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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Young Writers Project: 'Stories From Israel'

Young Writers Project Photo Library, photo by Sophie Dauerman

Big plane, big wings,
and small seats,
jammed together
like packing peanuts in a moving box.
Sweaty thighs sticking,
and long nights of flight-map watching.

“We have entered Israeli airspace,
please remain seated.”
The Americans sit tight,
with taut buckles and popping eyes.
But the Israelis are already
halfway out the door,
with muttered slichas
accompanying aggressive elbows.

I’m content to stand still
in the wave pushing out the cabin door,
watching my world pop up around me.
Colored bursts of classroom Hebrew…
Sweet, sweet Mediterranean air…

A golden sun floats
like a shimmering birthday balloon,
dancing on a horizon of olive green hills
and Jerusalem’s stone buildings.
The wind blows the scent
of rosemary bushes and pomegranate trees,
swirling through the cobbled alleys
lined with falafel shops and haggling merchants.

I watch the challahs rising as the moon does,
and children running free with laughter.
Their dresses are floating in the wind
as the land rests for Shabbat.
The candles of my dining room table
light up a city.

Two years of chopped Israeli salad for dinner
(the cucumbers are never as fresh),
and going to Hebrew school
(where no one speaks Hebrew),
and then finally I’m back.
Gazing out the airport windows,
I want to run outside and sink down
upon this sweet, sweet earth.

We dance around shesek trees,
and the wind twirls our voices.
A family feast with longtime friends.
Oh, how I missed the hummus…
I run through the cobbled streets,

On the Lebanon border,
tanks crush the soft, rich ground.
Barbed wire blights a clear blue sky.
The ocean crashes below,
relentless, all-consuming –
made up of my own tears
for the land I love.

Bright sun, kind people.
Life is as rich as a succulent shawarma.
It’s hard to leave.

Five years of my country
popping up on the evening news,
of, “murderers… oppressors… war.”
That’s not the country I know.
Does no one want to listen,
or do I enjoy the silence?
I’m sinking in the Dead Sea.

I’m soaring like a bird
above the Negev Desert.
Free wind chimes tinkling,
za’atar and rugelach wafting.
Sweet, sweet people.
How I missed this piece of my heart.

A map of stars press against a dark night,
above sleeping bags on rock-filled dirt.
A peaceful desert, a peaceful mind.
I lose myself in the stars of my ancestors.

Tinkling forks and cinnamon-scented rice.
A kind lady in front of me,
wearing a sapphire blue silk covering.
Conversations drifting like beach kites.
I eat dinner with an Israeli Arab family.
What differences can’t be solved
over pita and abundant laughter?

Four days of olive green army uniforms.
Cain hamefakedet (“yes, commander”).
Lessons piled upon our days:
morality and rules,
responsibility and truth.

Large concrete wall
lined with problems.
There is sadness on both sides.
Israelis are as resilient
as the gnarled olive tree.
When the plane takes off,
a piece of me never leaves the tarmac.

Sun-streaked hair,
texts half in Hebrew.
The scent of Israel hangs on my clothes.
A sweet, sweet land lives inside me.

The Young Writers Project provides VPR's audience another avenue to hear and read selections from Vermont's young writers. The thoughts and ideas expressed here are the writers' own and do not necessarily reflect those of Vermont Public Radio. The collaboration is organized by Susan Reid of Young Writers Project and Vermont Public Radio.

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