Monday, January 17, 2011


"I asked God for strength, that I might
I was made weak, that I might learn
humbly to obey.

I asked for health, that I might do greater
I was given infirmity, that I might do better

I asked for riches, that I might be happy,
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.

I asked for power, that I might have the praise
of men;
I was given weakness, that I might feel the
need of God.

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked for - but everything
I had hoped for.

Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers
were answered.

I am among all men, most richly blessed."


Wednesday, December 22, 2010


"A book is a great cemetery where the names have been effaced from most of the tombs and are no longer legible."

"Literature, reconstructing the demolished work of amorous illusion, gives a sort of afterlife to feelings which were no longer is existence."

"It is our passions which provide the outline of our books."

"Suffering is the best thing one can encounter in life."

"We are fertilized through grief."

Marcel Proust

Friday, June 4, 2010



There were no decorations with diamonds on the uniforms of the British Army's Jewish Brigade. Only Stars of David on shoulder patches. On The Day of Liberation, during freedom's first exuberant hours, Concentration Camp survivors, seeking to identify their saviors, staggered from their barracks to reach out with fleshless arms and cadaverous fingers to caress the Stars on the uniforms of tall, well-fed Sabras, Israeli-born soldiers overwhelmed by a parade of the walking dead shuffling through barbed wire to be embraced by warriors who put down their weapons and sobbed without restraint. Then, as if in an orchestrated resurrection, a thousand trembling voices cried out and chanted in a swelling chorus rising to a roar of celebration - a prayer of exultation: "Shema Yis-rael, Adonai Eluhainu, Adonai Echod! - Here, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!"

Thursday, June 3, 2010



"I want a life worth living," said the Palestinian addressing a sympathetic audience, pausing to sip from a small coffee-stained cup. The crowd murmured assent, saluting his words with raised fists for lunch hour was time to drink dark sweetened coffee and applaud inspiring speeches. Hungry Arab refugees crowded Cairo's Cafes. Few found jobs. But all, attracted by impassioned rhetoric, cheered the speaker. The Palestinian continued. "In refugee camps we only exist," he said. "All we ask is to sit under the same fig tree as our parents and their parents before them. All we want is to raise our children in a land we call our own." The crowd stamped their feet. Shouted. Sipped coffee. Nibbled honey cakes. I put down my cup. Grandfather was also a man of words. Inspiring words. Sacred words. Words to remember and pass on to each generation. Sharper than swords are the right words. I fought back tears. Agreeing. Yes. Yes. I want to live a life worth living. Not merely exist. The Palestinian, his voice rising, continued. Making poetry of thought. " Until we have our own nation we will never stand among men as equals. Never. We will deserve contempt. If we fail, let it not be because we are Bloody Wogs. A man who will not fight for his birthright truly is a Bloody Wog."

Tuesday, June 1, 2010



"The Brooke Army Medical Center overlooked a meandering river carrying grain barges downstream to the Gulf. Cottonwood trees lined both embankments arching their arms of verdant foliage over the water. Now for the first time since Korea I felt safe. Strolling the riverside footpath, I walked past patients lounging on the grass, enjoying the hot Texas sun. Survivors of our nation's wars sat on benches, some autistic, staring out over the flowing stream with unseeing eyes. Some smoked, napped, read or played cards, while others occasionally left their seats to urinate in the river, while a few wandered the embankment picking flowers that grew only in their shattered minds. A regiment of casualties enduring their final triage of body and soul.

Walking Wounded, I thought. Like the prisoners I liberated from Chanjin. A Korean POW camp, A wretched compound of log huts burrowed into frozen soil. Abandoned by guards to die of cold and hunger, only a few survived this abattoir of frozen corpses. Inside unheated Huts, the living and the dead huddled together under thin blankets stained with excrement. Rows of naked cadavers, stripped of clothing by the living, lay frozen in death's inevitable rigor mortis,
bones visible through transparent flesh. Lifeless mouths frozen in rictus grins seemed to ask:
- What took you so long soldier? What took you so long?

Holy Mother of God! Holy Mother of God! I shouted , scanning faces with a flashlight, searching for life, hearing not a groan or whimper. Only my sobbing broke the mortuary silence of the hut.
I fled into the cold. Outside, my men stared at me, immobilized. "Light the Coleman," I ordered. "Get anyone alive out." I stumbled through waist high snow to the next Hut, choking on the odor of decayed flesh, searching frozen faces, fearing to miss a flickering eyelid, a groan, a trembling hand. In four Huts I found ten prisoners alive before staggering out into the cold and collapsing on the urine-stained snow, shattered.

"How do you classify a wound like Chanjin, Sir? What disability rating do you give it, Sir?"



"Of sound mind and intact body, a decorated survivor of three wars, I did not refuse when recruited to fight another war. The 'Long War'. The one without end. After all, as Maimonides said: "If not now- then when? If not me - then who? Questions to live by. And die for. But let's not argue Talmudic wisdom. I have more important matters to discuss. Like years living a vagrant existence in barren hotel rooms in foreign cities exiled from the desert I loved, pursuing War Criminals found in raucous Beer Halls bellowing Wehrmacht marching songs, pounding Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil! on trembling table tops.

I thought about the desert, an endless ocean of sand under a blue cloudless sky enclosed by shimmering heat-haze horizons. At night, an infinite dome of stars transited our indifferent Universe. My spiritual home, the eternal desert. Free of the stink and horror of cities where the desperate fight for a place to live. The desert contained no distractions, no refuge hiding me from myself. The desert magnified everything. An arena worthy of a man's soul where Truth could not be evaded. Where agonies clarified. Exposed to the burning winds, bone-chilling nights, I found my vision of God. In the desert I felt safe, Absorbed in the stars. The magnetic streams and oceans of the sky were my companions in the Watchtower of my fortress home and farm. I studied the night sky; the unchanging Universe held my attention until at the first explosive whine of a sniper's bullet I hid behind a protective shield of steel, a field telephone ringing, anxious voices bringing me back to the barren speck of sand I was willing to die for. All's well ! All's Well ! I shouted. Then gratefully, I returned to my Talmud, my Torah, my Testament. The stars. Always the stars."



"I was born in a crowded Bunker under Berlin's smoldering rubble, breathing burnt cordite and inhaling the smell of putrefying flesh. As an 'Ostkinder', a child of the East, I was a bastard conceived in an orgy of rape by Russian soldiers. A bitter harvest on a continent seeded by twenty million corpses. Weaned on suffering, stained by my paternity, air raid sirens and exploding bombs were childhood's most vivid sounds. In May 1945, when the chattering guns ceased their frightening dirge, my mother and I crawled out of the rubble into the verdant beauty of a now silent Spring that mocked our misery. In Dresden,Hamburg,Cologne and Berlin, life slowly resurrected in the rubble. From the Vistula to the Rhine, from the Baltic to the Danube, shell-shocked survivors emerged from bomb shelters to chalk their names on doorways, unaware it would be ten years before their fathers, sons and husbands returned from Russian POW camps."