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Aharon Shabtai

Translated from the Hebrew by Peter Cole

Rippen*

These creatures in helmets and khakis,
I think to myself, aren’t Jews,

according to the real meaning of the word.  A Jew
doesn’t dress himself up with a weapon like jewelry,

doesn’t believe in the barrel of a gun aimed at a target,
but in the thumb of the child who was shot at—

in the house through which he comes and goes,
not in the charge that blows it apart.

The coarse soul and iron fist
he scorns by nature.

He lifts his eyes not to the officer, or the soldier
with his hand on the trigger—but to justice,

and he cries out for compassion.
Therefore he won’t steal land from its people

and will not starve them in camps.
The voice calling for expulsion

is heard from the hoarse throat of the oppressor—
a sure sign that the Jew has entered a foreign country

and, like Umberto Saba, gone into hiding within his own city.
Because of voices like these, father,

at age sixteen, with your family, you fled Rippen;
now here in Rippen is your son.

 

Pronounced ripEEN