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Saturday, 25 April 2009

Seven Jewish Children

In the first drafting of my poem The White Crucifixion (Scroll down to the previous post) I included the bombing of Gaza as a latter day Guernica, but rather quickly removed it as it seemed to me to complicate the issues without adding very much to them. However, the play Seven Jewish Children being in the news again has caused me, if not exactly to interrupt my intended programme, at least to modify it enough to bring you the full text of this eight minute play. It was written as a quick response to the bombing, and the author, Caryl Churchill has released it for free performances and readings on condition that a collection is taken up on behalf of the people of Gaza. If you would prefer to hear a reading of it by Jennie Stoller, you can do so on The guardian website (guardian.co.uk/video). There are also video links here

Tell her it’s a game
Tell her it’s serious
But don’t frighten her
Don’t tell her they’ll kill her
Tell her it’s important to be quiet
Tell her she’ll have cake if she’s good
Tell her to curl up as if she’s in bed
But not to sing.
Tell her not to come out
Tell her not to come out even if she hears shouting
Don’t frighten her
Tell her not to come out even if she hears nothing for a long time
Tell her we’ll come and find her
Tell her we’ll be here all the time.
Tell her something about the men
Tell her they’re bad in the game
Tell her it’s a story
Tell her they’ll go away
Tell her she can make them go away if she keeps still
By magic
But not to sing.
Tell her this is a photograph of her grandmother, her uncles and me
Tell her her uncles died
Don’t tell her they were killed
Tell her they were killed
Don’t frighten her.
Tell her her grandmother was clever
Don’t tell her what they did
Tell her she was brave
Tell her she taught me how to make cakes
Don’t tell her what they did
Tell her something
Tell her more when she’s older.
Tell her there were people who hated Jews
Don’t tell her
Tell her it’s over now
Tell her there are still people who hate Jews
Tell her there are people who love Jews
Don’t tell her to think Jews or not Jews
Tell her more when she’s older
Tell her how many when she’s older
Tell her it was before she was born and she’s not in danger
Don’t tell her there’s any question of danger.
Tell her we love her
Tell her dead or alive her family all love her
Tell her her grandmother would be proud of her.
Don’t tell her we’re going for ever
Tell her she can write to her friends, tell her her friends can maybe
come and visit
Tell her it’s sunny there
Tell her we’re going home
Tell her it’s the land God gave us
Don’t tell her religion
Tell her her great great great great lots of greats grandad lived there
Don’t tell her he was driven out
Tell her, of course tell her, tell her everyone was driven out and
the country is waiting for us to come home
Don’t tell her she doesn’t belong here
Tell her of course she likes it here but she’ll like it there even more.
Tell her it’s an adventure
Tell her no one will tease her
Tell her she’ll have new friends
Tell her she can take her toys
Don’t tell her she can take all her toys
Tell her she’s a special girl
Tell her about Jerusalem.
Don’t tell her who they are
Tell her something
Tell her they’re Bedouin, they travel about
Tell her about camels in the desert and dates
Tell her they live in tents
Tell her this wasn’t their home
Don’t tell her home, not home, tell her they’re going away
Don’t tell her they don’t like her
Tell her to be careful.
Don’t tell her who used to live in this house
No but don’t tell her her great great grandfather used to live in
this house
No but don’t tell her Arabs used to sleep in her bedroom.
Tell her not to be rude to them
Tell her not to be frightened
Don’t tell her she can’t play with the children
Don’t tell her she can have them in the house.
Tell her they have plenty of friends and family
Tell her for miles and miles all round they have lands of their own
Tell her again this is our promised land.
Don’t tell her they said it was a land without people
Don’t tell her I wouldn’t have come if I’d known.
Tell her maybe we can share.
Don’t tell her that.
Tell her we won
Tell her her brother’s a hero
Tell her how big their armies are
Tell her we turned them back
Tell her we’re fighters
Tell her we’ve got new land.
Don’t tell her
Don’t tell her the trouble about the swimming pool
Tell her it’s our water, we have the right
Tell her it’s not the water for their fields
Don’t tell her anything about water.
Don’t tell her about the bulldozer
Don’t tell her not to look at the bulldozer
Don’t tell her it was knocking the house down
Tell her it’s a building site
Don’t tell her anything about bulldozers.
Don’t tell her about the queues at the checkpoint
Tell her we’ll be there in no time
Don’t tell her anything she doesn’t ask
Don’t tell her the boy was shot
Don’t tell her anything.
Tell her we’re making new farms in the desert
Don’t tell her about the olive trees
Tell her we’re building new towns in the wilderness.
Don’t tell her they throw stones
Tell her they’re not much good against tanks
Don’t tell her that.
Don’t tell her they set off bombs in cafés
Tell her, tell her they set off bombs in cafés
Tell her to be careful
Don’t frighten her.
Tell her we need the wall to keep us safe
Tell her they want to drive us into the sea
Tell her they don’t
Tell her they want to drive us into the sea.
Tell her we kill far more of them
Don’t tell her that
Tell her that
Tell her we’re stronger
Tell her we’re entitled
Tell her they don’t understand anything except violence
Tell her we want peace
Tell her we’re going swimming.
Tell her she can’t watch the news
Tell her she can watch cartoons
Tell her she can stay up late and watch Friends.
Tell her they’re attacking with rockets
Don’t frighten her
Tell her only a few of us have been killed
Tell her the army has come to our defence
Don’t tell her her cousin refused to serve in the army.
Don’t tell her how many of them have been killed
Tell her the Hamas fighters have been killed
Tell her they’re terrorists
Tell her they’re filth
Don’t tell her about the family of dead girls
Tell her you can’t believe what you see on television
Tell her we killed the babies by mistake
Don’t tell her anything about the army
Tell her, tell her about the army, tell her to be proud of the army.
Tell her about the family of dead girls, tell her their names why
not, tell her the whole world knows why shouldn’t she know? tell
her there’s dead babies, did she see babies? tell her she’s got
nothing to be ashamed of. Tell her they did it to themselves. Tell
her they want their children killed to make people sorry for them,
tell her I’m not sorry for them, tell her not to be sorry for them,
tell her we’re the ones to be sorry for, tell her they can’t talk
suffering to us. Tell her we’re the iron fist now, tell her it’s the fog
of war, tell her we won’t stop killing them till we’re safe, tell her I
laughed when I saw the dead policemen, tell her they’re animals
living in rubble now, tell her I wouldn’t care if we wiped them out,
the world would hate us is the only thing, tell her I don’t care if
the world hates us, tell her we’re better haters, tell her we’re
chosen people, tell her I look at one of their children covered in
blood and what do I feel? tell her all I feel is happy it’s not her.
Don’t tell her that.
Tell her we love her.
Don’t frighten her.


