by Steven Sher (Jerusalem, Israel)
for Maureen Kushner, on the yahrzeit of Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, zt”l
Our van winds through the narrow streets
and splits the crowds that choke the way.
The Arab children after school seek shortcuts
past the Jewish plots–whole sections overrun
with broken stones. Windshield grating,
front and rear, guards against large rocks
that can be hurled at passing cars.
We are targets in our own land.
It is the day before Tu b’Shevat,
a season of renewal, a time of growth—
the first flowers bloom in the city below.
When we find the Arab caretaker, he leads us
to the gravesite and asks for too much money,
but we don’t bargain with our dead before us.
Like Abraham for Machpelah, we pay full price.
He scrubs the stone with brush and water.
More Arab boys pass through the lane.
An old woman and her daughter appear
in the section next to where we stand
reciting Psalms. In his year in the earth
her husband has prepared a place
for their eternal home. She says it feels
more like home than Brooklyn.
Returning to our van, we meet a group
on foot breathing hard. Alarmed
there’s been a new attack, the road
exposed below, we gird ourselves
for a hail of rocks on our descent.
Born in Brooklyn, Steven Sher is the author of fifteen books. He made aliyah five years ago, and now lives in Jerusalem near his children and grandchildren. To learn more about him and his work, visit his website: https://steven-sher-poetry.wixsite.com/writing
2 responses to “Visiting the Mount of Olives”
Until I read your poem I did not know R. Kaplan zt”l was buried here in E”Y. I had the zchus to have him as a teacher for two years (“Mesechta X Daf Y, look it up!” – this to a bunch of seminary girls.) Kol ha’kavod for honoring his memory.
Kol Ha’kavod to Maureen Kushner of Yerushalayim for organizing this special annual ascent. Steven Sher (aka Shlomo Yashar)