A tribute to a South African Zionist who fought for his people through word and deed
By David E. Kaplan
Living in Israel, I knew this Cape Town-based writer, poet and published novelist, Rodney Mazinter, mostly by his pen and what a mighty pen it was.
Imagining him like the proverbial knight on his sturdy horse wielding in jousting position a pen as his lance, he pressed forward to do battle for his beloved Israel and the Jewish people. His extensive writings in support of causes close to his heart were warmly embraced by readers beyond South Africa.
We at Lay of the Land in Israel, welcomed his contributions as did our readers across the world, and in paying tribute to this inspiring lover of Israel and community leader (he was a former vice-chair of the South African Zionist Federation, Cape Council), we are proud to publish one of his poems that so poignantly resonates as each stanza shares intimate similarities of his final days.
Having suffered a heart attack and finding himself in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in Cape Town, it was a subject that Rodney had previously thought intensely about when he composed this poem set in an ICU not in South Africa but in one of Israel’s premier hospitals – Rambam in Haifa.
With so many superlative hospitals in Israel, why did Rodney choose Rambam?
Named after and honouring Rabbi Moses Ben-Maimon, called Maimonides or the “Rambam” an acronym of his name in Hebrew, Maimonides was a preeminent medieval Sephardic rabbi, physician, and philosopher and one of the greatest Torah scholars of the Middle Ages. He is credited to being among the first in Western thinking to propose that the health of the body and soul should be combined, in other words that the body is the home of the soul, and the soul guides the body revealing the body and the soul as one unit. The Rambam’s medical writings constitute a significant chapter in the history of medical science.
All this I believe, intuitively, percolated in Rodney’s creative mind as he poetically applied his craft to his subject.
Whether Jew, Muslim or Christian brough to Rambam’s ICU due to illness, accident, war, crime or act or terror, the actions and thoughts of all who busily occupy this space from those seeking salvation to those trying to provide it “Like a team of lifeguards constantly on duty”, the poem moves to the rushed rhythmic beat of a pulsating heart.
Rodney captures it all……
ICU – TRUE HEROES OF RAMBAM
By Rodney Mazinter
A capsule of pain and fear − or an airlock
Waiting for travellers to pass through to a place they’re loath to enter?
Are there those among us who care enough to bring them back?
Jew, Muslim, Christian, some brought low by illness,
Or worse, by bullet, knife or car,
Victims of those weaned on hatred,
Bullied by brutes bereft of − bankrupt of − compassion.
Across the way in a darkened room,
A man struggles to bring his pulse down and his blood pressure up.
A woman whose teary eyes still hold the captured images of visitors,
Lies dying of the illness of old age, an oxygen feed clamped firmly
To her fine Semitic face.
Down the line of serried beds a man cries out incoherently −
It is a high-pitched supplication of dread, pain and pleading. Is he talking to God?
Monitors, the Argus-eyed guardians for the physicians,
Blink codes and messages to those trained to read them.
Through all this, doctors and nursing staff
Meander among the beds performing minor miracles,
Like a team of lifeguards constantly on duty
Ready to pluck a sinking life from the jaws of eternity.
They fight the battle and mostly win,
But there is no triumphant parade with flags waving,
And boastful thumbs stuck in lapels.
There is no time for that − a new patient is wheeled in from ER.
There are lines to set and veins to pierce,
And all focus is on the never-ending stream of humanity
On the road to recovery, if not survival.
Following Rodney’s passing, a close friend and fellow literati of his from Cape Town, Charlotte Cohen, sent me her poem “What is a mensch?” republished earlier this month in ‘Jewish Affairs’ a monthly publication issued by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, in which she asserts “epitomises the person who Rodney Mazinter was.” Who can disagree with her?
In selecting only two lines, I felt drawn to these:
“ A mensch sees the world as ‘we’ not ‘I’
A mensch is always there”
Our sincere condolences to his wife Mavis and all the family from Lay of the Land.
While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves. LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).