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    IFLAC is a voluntary Association that strives for peace by building bridges of understanding and peace through culture, literature and communication. IFLAC is founded and directed by Egyptian-born Israeli writer Ada Aharoni (Ph.D), since 1999.

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    Two poems by Helen Bar-Lev

    Helen Bar-Lev is a poet and artist and one of the editors of Cyclamens and Swords, an online poetry, prose and art magazine. She lives in Israel.


    The muezzin’s voice echoes
    across the border, friendless,
    calling his compatriots to prayer,
    to holiness and to obliterate us
    frightening me, the enemy,
    a dot in his spectacles,
    a two minute’s drive in his vehicle
    to my home

    He does not know,
    the muezzin, who is mostly a recording,
    who amasses missiles in hospitals,
    that I am happy for him to awaken me
    at four each morning,
    because I find his chanting oddly comforting,
    like the peal of church bells,
    the security of ritual

    He does not know,
    the muezzin,
    who despises the existence of my village,
    and demands my demise,
    that I, the enemy, am so enchanted by his,
    that I am sketching it from various angles,
    detailing the different windows,
    the mosque from whence his voice goes forth,
    the incongruous high-rise with its terraces,
    the flat roofs, some structures ochre, some white,
    and the one building painted an audacious orange,
    perhaps by an artist like me?

    I do not know, cannot throw my questions
    over the border fence like packets of opium
    on a moonless night

    But I, the optimist,
    continue to visualize, try to manifest,
    that I and the artist in the orange house
    will exhibit our paintings
    of each other’s village
    in each other’s village
    when at last
    there will be
    no more enemies

    © 10.2009 Helen Bar-Lev


    For James Deahl

    Lord of peace
    And Lord of all wars
    I, simple artist
    Born with no concept
    Of politics,
    No heart for these horrors,
    Bow humble before you

    Are you aware
    That my daughter,
    Normally fearless
    But a pacifist since the womb,
    Leftist to the core,
    Wanders homeless from the bombs
    Demolishing her town
    Even this moment
    As I attempt
    To distract your attention
    From the news on the television

    Lord of war
    And Lord of peace
    just a suggestion to you
    In your warless heaven,
    Perhaps the time is auspicious
    To copy the chromosomes
    Of those of us humans
    Opposed to violence,
    To impose a holy law
    Which would eliminate
    The war chromosome
    From all babies born
    From now on

    A daring experiment
    An innovative concept
    Perhaps a solution
    To a continuous war
    That has lasted
    Since Adam
    And refuses to finish

    Anything really, Lord,
    That would cause war to cease,
    Permanently and forever
    We’d be so appreciative
    My daughter could return home
    Blood rivers would stop their flow
    Forests would grow from war-ashes
    And we could all sleep again

    © 8.2006 Helen Bar-Lev



    Poem of the Month, October 2015: To a Suicide Bomber


    By Ada Aharoni

    Deluded, brainwashed suicide bomber
    they lied to you
    when they brainwashed you
    with sleek murderous words
    in their stupendous “shahid” washing machines
    where they only wash young brains like yours
    with bomb-flamed slogans
    and rat poison soap-suds

    They lied to you when they told you –
    you will surely go to heaven and ravish 72 young maidens
    when you courageously blow yourself up,
    and kill many, many innocent people –
    they lied to you

    and you did not have the courage
    to ask them: “if so,
    why don’t you go?”


    How many more generations?

    Text: Solveig Hansen

    The two poems below are each in their way about children caught in the middle of a prolonged conflict where the violence is carried on and the fiery rhetoric has become like a mantra frozen in time. The pictures coming out of Israel these days speak for themselves.

    Marjorie Rosenfeld’s Nekama (Revenge) is for the three Israeli boys who were kidnapped and killed in 2014, and the Palestinian boy kidnapped and killed in return. Fred Jeremy Seligson’s Dear Neighbor was written during the Israeli-Gaza conflict in 2014 and is a plea from one neighbor to another to teach their children to love, not hate.



    By Marjorie Stamm Rosenfeld, 2014

    For Mohamed Abu Khdeir, Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar,
    and Naftali Fraenkel

    Nothing breathes. Air so still here even
    leaves on trees won’t stir from slumber. Far off
    a spark has set a conflagration going. A boy, burned
    in retribution. Three boys guilty of this crime,
    while men have killed the boys who could have told
    the killer boys that vengeance was not theirs.

