Before I built a wall I’d ask to know What I was walling in or walling out, And to whom I was like to give offense. Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, That wants it down.'
In my four visits to Israel to date, I have seen the extraordinary architecture that defines Israel to the world — the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock, the palaces of Herod, the fortress of Masada, the wall of separation, and the sobering spaces of Yad Vashem. Each has affected me deeply, as a woman, a traveler, a believer, a writer.
But it is as I toured the center two days before its official live rehearsal, with full staffing and simulated patients, that I understood Israel in the silence of the empty spaces of the Samy Ofer Fortified Emergency Hospital. Making my way back above ground, I listened to the ricocheting echoes of my own footfall. I was dwarfed in this ark which has space for all in need. And in that silence and in that space, I was at once profoundly impressed yet deeply perturbed.
At last I understood what my Israeli friends -many of them combat veterans and seasoned soldiers themselves – have long explained to me. Israel is heavily invested in the knowledge of future combat. This knowledge is not in the sense of an abstract threat, but as a real likelihood. And unlike other nations, Israelis as individuals and as a society approach this challenge, rather like nearing a fire-breathing dragon with a gift in its mouth- pragmatically, and with a cool head, knowing there is a prize at the end.
And now the full poem, found here:
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it, And spills the upper boulders in the sun; And makes gaps even two can pass abreast. The work of hunters is another thing: I have come after them and made repair Where they have left not one stone on a stone, But they would have the rabbit out of hiding, To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean, No one has seen them made or heard them made, But at spring mending-time we find them there. I let my neighbor know beyond the hill; And on a day we meet to walk the line And set the wall between us once again. We keep the wall between us as we go. To each the boulders that have fallen to each. And some are loaves and some so nearly balls We have to use a spell to make them balance: ‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!' We wear our fingers rough with handling them. Oh, just another kind of outdoor game, One on a side. It comes to little more: There where it is we do not need the wall: He is all pine and I am apple orchard. My apple trees will never get across And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him. He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.' Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder If I could put a notion in his head: 'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it Where there are cows? But here there are no cows. Before I built a wall I’d ask to know What I was walling in or walling out, And to whom I was like to give offense. Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, That wants it down.' I could say ‘Elves’ to him, But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather He said it for himself. I see him there Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed. He moves in darkness as it seems to me, Not of woods only and the shade of trees. He will not go behind his father’s saying, And he likes having thought of it so well He says again, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.'
Here’s to the hope that one day, we won’t need the walls to keep out, but in the meantime, here’s to keeping us safe.