Morituri Te Salutant
Ari Belenkiy

Do not bring the hire of a harlot or the price of a dog
into the House of the Lord your G-d
      Deuteronomy 23:19

And now the fatal day was come,
according to the revolution of ages;
it was the tenth day of the month Ab
      Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 6:4:5

How beautiful are your hills, Judea! How fruitful are your vineyards and your olive groves! How lovely are your maidens and how courageous are your young men! How wise are your elders and how severe are your laws! How different you are from Rome, frivolous and jealous Rome! How unusual is your religion and your G-d, your invisible G-d, O Judea!

            A voice against the East, a voice against the West,
            A voice against four winds, against the city and the Holy House,
            Against bridegrooms and brides, against the whole people.

He is happy. Tomorrow he will see that major miracle, Herod’s Temple. The Temple - built of blue, yellow, and white marble. Jews say that one who has not seen their Temple has not seen a real building in his life. A strong statement to the ear of a resident of Rome! Well, his dream is nearly fulfilled. He has heard from pilgrims how it difficult it is for a non-Jew to enter even the Temple’s court. Jewish priests guard their territory with zeal and dignity. However, by now all of the petty obstacles are overcome. He knows that G-d, the invisible Jewish G-d, is with him. He has endured many dangers, too many. But in spite of everything he is here, at Jerusalem.

            Our father in Heaven, protector and redeemer of Israel.
            A priest and a prophet are slain at the door of your sanctuary,
            A prophet and a priest.

Yes, he definitely had support from Heaven. According to some prisoners, last year the people of Jerusalem were frightened by a comet that passed over the sky in the form of a sword; this was taken as a sign by the local populace. Well – the sky does not cheat: his father recently ran over Judea like a comet and now he himself hangs over the city like a Damascus sword. He recalls a phrase heard in Rome from that short Jew with feverish eyes and a torn scroll in his hands: the one who takes up a sword will die from it, the one with a scroll will endure. That Jew had tried to convert him. He said something peculiar. That G-d loved them, the Jews, so much that he sent his Son to save them. Here, in Jerusalem. Interesting theory; its destiny will be glorious. In this doctrine, the one who was sent supplanted the sender. Well, this makes perfect sense: he will also take the place of his father. And he also came here to save Jews... from themselves.

            Angel of death sent me here, angel of death.
            Song which caresses my palate I learned from flapping of his wings.

He presses his temples. The parchment before him is still untouched. He wants to finish his letter to Rome tonight, but something is bothering him, preventing him from concentrating. Suddenly he realizes what it is: a gaze. He looks around; his large tent is empty. He lays the stylus on the table and goes out of the tent. In front of his tent, a group of prisoners are tied to a big post, a palm whose branches have been peeled off. The wounded are slowly dying; those still alive wait for his decision. He comes closer. Next to the group, a man in his thirties sits on the ground, in fetters, looking steadily toward the tent. The man is slowly swinging from side to side and quietly wailing. He recalls a line: Argos, Ulysses’ dog, lying in the manure. Blind Homer knew how to write succinctly. Is this barbarian able to appreciate the poetry of the ancients? Does he know how to hold a stylus? He takes a torch from the hand of a guardian, comes closer to the prisoner, and looks in his eyes - a spark of life is there.

The strange slow smoldering life of the people of the East, enigmatic to him, a Westerner.

            I want to tear out my eyes and throw them to dogs.
            I want to cut my throat and choke with blood.

1       [2]       [next->]

August 2005

Tisha B'Av
David Harris Ebenbach

Postcards from Gaza
Photographs by
Kitra Cahana

Morituri Te Salutant
Ari Belenkiy

The Place of Anger
Fiction by Jay Michaelson

Much Ado on 2nd Avenue
Leah Koenig

Elinor Carucci: Diary of a Dancer
Commentary by Eliot Markell

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