On Palmyra

Posted: September 5, 2015 in Chat
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The destruction of the Palmyra temple is undoubtedly a terrible act.
It also shows up the vulnerability of what we hold dear, of what we value. It is vulnerable; it is, for want of a better word, destroyable; priceless paintings get damaged by accident or design; they get stolen, destroyed beyond reclaim.
New art is made all the time, as are new discoveries of ancient artifacts; the greatest sculptures and architectures of our age are still being created.
They too are vulnerable.

Can age alone create value? Value of a kind, yes.
We must be careful, in such extreme cases, how we balance things out:


Visits of condolence is all we get from them.
They squat at the Holocaust Memorial,
They put on grave faces at the Wailing Wall
And they laugh behind heavy curtains
In their hotels.
They have their pictures taken
Together with our famous dead
At Rachel’s Tomb and Herzl’s Tomb
And at the top of Ammunition Hill.
They weep over our sweet boys
And lust over our tough girls
And hang up their underwear
To dry quickly
In cool, blue bathrooms.

Once I sat on the steps by a gate at David’s Tower, I placed my two heavy baskets at my side.
A group of tourists was standing around their guide and I became their target marker.
“You see that man with the baskets? Just right of his head there’s an arch from the Roman period.
Just right of his head.” “But he’s moving, he’s moving!” I said to myself:
redemption will come only if their guide tells them, “You see that arch from the Roman period?
It’s not important: but next tom it, left and down a bit, there sits a man who’s brought fruit
and vegetables for his family.”

Yehuda Amichai
translated by Glenda Abramson and Tudor Parfitt. From POEMS FOR JERUSALEM AND LOVE POEMS,, Sheep Meadow Press, 1988.

I do not present this poem as embodying any kind of an answer to the problem of my subject. It is a means of helping to open a dialogue, to see what other perspectives of time, subject, theme, can open up for us. This is an on-going problem; it has as many approaches as there are people thinking about it, through it.

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