Following Israelis expressing their anxieties within society today from protest to poetry, lay of the Land  publishes another in our ongoing series. From fractures in Israel society to a sharp rise in terrorism, the son of Holocaust survivors reflects through this poem of living on the edge. Even something as mundane as commuting on a bus, becomes in Jerusalem today an existential experience.
Is it paranoia or reality?
David E. Kaplan  Lay of the Land Editor


By Solly Kaplinski

Every morning
I normally take the 6.57 Egged bus
to the light rail station in French Hill
The train is usually packed
but invariably, someone stands up for me
a sort of back handed compliment:
respect for the grey hair and
me coming to terms with my ageing self
– and my impending mortality
Until 120, I tell myself

The 70 faces are all present and accounted for
women burying their faces in the Shacharit prayers
lips moving furiously
young soldiers and border police
high spirited and seemingly deep in superficial conversation
eyes darting in all directions
reluctant children going to school glued to their cellphones
vatikim with empty agalot off to the shuk
Our cousins are also on board conversing animatedly
and a tower of babel cacophony of tourist and worker languages

Such a normal slice of life – like anywhere else in the world
the rush hour for those who open up the morning.
But my usual paranoid self gets the better of me – as always…
I am a child of Holocaust survivors you know
and I have lived with exploding buses and burnt-out restaurants
and Jew butchers on the loose
And I cast suspicious eyes on my fellow travelers
looking for anything out of the ordinary:
someone in disguise
an over-stuffed duffel bag
a hand in a bulging pocket or
holding a scrunched-up Rami Levi sakit
ready for coiled action

I step out into the sunshine and blue sky
at the Hechalutz station
And there’s a spring in my walk
I’m almost at the office

Until 120, I tell myself


Shacharit: early morning prayers
Vatikim – seniors
Agalot – small shopping trollies
Rami Levi – a discount supermarket chain
Sakit – a plastic shopping bag
Hechalutz – pioneer

About the writer:

Solly Kaplinski headed up Jewish Day Schools in Cape Town, Toronto and Vancouver before making Aliyah with Arleen almost 25 years ago. His professional life in Israel is bookended by working at Yad Vashem and then at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). Solly is also the author of the novella A World of Pain: A Redemptive Parable? His three daughters, their spouses and an egalitarian minyan of grandchildren all live in Israel. 

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).

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