Monday, February 25, 2008

Rain and War

It's raining hard right now, very hard. In this country the weather is the one thing we all experience in common. The most extreme zealot settler gets pissed on just as much as his Jihad-supporting neighbor does. Of course, the Palestinian is usually poorer and may not have money for gas heating this winter. He may live in a shanty at a refugee camp that would be prone to flooding much more so than the settler's cottage, but he may also live in an old stone house, built in a traditional way that provides far better insulation than that of the cottage.

It's interesting to see how rain figures in the culture of a land where such is the case. Yehuda Amichai has a short poem entitled "Rain over the Battlefield":

Rain falls over my comrades,
Over my living comrades,
Who cover their heads with a blanket -
And over my dead comrades
Who no longer cover.

So death is when we no longer cover. Life is when we cover. Remember this the next time you take shelter from a sudden shower on a Tel-Aviv street. you're alive! Remember it when you emerge from the store entrence or the bus stop and find that there's no longer any way to cross the streets around you. They have all become roaring Yangtze gorges. The block is your Pitcairn and you might as well walk back in and buy something, like a book of poetry by Jacques Prevert.

...A man took cover in a doorway
And he called your name: Barbara!
And you walked towards him through the rain,
Charmed, glowing, dripping,
And you threw yourself in his arms.

Then later on:

O, Barabra! what a fucked up thing war is!
What has become of you,
Under this storm of fire, of steel and of blood?
And he, who held you in his arms, lovingly,
Is he dead, missing? perhaps still alive...

Why do rain and war mix so well in poetry? partially because the muddy battlefield makes for a more sordid picture. Both torrent and drizzle are useful atmospheric tools, artillery fire tends to create rain clouds and there's the nuclear rain of course (During the Sixties, "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall" was often read as a song about nuclear holocaust, although when Dylan was asked what it is about he replied: "it's about rain").

Then again, rain is also powerful in that it is oblivious to our reasons for killing, hurting and dehumanizing each other. The Arabic word for rain is "Mattar", which has the same exact meaning in Hebrew. The settler should be able to offer the Jihad member an umbrella. He won't and nor would such a gest be well-recieved. Nature is laughing at us by crying over us. O Barbara, we're too dumb to deserve umbrellas!

The slum dogs, they are barking
At the rain children on the streets
And the tears that we will weep today
Will all be washed away
By the tears that we will weep again tomorrow.

That was Nick Cave for you. Anyway, I think I've bluesed us all enough, so lets conclude with this lovely musical bit sung in sunshine, and a wish for a dry, peaceful evening for all.


Rebecca said...

have you read A Pigeon and A Boy by Meir Shalev? a Good Book. one character puts a tin roof over his bedroom so that he can hear the sound of the rain.

Yuval said...

Sounds nice :-)