Haiku mania

September 29, 2008

To mark Israel's upcoming 60th anniversary, we challenged JC readers to write a haiku -the traditional Japanese verse form - to sum up what the country means to you.

This obviously struck a chord, with over 100 readers taking on the tricky three-line, 17-syllable structure of the haiku to express views about Israel, from the poetic to the political.

The winner

Boy, did our panel have trouble picking a winner. After hours of furious internal debate over trayfuls of smokedsalmon bagels, the judges finally opted for this effort from Yosef Ben-Miriam of Luton, Bedfordshire, who wins £50:

Weekend mini-break
Mad rush, plane late, then guess what?
All the shops are shut

The judges liked the fact Mr Ben-Miriam wrote about present-day Israel, encapsulating the way many British Jews experience the country. They also appreciated his humour. Congratulations, and thanks to all entrants.

A variety of themes emerged, with many entrants extolling Israel for providing oppressed Jews with a homeland, this example by Ruth Landsman being fairly typical:

Israel means to me
A safe haven for all Jews,
A place to call home

A sizeable number of readers chose to lament the enduring conflict with the Palestinians. Witness this entry from Hannah Hutchinson:

Jew and Muslim, sons
Each of Abraham - long-term
Sibling rivalry

Some opted for the humorous approach (which we said might win extra points), and found a rich source of amusement in the restrictions of the haiku form itself. This from Barry Hyman:

Eretz at sixty?
How can you do it justice
In just five syllab...?

Food, naturally enough, figured large, particularly falafel, as this example by 10-year-old Jasmine Sadlik demonstrates:

Feeding the people
Falafel in pitta bread
Ever so tasty!

Falafel was one attraction that inspired Adam Mizler to express his enthusiasm for Israel. There was another:

Beautiful women,
And the best fresh falafels...
Man, I love Israel!

Some, like Rose Abrahamson, simply strived to conjure up a memorable image:

The train was chugging
Through sweet-scented orange groves
To Jerusalem

Here we print a selection of the haikus sent in, and announce the winner of the £50 prize for the best example.

On a technical note, some entrants to our competition treated Israel as a three-syllable word. After much debate, we decided to allow it.

As flowers appear
The voice of the turtle-dove
Is heard in the land

Barry Press

People tapestry,
Political challenges;
Pitta falafel

Nicky Lachs

Blue and white flag soars
Verdant hills, cloudless deserts.
But work on Sunday?

Kay Bagon

Sum up our homeland
But restricted by haiku
Impossible, nu?

Alan Klein

In Jerusalem
Watch the sunset, gold at night,
The golden city

Natasha Granville
(aged six)

Brave new world faces
Stubborn monuments of stone
Still, the desert dreams

Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah

Holidays in Hove
Were nice, but next year - please God -
In Jerusalem

Ronald Rubin

Dawn. Sun warms the stone.
The dove on David's Tower
Sings her freedom song

Dr Paul Kleiman

I am no longer
Tailor, Usurer, victim:
Now I have a home

David Whippman

We arrived and left,
History's persistent lodgers.
Shall we stay home now?

Jeremy Jacobson

Dry hills, water carved
Care-worn faces on the bus
Jerusalem stone

Tosh Brice

In Bialik Street
Two palms reached a jutting ledge
Just one curved onward

Marge Clouts

They came with nothing
To a hostile barren land
And there made Israel

Pat & Rod

Burnt House, Western Wall.
No deli. To Tel Aviv.
My right hand withers.

Richard Ross

Sun, sea, city chic,
Technology, history
And celebration!

Vivien Klein

She-ma Yis-ra-el,
A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu,
A-do-nai E-chad

Moshe Rabbennu

(sent in by Jonathan Samuel)

Let my people go!
Forty years in the desert.
A Jew should map-read?

Yehuda Shapiro

Ancient covenant
Binding bonding eternal
A people returns

Trevor Gee

Whose "right to exist"?
Israel, child of the UN,
Or the death lovers?

Neville Teller

Israel's all children
Yosi, Aron or David
A proud rainbow land

Fureya Ersoy

Israel is sixty
And so am I. Will she get
a free bus pass too?

Rosalind Grant

Return to Zion,
‘Welcome Home' to Jews worldwide,

Mav Shaffer

Soldier write. Cry not.

Shabbat eve, the Western


Life is beautiful

Candida Niman

Children of Israel;
Wandered for thousands of years.
Where were the adults?

