Saturday, April 25, 2009

Khaybar, Khaybar ya Yahud!

In Sweden there is a monthly Magazine called The Jewish Chronicle. It´s partly funded by The Jewish Congregation, and hence, as a member, I receive it every month. This month they have a theme on the Anti-Israel protests during the Operation Cast Led in Gaza. During these demonstrations, signs were carried with the text "Khaybar, Khaybar ya Yahud!", a slogan that was also chanted at mass demonstrations in Malmoe, the third largest city in Sweden, with the largest percentage of newly arrived Muslim immigrants from the Middle East. Now what does this slogan mean? Is it something about freedom to Palestine? Ending the "occupation"?

Not so. Khaybar was a small city in present day Saudi Arabia, where Muhammad clashed with Jewish Bedouins in the year 629, as it seems primarily for political reasons. The fight ended up with 3/4 of the Jews being slaughtered. And this is now chanted in a protest against the Davis Cup match between Israel and Sweden? This is a demonstration for the Palestinian right to statehood? In the same march walked a famous folk singer (a fantastic on I might add, just wish he´d shut up on politics forever...) as well as local politicians. All under the flying green banners of Hamas.

Do I need to point out that in the year 629 there was no Palestine, nor Palestinians? At that time the Arabs were a small desert-dwelling people. In time they would subdue the whole of what is now called the "Arab world" and not be stopped until the mountainous borders of France.

The Jewish Chronicle also contains an interview with Ilmar Reepalu, the Leader of the City Council. He says he never heard until now any complaints about the safety of the city's Jewish population, and that after the attempts of arson, vandalisation and attacks against Jewish outdoor meetings, he saw no reason to contact the Jewish Community in Malmoe to reassure them that this was being looked into. He can´t see why he would and as he says: "When Swastikas was painted on my house, the Jewish community didn't contact me to express their support".

Ehhh....well, the Jewish community isn't the city's highest ranking official, now is it? What is true is that this politician wanted to stop the Davis Cup match altogether. And what is true is that Arab votes in the constituency is much more numerous than the Jewish. Who wouldn't look the other way for a little Jew-hatred?

Other than that Im restaurating an old table, and the result is so, so. The fumes from the paint remover will probably have cost me quite a few brain cells, and if I had any clue how much work would be involved, I probably wouldn't have started it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

This simple


simple as trees
simple as rain
simple as bucket

simple as the dirty hands of a child
after hours of playing under a clouded sky

simple as book
simple as care
simple as ease

simple as an old man smoking his pipe
on his front porch watching the autumn foliage


simple as home
simple as train
simple as night

simple as the tired gaze of an inner city cop
shedding his uniform after the night shift

simple as whisper
simple as mourning
simple as love

simple as the trembling hands of an abandoned man
reaching for the bottle as the night grows blacker


simple as death
simple as sun
simple as water

simple as the sorrows of an early summer morning
the city broad streets empty to the singing birds

simple as wing flaps
simple as grace
simple as end

simple as the hand of light that touches your heart
and make you struggle each and yet another day


when I die
even if I never said a single thruth
if everything I ever uttered was a lie
I’ll take them with me

Stalgia 1


you chose another
I can’t blame you
it took me ten years to understand
why and
that the time and
the man you chose had made you
someone i couldn´t have loved
had made you another

and ten more years for me to see
that life had made me another man
than the one you fell in love with so

at age forty now I know what
happened half a life ago or
do I

the tears of joy you showed me
running like the summer rain that
made your face a window
drove the scents of deep green
lawns that etched forever in my
heart this picture

a green park
a yellow bench
on it
a woman that is gone
a smile no longer yours

behind the camera
an aching heart
a man no longer me

a loss no longer mine

The mountaineer

a man
a sun
beating beating beting burning
the surface of stone every
single cliff every ounce of
breathing air every browning
blade of grass
far below

a man climb a mountain the
sweat of his forehead his
burning palms his wild eyes
every sinue like viola strings
gasping fire

the third time
the last time

and the sun blots out
every purpose every
thought every last
bit of pride and vanity
even the memory of his
own name
and what it meant

climbing towards


and every moment
and every movement
and every burning


and there is no more time
and there is no more man
and there is no more

and it is all white and

it begins

Testimony in imperative, past and future

the world is everything that is falling

black stars and
drunks from bar stools

dices and dead mans hands and
queens of

like flashlights in
mining shafts

the world is
everything that is

bodies loosing all humanity
in the iron grip of gravity
frozen in a leap of eternity

the world is everything that is falling

the angel of light
the god of might our

the world is everything that is falling
our scrolls the splendid
universe that we were
and hearts
and faith
and a 1000 day fast
won’t make it better
won’t atone for it

the world is everything
that is falling

falling from the towers of babel
and the heights if innocence

choices, tools, the working hand
men – women – children
the wisdom of the very old and
very young
the past and future

