Hardly anything tangible remains of those killed in terror attacks. What ever remains to us of others?
Perhaps, despite everything, Qasim, the childhood friend of Taha Muhammad Ali, and Anna, with whom I once worked, share the same fate. According to the elderly poet from the Galilee, Qasim vanished in 1948 (“forty years ago” in a poem dated 1988); we cannot tell whether Ali is making an appeal to a lost friend from his past or to a friend who is no longer alive. Anna Orgel and I worked together in 1999, in the interests of poetry and among poetry lovers, for the Mishkenot Sha’ananim Cultural Center, to plan the Fifth Jerusalem International Poets’ Festival. Anna didn’t manage to fool her killer; she died in the June 11 bombing (two weeks ago as I write this), along with sixteen other people, after a young terrorist decided to commit suicide and murder on a bus in Jerusalem. In Ali’s words, even if Qasim was killed, no trace of him remains, not “even a single shoe.” Hardly anything tangible remains of those killed in terror attacks either. What ever remains to us of others? What remains of the time spent in their presence? Feelings and memories, which remain alive as long as we do. The poet’s Qasim is still a boy of ten in the poem; Anna left behind only her 55 years. Each and every one of us tries, mostly unconsciously, sometimes in vain, to fool the killers and cheat death. This is a basic condition of life. Taha Muhammad Ali’s lament for his friend, who was “skill[ed] at hiding/ in the games of hide-and-seek” more than two generations ago, and my sorrow for Anna, who chanced to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (Where is the right place and when does it exist? Can we really fool death?), have joined together in my mind, without any advance planning. Only life can fool death; ‘the dead won’t praise God,’ as the saying goes. It remains for us, who live our daily life in the harsh reality of killers and killed, to wonder – Why? How many more? Until when? It remains for us to think and to do something: to read poems and live our lives. We must remember the dead and fool death as much as possible.
Taha Muhammad Ali’s ‘Fooling the Killer‘