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Shabbat in Berlin

An aerial view of Berlin with lots of green trees in the forefront of the image and buildings in the back.
Shabbat in Berlin
Standing in the courtyard 
of the once great New Synagogue
at dusk
 
As the sun sinks low, setting the golden minaret aflame
birdsong all around
the air fresh and cool
after an unbearable heatwave
unlike any before experienced here
 
Voices ring out from within
The joyful tunes of Shabbat 
mixed with moments of profound 
bittersweetness 
Empty seats filled with ghosts 
and choirs of spirits from the beyond 
There is a weight, unspeakable
A knowledge of what happened here
 
It is tragically holy ground
 
Berlin – complex, beautiful in spite of itself, gritty, full of passion and pain, like weeds growing up through cracks in the sidewalk
like a flower that blooms in the desert, surviving in brutal conditions
pulsing with life
haunted by its past
determined to forge ahead 
somehow
 
Energy, resilience, hope, fortitude
covering over layers upon layers of despair, horror, 
mass extermination, communism, fear
barbed wire and walls
 
The past and the present are one here
There is no pulling them apart
Nothing makes sense in this wilderness
It is both free and caged
It is both now and yesterday
It is both ashamed
and determined 
to rewrite itself
 
So many empty seats in the synagogues
So many echoes of the voices once there
The children who ran and played
just like anywhere else
The ancient prayers and scrolls and melodies
the doctors, the scientists, the musicians
the mothers, the fathers, the teachers, the grandparents, the ordinary people
just living their lives
saying "Gut Shabbes" and going for a stroll after lunch
eating too many sweets, 
taking a Shabbes schulff 
Flames snuffed out, leaving only a flicker
 
Church bells can be heard in the distance
lights switch off and on in modern hotels and cafes
cobblestones and memorial markers hidden by trees and graffiti 
Reminders everywhere
if you’re looking for them
and nowhere 
if you simply want to go about your life
 
You have to look for them
 
But something is always there, lurking in the shadows
reaching out from beyond unmarked graves
leaving behind only the poetry of memory

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