I had meant to post about things needing lots of photos, but there seems to be a problem with uploading media tonight. Meantime, I offer this poem. A word of explanation: gat means an ancient winepress.
Highway 6 slid away under our wheels and
Night dropped down.
We drove on to Beit Shemesh;
Ahead a storm gathered.
Fat drops spattered on the windshield.
From the passenger seat I watched
Long white legs of lightning stalking the sky
Between the rising Judean hills.
Thunder clapped: Attention!
The incandescent hills replied: Behold us.
My companion said:
“My hi-tech job is killing me.
I want to sell the house,
Give up the job,
Plant a vineyard in Emek Jezreel
And grow old there with my wife.”
The windshield wipers swished.
I sat silent. I too have my dreams.
In a parking lot:
Six bearded men in kippot
Standing around a grape crusher.
Their wives in apartments upstairs
Putting the children to bed
Me, standing to one side.
“She makes wine,” someone explained.
They shrugged .
In flat boxes lie the dusty black clusters;
Succulent round berries
Packed tightly on their stems.
Heft a whole one in your hand before you
Hoist a box-full and dump them
Into the metal rectangle
Where inside, a lathe starts turning.
Crushed fruit, seeds exposed
Bleeding purple juice
Streams forth richly, spilling;
Fills our blue plastic barrels.
From out there in the Judean hills,
A gust of cool, wet wind
Carries sharp odors of wild herbs.
It makes me turn away from
The business of the crush,
Turn my eyes towards those dark hills.
The men haul more boxes forward
Tumble grapes into the crusher
Under the electric light.
The Judean hills press in a little closer.
I know that
Lightning walks their dark terraces.
Over there, great white flickers suddenly part the night,
Reveal pines and brush swaying obedient,
Impartially reveal the ancient winepress.
Two basins carved into the living white rock,
A narrow carved channel between. Gat.
Who imagines now
The joyful harvests of ancient times?
They must have walked singing
Straight from vineyard to gat
In late afternoon, in September:
Men and women with tanned arms
Bearing baskets woven of green olive twigs
Baskets full of black fruit.
In the upper basin, our fathers crushed their grapes
Trampling, they must have shouted and laughed.
The rich juice flowed down its stone channel –
Those waiting by the lower basin
Rushed to fill up clay jugs.
Later, tired and quiet,
They must have walked home in the dark;
Stashed their jugs away inside a cool cave.
Nothing but cold water pours down the stone basins tonight.
The white rock, once stained purple
Sleeps another thousand years.
All the same, we still make wine.
“There you are, Rebbetzin, your lot is done.”
We pack our barrels into the car,
Turn around in the parking lot and start heading home.
I look back. In the circle of light,
The bearded men by the crusher
Are still pouring grapes in.
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