dirt, sucked them from your shawl,
your skirts. But even you recoiled
from what was in your skirts, the pulp,
the stickiness, the bloody slime, the stink of piss.
Do you remember how the hem of Aaron's robe was set
with golden bells, with pomegranetes sewn
in blue, in purple, and in scarlet yarns?
Remember too, that Aaron had to wear that robe
inside the Holy Place, and if the sound of bells
should fail then he was dead. Remember it,
and look at all the mess that's in your skirts;
remember how those skirts were hoisted up?
Where's the gentle ringing sound? The veil?
Torn away, the veil that hid the Holy Place
and, like a madman, Yahweh's broken loose.
As Moses sang beside the sea that buried Pharaoh,
Pharaoh and his tanks and armoured cars,
`Who among the Gods is like Yahweh?'
Who works wonders, miracles like yours?
You stretched out your right hand, the earth,
the waters, ha-eretz, ha-maim, were gorged
on corpses. Now the earth, now eretz-Isra'eyl,
has opened like a JCB-dug grave to take Jerusalem.
Almighty Yahweh's broken loose, forget nacham,
to comfort, think instead naham, the belly-
growl the lion makes, standing over what he's killed;
or think nahah, the groan you groaned
the day they dragged you out.
The Northern Kingdom's Menachem, the Comforter,
whose name sloshed irony like pig-swill round the court,
that bloody-handed, regicidal `king'
on his Samarian throne, that Lacklands
paid the Dane-gelt he extorted to Assyria
to keep his place secure; that very Menachem
is all the comfort Yahweh's left Jerusalem.
Eyn m'nacheym! No comforter.
All that's left's the Qabbalistic
nothingness, ayin, the emptiness, that blinded eye
that opens up when God, the one who fills, is all, withdraws,
withdraws, not to create, but to destroy;
emptiness, save only for the echo of a howl.
`Too much. Oy, veh', the fat Babylonian says, kicks
his Jewish protegée, `Whore!', back from the table,
wipes his gravy with a piece of bread and eats it,
grins, sucks the last crumbs from his fingertips,
throws the girl the clean-wiped plate to lick.
It shatters on the marble floor. He laughs as she grabs for it.
`My God', she thinks, `My God', her litany, `My God,
I'd like to see the bastard burst his guts.'
10. Yod, Yadu
Y-Coy's paras, Tsar Alexei's Imperial Guard,
you all got your hands on what you wanted.
Going in mob-handed, the goyim
got the lot, from the outer court
to the Holy of Holies. Precisely that which
you, Lord, gave orders they weren't to touch.
11. Kaph, Kol-amah
Kolyma was altogether the wrong place to die;
no sympathy, no name cut by hand in bronze or stone
although Kolyma took its millions,
took all that they could send there,
froze them stiff as pines.
Kolyma turned the contents of their lungs to ice-
needles they coughed out in dying,
fallen to the endless snow and lost.
We're a long, long way from Bethlehem,
snow-swathed Christmas Beyt-lechem, the house of bread,
the armies' commissariat; there's no room at the inn,
not for those foul nativities, those kitschy scenes.
We're even further from those summer mornings in New York
when we woke and smelt the baking bagels,
coffee from the diner on the corner;
now we sell our gold so cheap we're giving it away;
but sell or starve. Soul food? Not here. No more.
He restoreth not my soul, and I'm no spiritual
stuntman. Look, Yahweh! Turn this way,
don't glance, half-notice, glance away again
but look. I'm ruined. Are you satisfied?
12. Lamed, Lo aleychem
Look! But Yahweh doesn't look.
Let's try the people on the streets;
Hello. Hello, Shalom aleychem, please,
let's get a wee bit vox-pop soundbite. No?
Reality. Just stop and fucking think!
How would you react? If you were hurt like this?
Yahweh has dished it out so hard, all I can do
is gabble, labble, la-la-la, olal, ogah,
the glossolalia of grief, of pain asher, asher
which Yahweh laid on like a lash the day, asher
that he broke loose, broke all the rules,
`No more than forty strokes', don't make me laugh.
And as he lashed at me his anger rose,
`Look what Yahweh does', he blazed. Well look,
you tourists, look. Don't think you're safe:
one day it might be you. By-bye, Shalom.
13. Mem, Mimarohm
Might is right, artillery on the hills
around Jerusalem's the highest moral ground
available, and modern ordnance makes its mark
so much more violently than thunderbolts.
Phosphor shrapnel burns although you douse
the burning limbs, spits and fizzles in the marrow.
Modern ordnance versus human flesh: ordnance always wins.
Paras, a perfect `he has spread'
reshet, a reticule, a net, a trap laid for my feet.