    I see children struggling on a forest floor.
    The trees, aghast, drop leaves. Limbs fall. And boys
    (no game) play pickup sticks, each stick a cane
    with which to beat an able brother. No blood
    can quench this fire. How will it end? And where
    were you, Lord, distant in this distant land?


    By Fred Jeremy Seligson, July 2014

    After 1,000’s
    Of years
    Children hate,
    For the Sake
    Of Love
    And Peace
    Which are
    The Ground
    Of our Religions
    Our One G-d
    I will Promise
    To teach my
    Newborn to
    Love your
    People as
    If my own
    Then you could
    Promise to
    Teach your
    Newborn to
    Love my
    People as
    If your own
    So they might
    Play together
    For the sake
    Of Joy
    And Humanity
    And not
    For those
    Who choose
    G-d’s words
    For their own


    Mahinour Tawfik: “Did I say or do anything that might have been offensive or angered anyone?”

    Text: Solveig Hansen

    Mahinour Tawfik’s poem Chained Wings (The Palestinian Song) was both applauded and dismissed as promoting the Palestinian victimization narrative. Why did people perceive the poem so differently? IFLAC’s Ada Aharoni answered this and other questions in a Q&A session about the meaning and impact of peace poetry.

    It takes courage to present your poems to the world, to expose yourself, especially when you first start out as a poet. You never know how your words will be received. Will the readers love me or dismiss me? 22 year old Egyptian poet Mahinour Tawfik got a taste of the realities of being a poet when she presented us with her poem Chained Wings. It is about the life of a Palestinian who lost everything.

    “She seems to be blown in the wind, seeing things from afar, but with her wings chained. She is, in another way, the wind of change herself,” Hilarie Roseman wrote in her comment to the poem.

    Ed Leonard wrote, “The plea for peace, the lament for what has been lost, and the hunger for unbridled openness is very well expressed by this young Palestinian. I pray that all who read it can see this in the spirit in which it is given and not be clouded by anger and prejudice.”

    IFLAC Founder Ada Aharoni wrote that the poem “does not help the Palestinians to reach peace and only perpetuates their feeling that they are the only victims of the Arab Israeli Conflict,” and that the poem “only perpetuates the chaining of wings and does not free them.” “Palestinian poetry sometimes tends to victimization and to spread hatred of the Israeli ‘aggressor’, which of course does not help to create an atmosphere of peace.” Does she see Mahinour as one of those poets, I wondered, and why does Mahinour have to answer for them, and why does she have to defend her poem? Did Ada read her own prejudices into the poem and jumped to conclusions?

    Mahinour must have wondered too, because she wrote to me and asked, “Did I say or do anything that might have been offensive or angered anyone? Did my poetry invite anger or aggression that might be unethical for a poet?” And a new mail a little bit later: “My aim is peace, not to instigate any tension.”

    When I suggested to her to post these questions as a comment, she said that she did not want to invite troubles. She gave me her permission to quote them.

    In my reply to Mahinour, I assured her that there is nothing aggressive or hateful in her poem, at least not in my eyes. Nor do I see wings forever chained.

    So why these different views?

    The Meaning and Impact
    of Peace Poetry

    Ada Aharoni’s Response to Questions by Solveig Hansen

    1. What exactly is it in Mahinour’s poem that in your opinion perpetuate the victimization of the Palestinians and the chaining of wings?

    2. You said she speaks of the evil “aggressor.” Is this an anti-Semitic poem?

    3. Should I have rejected to publish the poem?

    4. While others read this poem as a peace poem, your opinion is that it does not further peace. Why do you think we see it so differently even though we all want peace?

    5. Food for thought: If we assume that the poem is about an Israeli flying over the lands, would your response and reaction be the same?

    6. You have been writing for almost eight decades. Have you ever had a peace poem dismissed as not a “proper peace poem” or for coming out of Israel? If so, could you tell us about it?

    1. What exactly is it in Mahinour’s poem that in your opinion perpetuate the victimization of the Palestinians and the chaining of wings?

    Though Mahinour is Egyptian, she deeply identifies with the sad plight of the Palestinians, and movingly describes it. However, by blaming only the “aggressor” as the cause of the “chaining” of the wings, instead of basing her poetry on real historical facts: The Palestinians refused to have a State by the side of the State of Israel in 1947, and started five bloody wars trying to destroy Israel. Unfortunately the Palestinians still throw rockets at Israeli villagers to this day, despite the Cease Fire.