Adam Grossman

Desert wind dries sheets,
Avocados sprout in jars.
People wilt and hide

Barbara Saunders

Sixty years have passed
It's about time we had peace
In the Middle East

Joseph Adams

Zion resonates
Ahmadinejad rages
Israel celebrates.

Martin Greenberg

Nineteen forty eight
They made the State of Israel
What a state it is

Greg Rack

Masada at dawn,
Yad Vashem at noon, on to
Tel Aviv disco.

Howard Granville

Welcome to El Al.
Did you pack your bags yourself?
Beef or chicken meal

Danny Landau

Reborn amid strife
Israel and Judah are one.
May she thrive in peace

Judah Louis Hirsch

The year: 68
Is-ra-el beats Palestine.
It's Eurovision

Evelyn Mes

Kadish. Hatikva.
Shofar blasts that stirred the world.

Matthew Levine

Shalom Aleichem
Two brothers in God's own house
Salaam Aleikum

David Ury

Sixty years ago
Israel became our homeland
But we're still fighting

Laura Gold

Tattoos on bodies
Dent on cars. Cellphone clubbers
In non-kosher bars

Monty Goldin

60 years Israel!
That is just how old you are.
60 years of plutz

José Segal

Ancient and modern
Blend where my ancestors' feet
Trod the dust. Still do

Jennifer Dean

A land of honey
Where the future is sunny?
Not for my money

M Minkoff

By divine decree
Our holy land is Israel
Our ancestral home

Leila M Manasseh

Not taken away
In nineteen sixty seven
Rolls of razor wire

Sandra Oakins

Describing Israel
In 17 syllables
Can't be done.
Get real!

Andrew Rosemarine

Safe at last, secure.
The Promised Land we yearned for.
Walls. An armed ghetto

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi

Seven boys were shot
They were reading Hebrew texts
Let's boycott Israel

Shula Rich

Falafel in hand
Sixty Happies. Weapon in
hand. Sixty weepies

Leila Rosenberg

Oh mystical land
You don't have to be Jewish
But I bet it helps

Lehore Barbette

Sinai, striped red hills.
Blue or yellow number plates.
Is your mum Jewish?

Jane Schwartz

Going to Israel?
List the veys: TA, Haifa
Or Ovda. Oy vey!

Neville Teller

How our Haiku contest attracted Israel's detractors

An unintended consequence of the JC's competition was its hijacking by anti-Israel websites which urged readers, particularly Jewish ones, to blitz us with entries. This provided a dilemma: while flattered by the attention, we knew that these views were not representative of the wider JC readership, yet we were not minded to set ourselves up as censors. So, without endorsement, we offer you a flavour of the debate.

The Just Peace UK forum asked people "to write haikus critical of Israel". Suggestions included:

Israel was founded
To solve the Jewish Problem.
Now Israel is it.

(By Deborah Maccoby)

Bog-off all natives
Arabs are spoiling our myth's [sic]
Narrative with truths

(By Joe Kane)

The Satanic State
S****y little country, oh
Israel, I'm ashamed!

(By Deborah Fink)

Meanwhile, on the Jews sans Frontieres blog, "Levi9909" posted no fewer than 12 haikus. Typical examples were:

"Democratic" isle

Amid dictatorships vile
Corpses in a pile
Israel's day, great do!

JNF meets Lizzie Two

Hacks at JC coo

Over at Engage, the anti-anti-Zionist site, editor David Hirsh discovered the Just Peace offerings, and was working on his own counter-haiku:

Honest, courageous!

Dare to criticise Israel!

Not antisemite"

Whether a campaign was being orchestrated is unclear, but Just Peacenik Deborah Fink sent in:

60 years of hate.

Israel means nothing

to me

Other than boycott!

Deborah Maccoby emailed:

Smooth West Bank highway;

We can drive without seeing

A single Arab

Sue Blackwell, an acad-emic backing the boycott movement, offered:

Victims we were then;

Persecutors we've become.

Haven't we done well?

This by Charlotte Eatwell:

Happy day for the

People with no land.

Black day

For that land's people

Mike Heiser offered:

Olive trees uprooted

Checkpoints sprout up everywhere

Sixty years waiting

A number made crude comparisons of the type sent in by Arthur Neslen, a Tel Aviv-based Jewish journalist:

Hitler's final dues,

Hebrew headlines make

the news:

"Shoah called by Jews"

We deplore such wrong-headed and offensive analogies. But they serve to remind Israel's friends that not all the Jewish people will be united next month...


Although the competition is now closed, why not send in Jewish-related haikus in the comments section below?


Last updated: 12:04pm, September 29 2008