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  • Jeffrey C. Pugh

Ice Skating in Israel

Jeffrey C. Pugh

I slip out onto this thin ice a graceless stumbling dancer. Trying to find my footing while the cracks splinter out from under my feet with their unmistakable message—no one is able to stay on their feet very long here. I am trying to hold past and present, millennia of wounds and scars, into a place that makes sense, that seems solid, that allows me to skate through this border land freely, but no one’s getting out of this unscathed, even if we think we’re just spectators

I want to blame you; I want to shake my fist in your face and shout, “This is your fault!” I know it’s easy because it’s what so many others do, but I fight to resist this romance with rebellion, though I understand the instinct. But still, it’s the stories they’ve told one another since they were herding sheep and sitting around campfires to keep that desert cold at bay; stories that they (and by the process of millennia of sharing those same tales from place to place, all of us) say the ancients got from you; the stories that sunk deep into the souls of those who saw themselves as chosen, sometimes forgetting that others are too in their own way; or at least that’s the story all human communities tell themselves. And, yes, that’s certainly put a target on their back, a horrific burden to bear, but others also make the claim—we’re exceptional, center of the world, Diné, the people—all phrases we say to indicate we’re special. It’s easy to forget that we got to this point because of some promises that were made to people who wrote them down and considered them to be forever.

Land was one of those promised things. Holy Land, but I strive to see anything holy about it at the moment. Holey it may be though, marked by the holes of the space between us as your children, the refusal to see the other as sister or brother. But, the belief persists that this land was a gift given to only a certain few, while the rest had to just put it behind them, living in continual exile. They are all your children though, right? So, would it be too much to ask for just a little sign to them that maybe they’ve gotten it wrong; maybe it is that the land doesn’t belong to us, no matter what was promised. If the truth of it is that we belong to the land then things change, right Lord? Right?

Maybe just one little moment in which they, we, realize that you are not present in the world to serve our tune, or if you are then this is a mystery I cannot imagine. This place where we tell the story that you immersed yourself in suffering so we might know how deeply you love us seems hell bent on bringing more suffering to one another. They’re your children, why don’t you do something before they kill one another? Isn’t that what good parents do? Help the siblings learn the skills of getting along, even loving one another? This is why even as I skitter over this cracking ice, about to fall into the abyss of icy hatreds stoked by years of fears, resentments, and regrets I’m inclined to ask if you know what you’re doing here? Because the truth of it seems to be that you don’t belong to us so much as we belong to you. And if this is true, then we’re loved, and if loved, forgiven. And, where is that mercy street for them in the winding pathways and stone alleys beneath my feet everyday Lord? I’m out in the middle of the sea now and the cracks still run out from under my feet and I’m not one that’s able to walk on water if it breaks. How do we make this forgiveness known in a world that seems unable to embrace it? Adonai, here we are, allow us all to make to the shore safely.

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