world is everything that is falling petals
books in empty nigh-time libraries and
children finally – our last words an
open place where every language failed
every world a lie, an imprint every letter
over a screaming sky
and fell

the world is everything that is falling

ecxept rebellion and prayer

and you
and me

and the thousands
who silently know
the meaning of


narrative according to one of the confused passers-by

she secretly
found herself a new lover
didn’t like his colour
painted him another

a short glance to
the mirror he
noticed said
took a shower

his wrist watch
corduroy trousers
blue and sun ray dancing dust
his reflection in the dark computer screen
finishing a cigarette for an eternity
gets up he says: i’m leaving

the door - the thud - the end

act II: from him: a letter:

i know you know
been there to and
im older so listen

see that corridor? white the end a door?
when you decide to leave i say when
close it don’t look back no more
that’s all

me? no fear i met someone
to her i am another
now try to rest


still lifes: beeper - cellphone - handheld

she secretly
grows herself a new colour
laughter cars and auction hollers
ocean mountain desert:


Notes on Noach

So, Noach. Obviously he was a rightous man and had faith in Hashem, and once he was ordered to build the ark he did so with much tenacity, according to our sages during a period of 120 years, and probably accompanied by the ridicule of others, and this is admirable.

But his faith didnt make him an activist it seems. Before the flood, he was rightous and probably his family too, but we are not told that he actively tried to change the behaviour of his peers, or preach rightousness to others. He is also a bit fatalist if you compare him to Abraham (which seem to be the thing that is often done) or Moshe. Because once he is told that Hashem intends to wipe out humanity, he simply accepts it ans start building the ark. Compare that to how Abraham starts to haggle with Hashem over Sodom or Gemorra or how Moshe tells Hashem after the Golden Calf incident that if Hashem blots out Am Israel then he might as well remove Moshe from the book Hashem i writing. So when it comes to Abraham and Moshe, despite their absolute faith in Hashem, it doesn’t stop them from questioning His decision of from being equally loyal to Humanity and Am Israel.

This makes me think acually about a difference I perceive between Islam and Judaism (one of many). Clasiical Islam typically has an “Inshalla” atitude to things, a rather fatalist approach basically. If you are born in a poor shoemaker family, this is what God wants and thats that - you become a poor shoemaker or a poor shoemakers wife. So basically Noachs approach may be seen more one of “obediance”, while Abrahams and Moshes approach is more of “partners in creation”.

As for Rashi and the classical question of who is more rightous, Noach or Abraham, whether Noach was only rightous in comparison with his own rotten generation, or whetherwe should concur that he was superrightous as he was able to stay that way DESPITE being surrounded by the worst sinners imaginable, and hence, in the company of Abrahams peers, would have towered over him....hmmm....I guess I’m heretical enough to say that I dont really find the question very relevant: To me Abraham is more Jewish in his ways and he is hence closer to me. On the other hand his readiness to sacrifice Isaak is a display of completely blind faith that I honestly fail to understand - especially in light that he pleaded for the lifes of the people in Sodom and Gomorra, people he didn’t even know (with the exception of the fullblown sinner Laban). But...that might be something for next weeks parcha.

a people of bullhorns

We are a people of bullhorns
we cry out in the night
we cry out in the dusty sunlight
but nobody really listens

its not that we don’t care
but all this digital shouting
craving attention
has dulled out our memory
and we have lost the art
the actual knowledge of sound
the craft of litening

one reed floating on the water surface
the hissing of atumn leaves
the pounding of our own hearts
a creaking wooden floor in an old house
long time ago

but there is an analogue wisper in the night
its present in the vast and lonely coountryside
can be heard above the din in the big cities
and if you listen carefully
over all our bullhorns

it speaks of birth
and of rebirth
of childrearing and of
sowing and reaping
od shelter for the very young
and the very old of loneliness
and leaving room for those to

it has the power to teach us to direct our voices
it has the power to teach us to direct our voices
it has the power to teach us to direct our voices

and so
i will try to listen
and regain what has been lost to me

a zoom

come closer
have a look at this picture a black
digital military style watch in oil paint

tic tac time that’ll pass and passed will pass
look - trees on fire bright yellow bright red leaves
streets dark air dark leaves yellow sky dark blue
cool autumn breaths of higher space tic tac time dark

smell of winter like the childhood scent of
gas stations
cars and petrol

tic tac time the soothing sound of diesel engine
dunking nights
and memories of highrise concrete neighbourhoods
asleep and
reaching for the ever distant stars as if

snow now winter and cloud of ice and snow i feel the
biting cold
inhaled with every draw of smoke i see this line of
people at the

step away from this picture
the dry knacking of a grandfather clock
an open coffin closes sound of wooden screws

a rite taken place
steps on gravel

with one swift move reclaim the ever stolen words and




Doña Leonor in Memoriam, 10th September 2007

I was a young man, of course I didn’t think so so at the time but I was, and as we came in for landing I remember feeling intimdated, the deeply green trees surrounding the first stretch of the runway ,and the wooden schacks lining the the outskirts of the AirPort, all seemed so foreign. The heavy Boewing touched down in Santafe de Bogota, Colombia. The AirPort was cluttered with heavily armed police and soldiers. The scents were those of dirt, of noice, dust, heat, machineguns and palm trees. This was in July 1993. I was a very long way from home.

