British Writers In Support of Palestine

December 24, 2010

Thinking of Bethlehem …

The best of this bright season to all our readers from everyone at BWISP. We are thinking especially of the people of Bethlehem at this time, and highlighted their plight to the people of Brighton on Dec 10th as part of the city’s annual Beach Hut Advent Calendar event.

We decorated the hut with an olive tree, a dove, Christmas lights, candles, cushions, and symbols of the three Abrahamic religions. We brought PSC leaflets and magazines, and photos from Active Stills and Against the Wall by William Parry, who lit up London with his recent images of Bethlehem this week. The local BBC covered our event, though naturally they airbrushed all references to Palestine … But the many passers by engaged deeply with what we had to say, and in particular with the writing of Mahmoud Darwish, whose ‘State of Siege’ we read from at the end. BWISP poets Naomi Foyle and Judith Kazantzis also read from their own work about Palestine. Here, with all our hopes for peace and justice in the Holy Land, is Judith’s poem for your seasonal reflections:

The Magi return
for Palestine 2010

In Bethlehem was born a slaughtered babe
his breast’s a wound.
See the war horse saddled with crimes.

In Palestine was born a babe,
a dozen, a hundred,
the mothers do a body count –

Of all the children born that day
we cared for only one.
The library in the palace of our brains

said, he’s the only one,
and we misread, and to redress,
we must come back again.

*
In Bethlehem and round about
each village and every farm
every mill and bakery,
every cobbler tapping leather,
every wheel the wheelwright worked,
under the table they hid their infants,
behind the chair,
in every house in Palestine
a babe was born,
wrapped and buried,
a dozen, a thousand,
you couldn’t keep count.
That winter, what did we know?
And so we come again.

As to that year, we left quietly,
steered by our learned star
trying to avoid all other sights,
the incandescent phosphorus stars
that rained all strange night on house and barn,
We left quietly once and long ago.

*

Ride here again, wrench the eye
in the new cruelty of the stars
to the flash, the uproar of breaking houses
down the alleys of the souk
down the souk of the mind.

*
Ride back and still we see thee lie,
O little town of Bethlehem,
children running from the sword the gun
a bitter night for what was festival.
In the library of the night,
O walled up Bethlehem,
we’ve read of a infant constellation,
a second coming in your silent sky.

Wise or not, knowing only truth,
this time we mean to witness a birth
when all your children shall dream
in the freedom of all the stars that are,
the safe shepherds of their dreaming.
And this is why we come again, we stay.
This time we will not go away.

Judith Kazantzis

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