This was the action in our little village yesterday. The old public building, long abandoned and roof caving in, has been fixed up in order to become a home for handicapped people.
I stopped to greet the gardeners and thank them for making the place beautiful and to ask permission for a photo. (Of course they found this rather strange.) This is where my little bit of Arabic comes in handy.
Yes, it is the Palestinians and the Israeli Arabs and the foreign Gastarbeiter who build the State these days. They build our houses, operate the earthmoving bulldozers, landscape the gardens, dig in archaeological excavations, plant and pick our crops, shepherd our sheep and goats, etc. etc. etc.
A.D. Gordon, who died in 1922 in Kibbutz Degania, must be turning over in his grave at the situation today. He was a Zionist ideologue who believed that physical effort on the land would bring about the redemption of the Jewish people. He attributed pioneer work a semi-religious status, arguing that it created an organic interrelationship between man, the land and culture.
A. D. Gordon: "Tolstoy in Palestine" - Poem - by Steven P. Schneider . .
Like Tolstoy, you longed to connect your life
to the soil.
You turned your back
on property, family, the high culture of Russia-
to live with peasants,
to work the vineyards and orange groves of Rishon Le-Zion.
Your stamina stunned the younger men
and women who worked beside you.
Your labor connected you to the land of your people.
It made you free.
Turning your back on the occupations of the Pale--
Talmudic scholar, money lender,
peddler, victim of pogroms--
You wanted to remake the Jew into a farmer.
Your weapon against history was the hoe--
Your work in the fields a new kind of worship.
With each digging of the hoe--
you discovered a new rung upon which to climb to heaven.
The sweat bathed your white beard.
Your eyes burned with the fire of holiness.
Tolstoy in Palestine,
you scribbled "Some Observations"
by candlelight in the predawn hours--
"our people," you wrote, "can be rejuvenated
through labor and a life close to nature."
At night, under the moon of Zion,
beside the campfire,
you preached your religion of labor
to all who would listen.
And when the dreamers of Israel
sang and danced,
you joined them
in the hora of the body reborn.