If Moses had Entered the Land

by Steven Sher (September 2017)

Shattered Shades of Sky, Zlatko Music



We'd expect a steady stream of buses

packed with Hasids and their pious wives:

600,000 pilgrims on the 7th of Adar;

beggars extending boney hands

like turnstiles at the entrance to the tomb;

madmen babbling incoherent visions

or spitting indignation: Remove

your shoes; you stand on holy ground.

We'd expect a magnificent stone edifice

on a par with Machpelah,

an Herodian fortress amid a dusty city

topped by an Ottoman mosque

whose grandiose dome lays claim

to another site of holy contention—

his tomb off limits to the Jews

except on designated nights

after the locals have gone to sleep,

our presence less a provocation then,

the route through town secured

with armored vehicles and soldiers,

a caravan of bulletproof buses

drawn to blinding light,

that pillar of imagined fire

billowing into the night.

Brooklyn native Steven Sher is the author of 15 books including, most recently, Uncharted Waters (New Feral Press, 2016), and The House of Washing Hands (Pecan Grove Press, 2014). He taught at many universities/workshops for more than 35 years. He moved to Jerusalem in 2012. Find out more at stevensher.net.
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