I found a home though. After three months I moved in with a married couple in a house in a working class neighbourhood. The house was a rundown miracle. leaking trough badly during the regularly recurring deluges that turned the streets into rivers. The couple was Just a miracle. The house was situated at the foot of the Andes mountain ridge and the non heated water was freezing. I paid 50 $ a month for room and board.

Doña Leonors and Don Carlos were in their late 50:s. Their daughter who still lived at home left for Euorope. Doña Leonor was a glorious person, impossible not to fall in love with. She was very short, with a round weathered face, curious and sympathetic brown eyes, a girlish smile and a lot of points of view as to how I lived my life. There were specifically two things that worried her: My incessant smoking of the filterfree local cigarette brand Piel Roja, and my consumption of Agua Ardiente, the local booze. Many years earlier she had convinced her husband both to quit smoking and drinking. Doña Leonor was very much into healthy living and every morning she led a workout group of house wives in a local park. Her cooking basically consisted of vegatables without fat or salt, not the kind of food I preffered at the time. She would allways get up very early. When I got up she would give me coffe and a bowl of the colombian specialty - Changua Con Silantro. A rather special speciality that took me a while to get used to, but when I did, I learned to love it. Sort of like the anarchic, noicy and chaotic city I lived in. It took a while, but eventually it grew on you.

In the evenings I would sit in the kitchen and play guitar as Doña Leonor was washing up after dinner. I’d play the songs I loved. Her favourite was “Este es un nuevo día” by Argentinian songwriter Facundo Cabral. Or she would keep us company while I and Don Carlos played chess. Doña Leonor was a simple woman in the best sense. She was a force of good. Her hands were big and brown after so many years of hard work and so was her heart. For six months she prepared my food, washed my clothes, listened to my guitar and worried about my drinking. And made me feel a lot less lonely.

I met Doña Leonor and Don Carlos a few months ago when they came to visit their newest grandson. We talked and had a cup of coffe and Doña Leonor asked me if I still was drinking too much. It was good to see them.

Doña Leonor died a week ago at age 71, leaving her husband and four children. You are dearly missed. Sleep tight, beautiful lady.

Thoughts on Atheism and morality....

When blaming Atheism for the rise of moral relativism, are we to some extent confusing Atheists with Agnostics of the kind that hardly even think about it? As far as I undertand true Atheists are people who are standing in a constant, and often painful, relation to G-d, albeit negative. As atheism as we know it it is a relatively new phonomenon, I don’t think it wrong to call it sort of a reverse-image Monotheism. Serious Atheists must make a hard effort to grasp what they are denying. Among such atheists I would count Albert Camus (Especially The Plague and The myth of Sisyphos). He accepts Nietzhes idea that “G-d is dead”, but rejects the conclusion that “All is permissable”, and fortwith dedicates his life to prove that there still are motives to act morally, and this with an almost desperate air to it. When I studied Ethics at University, I noticed that most of the Die-Hard Atheist Utilitarian Philosphers still demanded a metaphysics that contained some sort of objective “Value Enitities” that somehow would stand in correlation to the Utilitarian prescibed or forbidden actions. This would ensure that morality actually was something objectively true, irrespective of human thinking...But what could possibly that be? Only one thing could ever make that equation work: Hashem. Same thing with my best friend since childhood: Die-Hard atheist and the most morally stringent person I have ever met, constantly evaluating his own actions so that they be in accord with the strictest Monotheistic standards (mush more so than me). When I ask him why he doesn’t have an answer. Active Ahtheists are a weird bunch. Sometimes I think, at least when it comes to G-d, that belief in Absolute Truth, and belief in it’s negation aren’t nevessarily that very different.

Makes me think of the Rabbi who met a very furious woman who had lost her son at a young age and had become an Atheist. She declared to the Rabbi that ever since, every year on Yom Kippur she would get drunk and feast on copious amounts of Bacon.
- Well, said the Rabbi, at least you are celebrating it.

Meaning, once again, I’m a lot more scared of people who doesn’t care than of Atheists.

Sholem Aleichem.