    The first rule in Conflict Resolution is that in every conflict there are two stories and not only one. If we deal only with one side of the conflict, not only does it not solve the conflict but it makes it worse. Mahinour’s poem deals only with the tragedy of one side of the conflict, which perpetuates the feeling of the Palestinians that they are the only victims. Instead of helping them to see the real situation and that they are the ones who can unchain themselves by making peace with Israel like Egypt and Jordan, the whole responsibility for their chains is the Israeli “aggressor.” Though she doesn’t use the word Israeli, it is clear in her poem who the aggressor is.

    True Peace Poetry like that of Wilfred Owen, Shin Shalom, Celine Galtlover, Soheil, and Ammar (who prefers to write under his pen name – Free Pen), and many others, confront War itself as the enemy and not only one side of the conflict.

    Wilfred Owen (British Peace Poet of the First World War) writes: “If I had met the German soldier who was shooting at me, in a bar instead of on the battlefield, I would have invited him to a beer!” And in his beautiful poem: Strange Meeting two young dead soldiers meet in Limbo and ask each other: “Who are you?” The answer is: “I am the one you killed / My friend.”

    And Shin Shalom’s Peace Poem starts: “Ishmael my Brother / Till when shall we kill each other?”

    I myself have never written or published any poems that blame the Palestinians or call them “aggressors,” but have always tried to see both sides of the conflict as victims of the The greatest murderer of them all – WAR (from my poem: I Want to Kill You War!). And in my poem: A Bridge of Peace I start with two peace quotations, one from the Holy Bible and one from the Koran:

    “They shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and none shall make them afraid.” (The Holy Bible, Micha, 4,4)

    “He who walks with peace, walk with him.” (The Koran, Sura 48)

    My Arab sister, let us build a wonder bridge
    from your fig tree and vine to mine
    above the boiling pain of the Intefada battle.
    Salima, my Arab sister, when will we laugh again
    like two women,
    instead of weeping
    on our sons’ stones?

    In my poem To A Palestinian Student on TV I fully identify with the Palestinian student, because his pain of rootlessness reminds me of my own pain and misery when we were forced to leave Egypt, during “The Second Exodus.”

    I have written several more peace poems, as No Talking and others, in which I blame the leaders on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides, who instead of talking – wage bloody wars on each other.

    2. You said she speaks of the evil “aggressor.” Is this an anti-Semitic poem?

    Mahinour’s poem is not an anti-Semitic poem, as she does not express hatred of the Jews. Though she does not mention the word “evil” with the “aggressor,” it is clear that she is blaming the Israelis.

    3. Should I have rejected to publish the poem?

    I thank you for your intelligent questions, and am glad you did not reject Mahinour’s poem, as it has given us a chance to discuss the deep meaning of a true Peace Poem. I believe Mahinour truly believed her poem was a Peace Poem, and did not fully understand the impact it might have.

    I have often received anti-Palestinian poems submitted to the IFLAC Digest, and I have always refused to publish them as they would have increased the hatred of each other.

    Dear Solveig, I kindly suggest that in the future, if you hesitate about the message and impact of poems you receive, you may want to consult with me before publishing them.

    Solveig: I never hesitated, but let me rephrase: Would you publish it?

    Ada: Yes, I would agree to publish Mahinour’s poem, hoping it would lead to the exchange of ideas and opinions which we have had, concerning the essence of a peace poem.

    4. While others read this poem as a peace poem, your opinion is that it does not further peace. Why do you think we see it so differently even though we all want peace?

    The answer to this wise question relies on many cultural and political differences. I will briefly touch on 3 of them:

    1. Israel is the only non-Moslem country in the Middle East, and most Arab countries, including Palestine, prefer it to disappear. To this day, the Hamas Covenant, clearly and bluntly calls for the destruction of Israel and the Jews!
    2. Israel is a democratic country, and as such it represents a threat to most countries in the region. For instance, most Moslem countries do not like the fact that the Palestinian women in Israel prefer not to wear veils, and they are afraid that this would endanger the status of women and their preferences, in their own countries.
    3. When the 650,000 Palestinians fled from Israel in 1948, all the Arab States backed them and spread the story of their sufferings and uprooting, and none of the countries, including Israel, backed or spread the story of the equally painful uprooting of the one million of Jews from Arab countries who fled with only their shirts on their backs from the lands of their birth. In Egypt, Iraq, Syria and other Arab countries there had been flourishing Jewish Communities for more than 2500 years. Most of them have been completely destroyed.