Unknown said...

Extremely powerful & moving. Thanks for posting this.

Unknown said...

Hi Dave,

Very powerful. A continual dichotomy.

Karen said...

This is emotionally draining. How easy for those of us not in the thick of it to live unawares. Thanks for posting.

Elizabeth said...

The whole situation in Palestine is so horribly depressing.
Since we live in the US, there is little reporting or sympathy for the people of Gaza.
One hopes this will change and that the automatic support of Israel will be tempered by more nuanced responses.
So terribly, terribly sad.
I wonder if they would perform this piece in NY.
I'm not sure they would.

San said...

Great building of tension through repetition. I didn't click to hear a reading, but that must be moving indeed.

Dave King said...

JohnThanks for commenting.

DerrickI think that sums it up as much as anything could sum it up.

Karen Very draining. We all make easy judgements. I have, much as anyone.

Elizabeth In fact it has been performed in short runs in six centres in this country, including London's Royal Court Theatre, and in America in New York, Chicago, Washington and Seattle as well as Mumbai, Ottawa, Mexico City, Athens, Lisbon and Barcelona. That, at least is encouraging, but the hope must be as you expressed it, I think.

SanAbsolutely agree.

Stephen Dell'Aria said...

How tragic that the world has been built on squatter's rights no matter what the millennium. We don’t really own anything, we just think we do.

Barry said...

Well, okay, that was a tough read. Beautifully done and haunting, but very tough.

And thought provoking.

Rosaria Williams said...

After the first few lines I couldn't breathe. It is powerful in its repetitions and denials, and repetitions and reassurances. We don't know what to do after all this is said.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Lakeviewer. Wrenching, breath stealing, tension of truth and false comfort.

