Friday, July 25, 2014

Shlomo Artzi - July August Heat

The July-August heat then was very heavy
It was afternoon and the platoon went in the wadi
Write in the book a page, they speak of battles
Write of the wounded that are trembling, and this is normal

Youth is pleasant, the summer neverending
Va'aknin arrived to the platoon, the champion of Kiryat Gat
He burned down the barracks and ran off to Beit Gobrin
The police in pursuit of him only here relaxed a bit

All that I remember from this I write down
Floating souls in stretchers, two without a name
Lately thoughts return to me from there in my dim memory
A heavy screen of battles and hallucinations

July-August heat, when a pinecone falls
A helicopter lands, I lie alone in the field
When the helicopter leaves I suddenly feel hungry
Dying to eat you in the mother base

I return with a pass to you at your home
Close the room, even god won't enter here
Suddenly your father enters, looks like he's crying
In the canal a whole platoon was hit by anti-ship
fire in "tempo" [an outpost on the Suez Canal]

What I remember from this I write down
Catch a Haifa taxi, jump to the discotheque
Prostitutes on the fence, in me just a ghost burns
I go dancing with dead soldiers in my heart

Write it down, write it down; I write, I write...

(translation from the NMC Youtube page)

This might be a bit harsh but I think that the best thing that came out of Yair Lapid's political career is Shlomo Artzi's weekly column in Yediot Ahronot. When Lapid (finally) announced he was entering politics we all wondered about the weekly column-it was such a staple and so hard to imagine Friday afternoons without them-I wouldn't always agree with Lapid, and many times it was easy to laugh at his pretentious way of writing, but he did manage to eloquently express ideas which seemed to relate to all of us. People would cut out his columns and paste them to the refrigerator. I'm wondering how Lapid would address the current situation-probably invoke encouragement and say something about solidarity but it would be very calculated and thought through, something that had gone through revisions I guess. But Shlomo Artzi has a different way of writing. Like in his songs, he says what comes to his mind and you can tell that he's writing from the heart-as if to a close friend but well aware that he is addressing the whole nation. I love the idea of storing notes spontaneously written during day to day life, and then deleting them in order to start a fresh page. I'm happy that Artzi decided to share them with us-each one of them is a pearl and together they paint a pretty accurate picture of the atmosphere of these days-which is intense, and heavy, and at times bleak but it's also when you notice the small things that matter the most-like the Be'er Sheva students who live near Soroka and offered their empty apartments to relatives of the wounded soldiers staying at the hospital, or the field hospital the army set up in Gaza, for the Palestinians. These are little things that don't make it to the headlines but are worth knowing, especially when trying to get a clearer picture of life here these days, at least on our side.
There's really no need to introduce Shlomo Artzi but I don't think enough people are familiar with "July-August Heat", Artzi's double album from 1988. Some of the songs are huge hits, like "A New Country" and "Underneath Mediterranean Skies" but many are much more personal and in a way very exposing. They're not as easy on the ears and the main element is the lyrics but they convey a strong story and after listening to the album in full I felt that I really knew Artzi, or at least how he was in 1988. It's interesting to compare that with the columns he writes today-he's a bit less spirited but just as sensitive, and still very authentic. Here is the column he published today:

War Notes

Write it down, write it down/
Occasionally, while I'm sitting or standing, I write to myself letters in my iPhone, on what's happening to me at the moment, or something someone whispers privately to me in my ear, or on the T.V which talks non-stop.
But unlike all the whatsapps, I don't send the notes to anyone, but rather keep them to myself, until one day, in one second, I delete them and that's it.
So here is a random collection from what I wrote, but I haven't deleted in the last ten days, until this Tuesday.

A lone soldier from Texas/
The whole week the soul hurt. But despite the fact that we are discovering each minute more and more just how much this region is infected with Hamas, you can hear also some heartwarming things.
For example, a woman from one of the Kibutzim said after the prevented terrorist attack, "When I get up, I still see first of all the sun".
Tonight (Monday) a mass funeral was held in Haifa for Sean Carmely, may he rest in peace, of the Golany Brigade, a lone soldier from Texas, a loyal Maccabi Haifa fan, who fell in Saja'iya, and the crowds came to escort him like coming to escort a righteous Rabbi.
So before I go to bed, I listen attentively in my headphones to Mark Knofler singing "Brothers in Arms", and feel that we are again a nation.

