Looking at the Middle-East and the world in general, it does not seem that retaining religious character puts people off in a secular age. Rather it seems to have found its own vernacular within the everyday, the “ready-mades” of life to use extend Marcel Duchamp’s concept. Even the most banal activity can assume conceptual complexity and before the gates of Jerusalem which one to enter. Which gate will lead to nihilsitic destruction, which to salvation, which to redemption and which to the messianic utopia? There was a time when we thought the epoch of world conquering religious movements had expired under the weight of wealth and consumerism; yet somehow ideological waves have been set in motion attached to faith, as part of an overall spiritual revival seeking to reveal divine purpose. Add to that the various cults that provide amusement to non-believers; all in a world where all creeds and colors are becoming whether in dislike, hate or brotherhood, even more interdependent on one another.
Its plausible we are entering a phase that Walter Benjamin referred to as messianic; an alternative concept of history and temporality that he termed Now-Time which was a fulfilled complete concept of time providing a model of messianic time as in opposition to repetitive, homogenous and empty time, the hollow form of linearity absent of “luck” as Branch Rickey would say, the residue of good design. Benjamin latched onto the Judaism and early Christian ideas of messianic time,a powerful energy that would blast open the historical horizon of capitalist modernity into new and unforeseen potentials. There were theological allusions, but as Land Day in the Holy Land invokes, we are still at a highly materialist affirmation of that theory:
from a news report: ….The Land Day protests, some of which turned violent, ended late Friday afternoon with one Palestinian Authority Arab dead in Gaza.According to a report in the Bethlehem-based Ma’an news agency, the Arab was killed by Israeli fire. The report cited a medical official in Gaza who added that over 30 other people were wounded in clashes at two sites in Gaza.
The official, Adham Abu Salmiya, identified the victim as 20-year-old Mahmoud Zaqout. He added that Zaquot was shot and killed near the Erez Crossing.As well, Abu Salmiya said, 31 people in the Erez area were injured and taken to Kamal Adwan Hospital. In Khan Younis, six people were hospitalized….
Medics claimed the Israeli army used live fire to prevent protesters from approaching barriers separating Gaza and Israel, Ma’an reported. An Israeli army spokesman said in response that one PA Arab man approached the Erez crossing before soldiers opened fire. The spokesman added that forces acted within the rules of engagement, firing warning shots and then directly targeting him when he refused to stop.
One of Klein’s earliest published poems, “Five Characters”2 retells the Book of Esther. King Ahasuerus of Persia, dissatisfied with his wife Vashti, seeks another and chooses the Jewish Esther. The wicked Haman, advisor to Ahasuerus, seeks the destruction of the Jews. With the help of her uncle Mordecai, Esther wins her husband’s support for her people, foils Haman’s plot and rescues the Jews, while annihilating Haman’s faction. Klein shows Haman “Enchanted by the accolade-caress / Of hempen rope swung from a gallows-tree. . .” (59-60). Militant violence, for the sake of survival, is explicit in the poem and its biblical source. Klein’s satisfaction at the destruction of Israel’s enemies is undeniable. G.K. Fischer notes that “Greeting on This Day” is “directed at grief” (32), and the observation is applicable to “Five Characters.” In the former, triumph over grief is uncertain, a visionary longing. Triumph is assured in the latter through the biblical precedent, a source of hope for Klein’s Zionism….
“Sonnet in Time of Affliction” is clearly in the militant tradition, though Klein’s ambivalence about militant violence is overt. Klein begins with the centuries-old, and Zionist, complaint about the loss of Palestine and the Diaspora:
The word of grace is flung from foreign thrones
And strangers lord it in the ruling-hall;
The shield of David rusts upon the wall;
The lion of Judah seeks to roar, and groans..
He asks, “Where are the brave, the mighty? They are bones. / Bar Cochba’s star has suffered its last fall” (5-6). Bar Cochba was the Jewish leader of the disastrous rebellion against Roman occupation in 132 A.D. Bar Cochba believed he was a messiah and descendent of King David. The rebellion was put down savagely, and Bar Cochba was killed in battle. Klein’s reference to Bar Cochba’s star would seem to be a sign of his despair that Jews can ever resist their powerful oppressors or secure Zion with arms. The sestet of the sonnet, however, contains a different allusion:
Ah, woe, to us, that we, the sons of peace,
Must turn our sharpened scythes to scimitars,
Must lift the hammer of the Maccabees,
Blood soak the land, make mockery of stars… (9-12)
The Maccabees fought the Seleucid Greeks for twenty-five years and with vastly inferior numbers defeated the huge Greek army in 164 B.C., recapturing Israel and founding a dynasty. Max Dimont describes the campaign as “a new kind of war, the world’s first religious war, fought with grim determination, heedless of cost and sacrifice” (85). The emphasis of the sonnet has shifted to the towering example of Jews as warrior-defenders of themselves and their homeland.
Published in October 1929, the poem reflects the tensions in Palestine which led to the Jerusalem disturbances of AugustSeptember 1929. Klein may bemoan the necessity to “lift the hammer,” yet the sonnet concludes with a plaintive apology for his own position as a Zionist: “And woe to me, who am not one of these, / Who languish here beneath these northern stars…” (1314). We will later see more examples of the poet’s ambivalence about armed militancy.Read More:http://www.lib.unb.ca/Texts/SCL/bin/get.cgi?directory=vol16_2/&filename=Lemm.htm