Poems for Reflecting on the Israeli Palestinian Conflict

As you support the teens in your life, choose one or more of the following poems to read or listen to together and discuss. As you will see these poems are intended to make space for emotions and empathy, not to spur a political discussion.  

Then, consider inviting participants to write a poem or prayer in response to one of the poems. They might start their poem with the opening line of the poem they are responding to (e.g. Once in a village that is burning…. ). Alternatively, you might open a Google Jamboard and invite each participant to write the most powerful line from the poem(s) that you read on a sticky. Then, create a collaborative poem from the post-its.

Your Village

by Elana Bell

Elana Bell is a Brooklyn-based poet, educator, and facilitator of sacred rituals. She is the author two books of poetry: Mother Country (BOA Editions in 2020) and Eyes, Stones (LSU Press 2012). The following poem is from Eyes, Stones, a collection that was inspired by interviews conducted in Israel, the Palestinian territories, and America. Listen to Elana Bell perform the poem here.

Once in a village that is burning
      because a village is always somewhere burning 

And if you do not look because it is not your village
      it is still your village 

In that village is a hollow child
      You drown when he looks at you with his black, black eyes 

And if you do not cry because he is not your child
      he is still your child 

All the animals that could run away have run away
      The trapped ones make an orchestra of their hunger 

The houses are ruin      Nothing grows in the garden
      The grandfather’s grave is there      A small stone 

under the shade of a charred oak      Who will brush off the dead
      leaves      Who will call his name for morning prayer 

Where will they — the ones who slept in this house and ate from this dirt — ? 

Discussion questions:

  • What words, images or ideas stand out to you in this poem? 
  • How did this poem make you feel? 
  • What do you think the poem is communicating? What do you make of the final line of the poem?  

The Diameter of The Bomb

by Yehuda Amichai

Yehuda Amichai is recognized as one of Israel’s finest poets. His poems, written in Hebrew have been translated into 40 languages including English, French, German, Swedish, Spanish, and Catalan.

The diameter of the bomb was thirty centimeters
and the diameter of its effective range about seven meters,
with four dead and eleven wounded.
And around these, in a larger circle
of pain and time, two hospitals are scattered
and one graveyard. But the young woman
who was buried in the city she came from,
at a distance of more than a hundred kilometers,
enlarges the circle considerably,
and the solitary man mourning her death
at the distant shores of a country far across the sea
includes the entire world in the circle.
And I won’t even mention the crying of orphans
that reaches up to the throne of God and
beyond, making a circle with no end and no God. 

Discussion questions:

  • What words, images or ideas stand out to you in this poem? 
  • How did this poem make you feel? 
  • What do you think the poem is communicating through the metaphor of the diameter of the bomb?