Reading from Primo Levi, the Jewish-Italian writer, the following sentence, taken from "If This Is a Man": "A person who sees will never understand what is blindness from birth. A person who has never known hunger in his life, will never understand what is hunger".
In other words: A satisfied person, who lives today (let's say in Paris) and hasn't experienced lately shelling on the Champs Elysees block or dealt with tunnels coming out in front of his house in Provence, will never understand our life here.
So he should continue to watch the Tour de France and shut up.

Summer Tunnels/
Do you remember how once we would dig tunnels in the summer on the beach?
We would use at first the blue plastic shovel, and continue to dig with our hands (one on one side and the other on the opposite), until our hands would meet and clasp each other with warmth and friendship.

Saliva in the Mouth/
Again the saliva swallows hard in the mouth when I get a text from friends: "Something bad happened, probably casualties and wounded, lots of rumors, maybe you can find out?"
I begin to find out...and later I recall the french sentence 'a la guerre come a la guerre' ("at war as at war").

Shelter Under the Moon/
How complex is the human identity of each one of us. "Who here is who's relative", Chalfi once asked, and what did he mean?
I began to develop a superstition in which I keep in the freezer lemon popsicles, for sons of friends and family when they safely get back home from the war.
So in the evening, when I went out to get them from the shop, the siren caught me exposed in the street and I had no choice but to find shelter under the moon.

Hasamba in Gaza/
In the series of "Hasamba" books there was once a book called "Hasamba in street fights in Gaza". The hero of the story was according to my memory a boy named Sobchi. Hasamba went out to Gaza city to actually search Egyptian forces in the area.
Though I don't remember the details, even then Gaza seemed to me to be a horrid place.

A Sad Morning Night/
I turn on the T.V at 6 in the morning, and the heart burns with worry.
And later comes the squirming moment when we met for the first time our killed sons, children and brothers in pictures, and they receive faces and names (7 in the morning).
"At first we cry/then the tears harden,/Later we remember just one thing/the death of the son.../and we are silent./And we get up from the chair. And we sit. And we get up. And again./And we know just one thing:/He will not return" (Avraham Chalfi).

"My Dear Love"/
A women eulogizes her husband during a heartbreaking funeral at six in the evening.

Humanitarian Cease-Fire/
Every Israeli patriot accepts most of what's going on here with understanding, understands that we need to continue with the tasks of our lives, doesn't go on vacation abroad during these days, goes to the shelter when there are sirens, waits between five to eight to ten minutes. Sometimes is caught silent and contemplative.
I already get used to staring into the what is and what isn't on the television, and on commercials I clean fallen leaves in the yard.
This week, when I rode my bike in the open park, I suddenly recalled an old sketch, in which Sonia Gorivich, portrayed by Shaika Ofir says: "I hear shuts-(shots) and I abtematically (automatically) lie down".
This sums up for me all of the home front command instructions in an open area.

The Debt/
When Churchill finished to lead his people to victory over Hitler he said to his British people: "Never was so much owed by so many to so few". How fitting also for us.
I noticed a weird notice in the Sport section: "Hamas is on his way to Real". At first I was even happy. Then I realised that it's the deal with footballer Hamas Rodriguez moving to Real Madrid.
I open the radio and hear Uzi Fux ask again after many years: "Send me underwear and undershirts" Tell me, is this real?
And when someone on T.V says "We knew about the tunnels", someone in the living room whispers: Oy, wow, you really knew?

"In August, on a pleasant afternoon,/We went to the sea,/To rest, to watch the waves, to stare/and to swim" (From "Happiness" by Eitan Nahmias-Glass)

In their words/
1. One day afterwards we will talk about everything. In the meantime we will wait for it to be over, for our own good. (A father to his son asking what's happening)
2. There is no doubt that this is the most justified war we had since the Independence War, the Six Day War, Yom Cippur, the Gulf, "Pillar of Defense", "Defensive Shield" and more. (A reserve major, on T.V)
3. Remember how everything began from a summer that seemed especially happy, because a lot of bands from abroad were about to arrive to the country. (A music fan who still hasn't comprehended the situation).
4. "During the most difficult moments I treat myself right away with shopping" (Someone who bought perfume during a siren in the mall)
5. "Tired from wars and from dreams Don Quixote returned home" (The author Binyamin Galai)
6. "We're like tanks and APCs, passing each other on paths and disappearing into the green, reflected in the fighters' night binoculars" (A war poet).
7. We are worried and love our soldiers, so write an encouraging column. (Someone asks me at the grocery store).
8. So here, I'm trying to encourage: Shabbat Shalom, dear nation and its soldiers, despair is not an option.

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