So I've been thinking a lot about the word Israel, and the way that while it has so many meanings - Jacob of the Bible, the Jewish people (ancient, past, and present), the current modern state of Israel, and a hope of peace, to name a few - so many times the conflation of all of these meanings can be confusing, especially in prayer. Are we praying for peace in Israel - as in this Israel in the Middle East? No, I think it is something much bigger and more universal than this one country, and I think it always has been, but it is hard to remember that when I say the word Israel in prayer, hard to separate prayer Israel from the state of Israel in which I am living. I was going to post extensively and coherently on this, but instead decided to study for the Literature in English GRE subject test. Suddenly, I had a not-very-brilliant idea, for which I beg your forgiveness. I have decided to study poetic forms by writing poems of my own for this blog, using these forms, to express the ideas, experiences, or emotions I might otherwise convey in a much-more-pleasant-to-read way that is in many ways dissimilar from amateur poetry and cheap study tools. So, with my apologies, an attempt at a poem about the use of the word Israel in prayer, in the form of a Folk Ballad. The typical stanza of the folk ballad is called the ballad (go figure) and the length of the line isdetermined by the number of stressed syllables only (rather than all syllables) - in this way it is more similar to Old English poetry or to sprung rhythm than it is to, say, a sonnet (some of those will be coming your way soon if I keep up with this nonsense). The rhyme scheme is abcb.
With pride pouring from our lips
We speak of holy land
The words are words we all enjoy
Set to soulful tunes, and grand
And suddenly, although I wish
These solemn lines to pray
I feel as though they are a lie
I hesitate to say
Aligning past with present times
Our now with then and there
Conflating, confusing, entrapped in a maze
Of politics and prayer
Israel – what is this word
An ancient hope for peace?
The magic of which angels sing?
The goal that will not cease?
A people joined in blood or pride
A nation or a creed?
A promise made to Abraham?
An ever budding seed?
Or are our words directed toward
A Middle Eastern place
Imperfect as all nations are
With problems we all must face
Not holy, not perfect, not awesome, not pure
Not more righteous, noble, or just
Not above corruption or hate
Homelessness, hatred, or lust
Hear O Israel the Lord is One
I say with all my might
While children learn in religion-based schools
Before joining the army to fight
And I, an American living abroad
Who is this G-d I can’t see
Have I also been instructed to hear
Is Israel also me?
I am lost and confused in Israel
With no map for finding my way
Between the desire and reality
The ancient hope, the present day