    The propaganda spread about the Palestinian tragedy throughout the world augmented their feelings of victimization. The whole world has heard about the uprooting of the Palestinians, and almost none about the tragedy of the uprooting of the Jews from Arab countries, in the second half of the twentieth century. This perpetuated the “Chaining of their Wings,” instead of trying to break the chains and making peace with Israel, like Egypt and Jordan. A whole fashion of Palestinian self-pitying poetry developed under the stance of “Peace Poetry,” and it became fashionable to blame and hate the Israeli “aggressor” instead of taking part of the blame. These are only a few of the deep reasons why the reactions to Mahinour’s poem are so different. There are many more.

    5. Food for thought: If we assume that the poem is about an Israeli flying over the lands, would your response and reaction be the same?

    If the flying poet would blame only the Palestinian “aggressor,” instead of blaming the war itself, as I explained in my response before, my reaction would be the same, and I would not publish his poem. The whole point of IFLAC – The International Forum for the Literature and Culture of Peace – is not to praise or blame the one side or the other of a conflict, through our poetry, but like Wilfred Owen, to show the horror and “pity of war” on both sides, to both sides. Peace poetry should be written with the goal to banish war from our earth forever, and to create a better world beyond war, terror and violence.

    6. You have been writing for almost eight decades. Have you ever had a peace poem dismissed as not a “proper peace poem” or for coming out of Israel? If so, could you tell us about it?

    I will give you two examples:

    1. I was sent an Anthology collection of peace poems collected by a young Indian poet, by her publisher who wanted to know my professional opinion. The choice of peace poems she made was good, but I was surprised to find twelve of my poems among them with the name “Anonymous”! I wrote to the publisher and told him that the choice of the international poems in the Anthology is good, but that I am not “anonymous”, I was born in Egypt and now live in Israel. He wrote back to me, without apologizing for the mistake, and said that they have decided not to publish the Anthology!

    2. The second and last example (though there are many more), is that I was invited together with some other poets from Israel to send peace poems for an Anthology of Palestinian and Israeli Peace Poetry. I was glad when the American publisher told me two of my peace poems had been accepted, together with poems by other Israelis and Palestinians. However, when we received the Anthology, we got a shock! The Anthology was called Before There Is Nowhere to Stand, and it contained a Preface and Palestinian poems full of propaganda and hatred against Israelis and Israel! We Israeli poets wrote to the editors and publisher and asked them to have our peace poems removed from this Anthology which was not of peace but full of hatred. We got an answer that it was too late as the Anthology had already been published!

    Peace Poems by Ada Aharoni:

    Bridge of Peace
    Arab Israeli Student on T.V.
    Reconciliation: The Sulha Pomegranate
    To Siniora: My New Friend in Gaza

    Peace Poetry discussion and reading on IFLAC Radio on Peace Day


    What is YOUR opinion?
    The Comments field below is open for discussion.


    Wind of Change: A Comment to Mahinour Tawfik’s poem “Chained Wings”

    Text: Solveig Hansen

    Mahinour Tawfik’s poem Chained Wings (The Palestinian Song) has been very well received on this site, with almost 150 Likes on Facebook within the first 24 hours.

    “…Silenced with chained wings
    Crying for Humanity, for conscience
    For mercy and for justice…”

    In her comment to the poem below, Hilarie Roseman writes that Mahinour Tawfik “seems to be blown in the wind, seeing things from afar, but with her wings chained. She is, in another way, the wind of change herself.” She goes on talking about the plight of the Aboriginals in Australia and how long they had to wait for an apology. “Why does it take so long to say sorry?”

    There is an age difference of sixty years between the two of them. Mahinour Tawfik is a 22 year old medical student from Egypt, while Australian Hilarie Roseman graduated in 2014 (at the age of 82!) with her PhD in international communications focusing on Abrahamic communities, and the role of forgiveness. Her thesis, Generating Forgiveness and Constructing Peace through Truthful Dialogue: Abrahamic Perspectives, has been published by Dignity Press.

    Wind of Change: A Comment to Mahinour Tawfik’s poem “Chained Wings”

    By Hilarie Roseman

    I write this comment with the face of an Australia Aboriginal in front of me. He is crying. The Government have given him, and his tribe, part of their original land to care for and regenerate. In his face I see the hope that Mahinour Tawfik is writing about, the hope of her land regenerated with humanity, conscience, mercy and justice. She seems to be blown in the wind, seeing things from afar, but with her wings chained. She is, in another way, the wind of change herself.

    The winds of change have taken a long time to blow for the Aboriginals in Australia. For over two hundred years they have suffered under the rule of white people who have ruined their land for profit…and sometimes just for sheer laziness and convenience. I remember trying to get some help to rehabilitate the beautiful waters of the East Gippsland Lakes. My granddaughter had been taken ill because she had swum in them. And those in power just brushed me off. There was no way forward.

