A Prayer in the Desert: In Memoriam for the Children
It is dusk in the desert
light shimmers, ripples across the sands,
like a gentle hand descending from the mountains.
Two long rows of people face one another, crimson ribbons across the desert.
On one side stand Israelites who have lost their children.
Across from them stand Palestinians who have also lost their children. Their silenced faces are bathed in the stilled light.
Not a sound can be heard.
They stand there like becalmed forgotten ships, beached on the sands.
In the broken mirrors of their eyes,
they see one another as they see themselves.
In the brokenness of their grief they are the same.
In the wholeness of their love of their lost children they are the same.
In seeing across to whom they thought the enemy, the Other,
they finally find themselves.
Some of the mothers and fathers standing in the rows have their children who survived beside them, some without an arm, some without a leg, some blinded.
Palestinian children. Israeli children.
Children with numbed faces grieve for the lost parts of their young selves.
The first star lights the sky, flickers like a soft memorial candle, tender.
Far off, on an invisible hill, called Mt. Moriah, in the desert sun, a father called Abraham is standing straight holding his son Isaac on an altar,
is holding a knife razor sharp, glistening, over his son’s throat.
From that hill, the father Abraham looking into the far future sees the parents of all the sacrificed children and sees the children who have lost parts of themselves.
The father Abraham lifts his son Isaac from the Altar, clasps him to his heart and flees from that akeda.
He flees to end all the akedas he sees in the future.
He takes his son home to the tent of Sarah and for the rest of his life, because he raised the knife in his hand,
he kindles the flame of the peace of Oneness, of shalom.
The second star lights the sky with a golden glow of tender mercy.
The light can almost be heard as a song.
Far off, on an invisible hill, a father called Abraham is standing straight and dignified over his son Ishmael, holding the knife over his son’s throat, ready to sacrifice him to his beloved God.
This father Abraham sees into the future, sees the tribe of Ishmael who love their sons and daughters and wrap them in shawls of dynamite, human bombs to be offered on the altar.
This father Abraham sees into the future and in horror clasps his son Ishmael to his heart and flees the hill,
takes his son home to the tent of Hagar,
and because he raised the knife in his hand,
he kindles the flame of Oneness, of Salem , all for the sake of Peace,
A third star lights the sky. Night is falling like a velvet blanket over those standing in the desert.
On another hill, invisible to the eye, there is a staircase carved in the hill, steep steps of limestone.
If you would walk them, you would come to the top of the hill.
You would see a circle of rabbis.
You would see them dancing, white beards and their black coats whirling. You would hear their feet stamping the earth and their arms reaching, circling to the heavens where white scrolls of light are spinning.
But you cannot go to this place for it is an invisible place.
Not to be found, only to be known.
Here the thirty six just are always dancing in prayer, never ceasing, never extinguished, always holding the world together as they reach toward the spinning scrolls of white light
writing dancing shinning letters upon the black sky.
On another hidden hill that we cannot go to and only know it to be there, always there, whirling dervishes whirl
in their white gowns and black hats forever.
They never stop. Their feet touch the earth and their hands touch the heavens. They dance that way forever. And their whirling keeps the heavens and earth embracing one another even when blood drenches the desert and children are sacrificed and mothers and fathers stand silently in the desert, crying with eyes as parched as the desert.
They never stop their dance.
Even when the world seems to be collapsing,
the rabbis on their hill and the whirling dervishes on theirs,
remain the pillars of our poignant world.
Some in each century may see what is hidden behind those hills. The
Ari saw. And Rumi saw. And Rabin and Hussein saw
they see now the bereaved mothers and fathers and children
standing in the desert
they hold one another, weeping for the dream they tried to bring down from the whirling hills and the hidden spinning scrolls.
Now it is dark. There is a full moon. The heavens are bright with stars.
Each star sails like a boat on the waters of the night, sails in a pilgrimage of prayer.
Through frozen tears melted and shed, the ones in the two rows
form a circle, hold one another, look heavenward, see visions in the night—
each star a child swimming, laughing, bathed in the longed for safety
of a home in the coming morning’s sunlight.