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the Friend INDEPENDENT QUAKER JOURNALISM SINCE 1843
We hurry through arteries of crimson, gold and spice, the souq’s brave display, into narrowing chambers; past cells within cells, courtyards, closes, angles where termite-pale families burrow deep behind barred windows; down alleys under the bulge of bloated buildings and out on to a marble parade-ground bleached of life.
My companions wait patiently for me to find out what it is I feel. Not what I’m supposed to. The old slabs glare in heartless sun. There’s no more than one or two souls, whispering to the Wall like parted lovers, in a language I don’t speak. Scraps of paper prayer lodge in dry-eyed crevices. They’ll never germinate.
To worship here would feel idolatrous. There isn’t the pretext of a Lady, weeping plaster tears. This face is blank, unhaloed. At our backs extends the seasick plaza, swept bare of homes and mosques in a surge of claustrophobia prefiguring other acres bulldozed for yet another wall, another wailing.
For this crazed Wall mimics the faultline in my people, where the long hammering of cruelty finally cracked us and fear erupted. Many have since built higher walls, bricked up their emptied hearts in case of ambush. They call them shrines. Like yours, they hold the image of a broken-bodied Jew.
First published in Acumen magazine.
Grief is the same. Triptych by Jill Green.
Cover image: Three Jewish boys praying at the wailing wall in Jerusalem. Photo: Mikhael Levit/shutterstock.
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the Friend, 27 November 2009 Introduction to our special issue
Forewordby Judy Kirby, editor of the Friend
Welcome to this decidedly religious issue of the Friend. Places have enormous significance in religion, Israel being the most political of our time. But whatever your political position I ask you to set it aside while reading the following reflections on an ancient faith, which, in its direct approach to God, so often speaks to Quaker hearts.
In a rare BBC interview, the Grand Mufti of All Syria said: ‘There is one religion with different expressions to it. When we read about Jesus, Moses and the prophet Muhammad we do not see them contradicting or making conflict against each other.’
This is our tribute to this vision.
About our guest editors
Harvey Gillman, born into a nominally orthodox Manchester Jewish family, is an author of several works on Quakers, spirituality and language. He was trained as a modern linguist and taught French and Italian. He ‘retired’ as outreach secretary of Quaker Life in 2001, was a Rowntree Fellow, and continues to write and offer workshops to Friends and others.
For several years he was a member of the committee of SPIDIR, a spiritual direction network, and editor of its newsletter. He was for four years clerk of Sussex and Surrey General (then Regional) Meeting, and he is an elder at Brighton Meeting. His passions include poetry, cooking, music, Spanish Jewish history and the pursuit of justice. He describes language as, for better or worse, an obsession. Paradoxically, the theme of mysticism is taking a larger role in his understanding of the Quaker way.
Stevie Krayer, a Quaker of Jewish ethnic origin, is a member of South Wales Area Meeting and Meeting for Sufferings. Formerly a university administrator, she ‘dropped out’ in 1993 and has since published two volumes of poetry and a translation of RM Rilke’s The Book of Hours (poetry), and is the author of a Meeting of Friends in Wales publication, Opening the Door: the Spiritual Hospitality Project Report. In 2002 she travelled to Israel/Palestine with an international Quaker study group and co-authored their report, When the Rain Returns: Toward Justice and Reconciliation in Palestine and Israel (American Friends Service Committee, 2004).
Kurt Strauss was born in Germany in 1930 and escaped to England in 1939, thanks to Quakers. After seven years in a Quaker boarding school, he joined EMI’s apprentice scheme, then did two years national service in Egypt and Kenya. Kurt worked for Eurovision in Brussels for four years, followed by twenty-four years in the nationalised Electricity Supply Industry. He accepted early retirement in 1989, finally moving to a ‘Continuing Care Retirement Community’ in York seventeen years later. Kurt is currently a member of its Residents’ Committee, and just retired as secretary of Refugee Action York. He has three children and six grandchildren scattered around the country, from Whitstable in Kent to Falkirk in Scotland.
CONTENTS – VOL 167 NO 48 – 27 NOVEMBER 2009 2 Wall
8-9 Biblical origins of Israel
Stevie Krayer Grief is the same Jill Green 4 Quakers and Jews
Harvey Gillman 5 Tikkun Olam
Jackie Tabick 6-7 Who are the Jews?
Clive A Lawton
Karen Armstrong 10-12 Festivals in poetry
Stevie Krayer 13 Jews in literature
Judy Kirby and Rowena Loverance 14-15 I’m a Jewish Quaker 16 Thoughts on Al-Andalus
Harvey Gillman 17 Friends & Meetings
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