    It was a different scenario with openly acknowledging the massacres of Aboriginals in the area. Their bones and skulls were buried in the silt, and sometimes caught in the fishermen’s nets. I set out to paint a narrative to show that, even if the white people had forgotten what they had done, the land had not. The land itself keeps the history and the blood of yesterday. The spirits of those who suffered and have not been buried, wait. The paintings were exhibited, and in due course engendered enough energy for the Bishop to come down and say “sorry”. “Why has it taken so long” he said, “to say sorry?”

    Indeed, we can echo the same question, “Why does it take so long to say “sorry”? What can we do to bring a sense of responsibility and hope, mercy and justice. It is the artists and the poets like Mahinour Tawfik who will speak from the heart and pave the way for repentance and reconciliation. Our wings will be unchained, and we can construct a lasting peace.

    Hilarie Roseman PhD 28th September, 2015

    A Peace Poem from Egypt: Chained Wings (The Palestinian Song)

    Text: Solveig Hansen

    Mahinour TawfikLike IFLAC, Mahinour Tawfik contributed with her poetry to the International Day of Peace, celebrated every year on September 21.

    Mahinour Tawfik is a 22 year old medical student from Egypt who studies to become a psychiatrist. She is also a poet with a powerful voice. “As a medical student I believe, as medicine heals bodies, poetry cures souls,” she says.

    Thank you for sharing this poem with us, Mahinour! We always welcome young, strong voices of peace on our site.


    (The Palestinian Song)

    By Mahinour Tawfik, 2015

    Silenced with chained wings
    Humming in agony, the world assumes I sing

    Long ago,
    I opened my eyes to the heaven of Palestine,
    Flew across its rivers and seas,
    Beholding the gold and emeralds beneath
    Danced with the moon, my first kiss was the skies,
    Sang with the Olive trees hasting the sunrise

    Until the last time,
    I was flying across Tiberias Sea
    Chanting my favorite song Fe-da-ee “فدائي”
    “Patriot”, the anthem of Palestine
    Almost finished it but didn’t have the chance
    All became nothing, in a long painful glance

    When lightning struck me down,
    Before the thunder thrashes
    To find the remnants of home underneath the ashes
    To see my parents’ corpses in the claws of vultures
    I can still hear their screams; can still sense their torture

    Since then, Rivers have flooded with mourners’ tears
    Oceans have sunken beneath bloods of martyrs
    The Dead Sea became The Sea of the dead
    The zephyr suffocated and the skies bled

    The olive trees lost leaf by leaf
    Their aroma amalgamated with pain and grief
    The sun parted,
    Leaving millions brokenhearted
    Still, petrified to rise
    To shine upon another massacre, witness another demise

    Silenced with chained wings
    Humming in agony, the world assumes I sing
    Will my wings be emancipated,
    Fly in the paradise across Gaza, Jerusalem
    Across the West back, without being devastated
    Searching for it underneath the tombs
    Watching innocents conveyed to their dooms
    Knowing that the next, is the one in my womb

    Will I regain my plundered voice?
    Sing “The Palestinian Song” again
    But for once, without its agonizing refrain?

    Silenced with chained wings
    Crying for Humanity, for conscience
    For mercy and for justice
    Still, the world assumes I sing
    Until my wings can break the chains
    Until my voice can sing again,
    I pray listeners by then
    Be less human and more humane

    © Mahinour Tawfik


    Happy Yom Kippur and Eid al-Adha

    Text: Solveig Hansen

    With the coinciding of Yom Kippur and Eid al-Adha, here is a poem by Yehuda Amichai that captures a human-to-human moment, picturing a street, a shop, a Jew and an Arab:


    By Yehuda Amichai, translated from Hebrew by Ada Aharoni

    On Yom Kippur in the year Tashkah,
    I wore dark festive clothes
    and ambled to the old quarter
    in Jerusalem.
    I stood a long time
    before an Arab’s nook-shop
    not far from the Gate of Shechem,
    a shop of buttons and zippers and rolls of thread
    of all colors, and tie-tacs and buckles.
    A bright light shone forth with many colors,
    like an open tabernacle.

    I told him in my heart that my father too
    had a shop like his of threads and buttons.
    I explained to him in my heart
    about all the decades of years
    and the causes and the events,
    that I am now here
    and my father’s shop is burnt there
    and he is buried here.

    When I finished it was closing time.
    He too pulled the blind and locked the gate.
    And I went back home with all those
    who went to pray.