Westerners, you think that crossfire's something new?
Back! Get back! The column concertinas into panic,
jostling retreat; the guy on point's already dead;
the ambush has begun. Shameym;
desolation turned into a stative verb,
an adjective impaled on all-day being.
My generous God has given me a wasting
sickness that I can't escape.
14. Nun, Niskad
Nebuchadnezzar's yoke, God's hands have knotted
straps of iron tight around our necks as easily
as weavers knitting willow; a yoke for my rebellion
round Judah's tender neck. Some tower of David;
Shulamit, around your ivory-white neck
the tendrils of disease have twined,
have tightened on your throat.
If Hananiah broke the prophet Jeremiah's yoke
of wood, then let him try and loose this burden.
Hananiah's dead, and that's no metaphor.
These choke-chains round our necks are real.
We haven't even the strength to lift our heads.
15. Samekh, Silah
Scattered like straw, my mighty men;
collapsed like a soufflé, when God Almighty
breathed on them. Then he roared
a summons, called the people to witness the cutting,
to watch him castrating the city's young men,
to watch while he pounded, like grapes in a winepress,
the city's young women, the daughters of Judah.
16. Ayin, Al-eyleh
All this, and all I can do is weep.
My eyes pour water like the Jordan, unstoppable.
For a thousand miles, no help, only invaders;
not a word of protest from the UN.
My children, shomeym - destroyed;
the Jew-killers are unstoppable.
17. Pe, Peyrsah
Poor creature, Zion, stretching out her hands
like a grounded bird stretching her wings,
desperate, and no-one helps. Yahweh
has called on Ya'akov's enemies.
She stands there, and all the crowd
gawps at the blood that's dribbling down her legs,
soaking through her skirts, dripping to the ground.
18. Tsadde, Tsaddik
It's my own fault; Yahweh is just, Tsaddik.
I threw his words back in his face.
But you? It's like the League of Nations,
`to hear the cry for help is to protect';
well, if you watch someone tortured and don't act
it sounds to me like you're enjoying it.
Look, her young men,
young men and young women,
her children, her biological future,
have been disappeared, marched off, `resettled'.
19. Qoph, Qara'ti
Quislings: quiffed and quarter-bollocked
quota-fillers for the occupying powers.
Call: I called for help, to men who'd claimed they'd never
leave me. Called, and got no further than the ansaphone.
Meanwhile my priests and worn-out, crook-backed men
in city suits, are scrabbling after scraps of garbage
that might serve for food, might save their ... what?
their physical, their animal .., their souls? Their strength
grows less as each hour passes; still they crawl
in gastro-enteritic, dysenteric chalkstripe
till they simply lie there crying, trying to call
for help. I called for help. Got `leave your message ...'
No. The table laid for us among our enemies
is bare, the pasture scorched, the river dry,
the shepherd far away. The old men shit themselves
exhausted and the priests, the elders of the city, die.
20. Resh, R'ey
Raise your eyes, Yahweh, see how my stomach churns
because of what my enemies have done; enemies, oppressors,
can't you see? My guts are all wrung out. I retch
and nothing comes however hard my stomach twists,
though once I had the guts to turn against you.
All that's gone; my children gutted in the streets,
my house in exile in the kingdom of the dead.
21. Shin, Sham'u
Shh, I said, they'll hear. They've heard; the eyn m'nachem,
my enemies have heard about the evil that's been done to me,
and you, Yahweh, they all salute, they sing and shout
that you're the one who did it.
Shitheads. I have heard, I know,
that you will make the day that you have chosen dawn,
and everything, and I mean everything, that has been done
to me - I know - I know that you will do to them.
22. Tav, Tovoh
To look at all their cruelty is all I ask of you, Yahweh,
to look at what they've done and make them suffer,
gabble just as I've done, have gabbled
at the shocking pain of Yahweh's lash, have gabbled,
screamed, the cheyt like heated irons in my throat,
and then the lash laid on again, again, until
at last, a sweet oblivion. And then I wake
to pain, and, Ach, a sigh, a groan. Again
the eyn m'nachem decays to anachah and fades.
I hear it in the mind, articulate it, Abraham's howl,
only in the mind; breath squeezed from dried-up lungs,
a drying wind through dried-up reeds
that line a dried-up watercourse,
the knackered muscle of my knackered vocal chords.
This last verse is an echo of the first. If you can,
then put a mirror to my mouth to see if there's the faintest trace
of breath, and if the mirror mists, I don't know how
unless it's caught a final trace of Abraham's abandoned spirit.
An Aleph softened, tenderised, stretched, and stopped on Tav.
The last thing I can see's a trace of condensation
on the polished metal, then I faint, a trace
of self-awareness tumbling into nightmare.