Shul behaviour and pot smoking

So how exactly should you behave in Shul? I mean on one hand it is fairly simple: Just pick up any standard “Judaism for dummies” book and it will tell you that during service s Shul is a house of prayer, period, and the only conversation that should be going on is the individuals and the congregations conversation with the Almighty. On the other hand we have the facts of reality, maybe best summoned up by the following comment: “Well....Feinstein goes to Shul to speak to I go to Shul to speak to Feinstein.”
I guess at least in small Diaspora communities, there is only so much you can do about it. We tend to have enough problems to get a Minyan together as it is. So as long as people don’t start babbling during the Amidah, babbling is more or less tolerated. Then again, severe conflicts of interest occur, specifically during High Holidays. Because then a lot of people who otherwise never attend Shul turns up, bumping into other more or less secular Jews who they only meet once or twice a year, and naturally they have a lot of catching up to do. On the other hand you have the religious people and the daily minyan people for whom the day is among the most sacred of the year, and the last thing they want is to hear about the bench neighbours new car, or the daughters new boyfrined during Kol Nidre. Last year parts of the Yom Kippur service could hardly be heard because the Chazzen, a man flown in from Israel for Yom Kippur, with a very strong voice, could hardly make this strong voice heard over the crowds incessant chatting. Finally one of the Kohanim had a fit of rage and broke into the service shouting out the importance of this day and asked people to for Heaveans sake stop babbling like chickens. And the crowd quieted down for a while. But basically it is a dilemma because we can not make our Shuls into places reserved for only the Pious, they have to be places for all Klal Israel. So there is really no way of “solving” this problem.

Anyway, I came to think of this because yesterday on Shabbath Shacharit a friend of mine interrupted in the middle of Mourners Kaddish to inform me that he had been smoking weed the other night (after, I hope, saying Shabbes Kiddush) and that it was so great, he hadn’t done it for 10 years, and he really wanted to get his hand on some more. I told him that he actually was 38 and not 15 and left it at that. But it did bug me.
Breaking Shabbes to smoke weed is hardly very kosher, nor is bugging people during prayer to tell of such activities even remotely OK, but my annoyance stemmed also from my deep dislike for drugs.
I haven’t always been religious and I grew up in a tough neighbourhood. And the drug liberals can argue until they are blue in the face about freedom from paternalism, this will always be a question of the strong arguing their rights to have access to drugs they (believe they can) handle over the weeks protection from complete humiliation and degradation. Drug addicts commit violent acts against themselves and the people around them. I have met many potheads who never got hooked on heavier drugs, many of them having smoked every day for many, many years, and believing them to be as bright as they ever were, having taken no damage. But I have never met a non-pothead agreeing with them. But even more importantly: You will find absolutely nobody hooked on coke that did not start out with weed. Nobody smoking brown heroine who did not start out smoking weed. Nobody has ever died in a public rest room with a stained needle in the arm who did not start his or her career with pot. And unfortunately I have known people in all those categories. Some lived. Some didn’t.

There is Hallacha to the effect that you should abide by the laws of the land were you sojourn as long as they do not go against Hallacha and Hallacha certainly do not promote drugs, and hardly any countries allow Cannabis (Including Israel). But I wish I knew of a stronger Hallachic statement against drugs. I suppose one might say that this is the world Hashem created for us, and hence to use drugs that take you very far from how he intended for us to perceive of his Creation is disrespectful. After all he created our senses knowing how and what they would show us of his magnificent world. If he had wanted the trees to fly and the ocean to be yellow, that is what he would have made. But these are just my thoughts. If anyone out there knows of such Hallacha, please inform me.
And if you feel like sharing you drug experiences with members of your congregation, do it after service.


tunnel the

shifting: light shadow light shadow light light shadow

soothing like a lullaby the
scent of leather

drunk and smelly father and son the
son asleep on his shoulder his

eyes tender

she covers her heart in makeup trembling
hands pays cash wrinkeled bills
her heart a
knitted baby hat her eyes longing
her hands to hold the distance
from terminal to future


and from the hospital the short
distance to their lodging becomes
the final rift over which no words can wander

old hands and old rings holding
on holding warmth old
glasses and an old inscribed gold gold

retirement watch

it is a lullaby
they fall asleep
no more tunnel

and it’s dawn

and it’s daylight

and it’s dusk

and night

and i

will own the shadows
and this light


in darkness
one source of light the
tip of my cigarette

a soothing smell of gasoline
a sleepiness of many miles behind the wheel

a voice in the dark
a girl on my bed asking me

to follow her on the last leg of a long journey
tell her a story of the lifes of albatrosses
give her one more blanket for the evening cold
to buy her a yellow toy car with red pedals

sometimes she is my fathers mother
sometimes she is the girl from the lost and found department
sometimes she is my future daughter

the metal taste of off loss and longing in my mouth
the warm smell of summer night

i bid her farewell
stamp out the cigarette
but it is warm here and i am waiting