Ronda Laveen said...

"...tell her I look at one of their children covered in
blood and what do I feel? tell her all I feel is happy it’s not her.
Don’t tell her that.
Tell her we love her.
Don’t frighten her."

This last bit sums up a lot of human emotions and sentiments in very few words. A very moving piece of work. Visceral.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Very moving stuff Dave. The trouble with the Gaza problem is that every time there is a flare-up it is in the news and we all think about it - then it fades away until the next time. There is so much war in the world that Gaza (arguably the most insurmountable problem) takes a back seat. The suffering that has gone on there for generations is appalling and initially much of the blame for the situation which was created lies at the door of our own country I feel.

Mann Fan said...

Theater is a good way to put images in the minds of sympathetic people.
As such, it's difficult to ignor the manner in which it creates the notion of Jews (not only zionists) as demons ("Chosen people" laughing over the Palestinian dead).

Cheryl Cato said...

Oh my how incredibly powerful! Thank you for posting this. It is a terrifically difficult situation that seems to have no answer.

If you feel inclined I have chosen you for a meme of the moment. Info at my blog.

Poetic Artist said...

How strong and how sad. Thank you for your ability to open our eyes and see the visions by only reading your words. Katelen

Stephen M. Flatow said...

Seven Jewish Children is anti-Semitism masked as anti-Zionism. They are the same as they advocate for the destruction of the Jewish people.

Acornmoon said...

Stirring stuff, it is hard to imagine, easier not too I suppose. Thank you for making us at least think about it.

Anonymous said...

Caryl Churchill is a fine dramatist. The first time I heard it read on the Guardian site, I thought it was pro-Jewish; the second time, the reverse. To really appreciate the nuances and realise that this is not just one, but several points of view, reflecting the dilemma of the ordinary people caught up in the situation, especially when it comes to what to tell the children.

"...tell her I look at one of their children covered in
blood and what do I feel? tell her all I feel is happy it’s not her.
Don’t tell her that.
Tell her we love her.
Don’t frighten her."

What mother wouldn't be glad that it wasn't her own child. This, however, is just one voice; another speaks of love. 'Don't tell her that' and 'Don't frighten her' is repeated like an incantation. The writer of the article in the Guardian is right in saying that Caryl Churchill has an opinion ( we all do) but I see no evidence of anti-Semitism. I also think drama is the best (better than the novel, poetry or even film) way of presenting a political controversy because we just have the voices. It is the selection made by the dramatist, and the fact that she focussed on Jews rather than Palestinians, that has been found offensive by some. If history finds those in charge of the bombing of Gaza guilty of war crimes, the appalling events of WWII are no defence.

LR Photography said...

Powerful Dave!

Anonymous said...

It didn't finish the sentence at the end of the first paragraph, which should have been 'more than just one voice needs to be heard'.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Dear Dave, your blog is enriched and straight like a thunderbolt with works like this poem ( or dramatic monologue ). I was so saddened and outraged by the bombings on Gaza...
Best wishes, Davide

Sarah Laurence said...

I haven’t heard of this play – thanks for telling us about it. Thanks for sharing your creative process with us too. This poem isn’t as lyrical due to the repetition, but it has a strong message. These aren’t easy times we live in.

Dave King said...

Stephen Good point, excellently well made.

Barry Yeah, I can't imagine anything much tougher.

Lakeviewer That is the great sadness of it, I agree.

The Thing We Carried I want to read it again, but haven't been able to bring myself to do so yet.

Ronda It's probably the bit I felt I could most relate to.

The Weaver of Grass Yes, I'd go along with all that. Basically we - us and our allies - created this problem, one that should not have been too difficult to foresee.

Mann Fan The key word there is "sympathetic", I think. It is difficult to shed light on a situation such as this without appearing partisan, at least to a partisan.

Lizzy Thanks for your comment. No disagreements, there. I shall certainly have a look at the meme. Thanks for that, too.

Poetic Artist Thanks for the feedback.

Stephen I didn't feel that it was anti-anything, except entrenched attitudes.

acornmoon Many thanks for that rather comprehansive and very sensitive reflection on what I must admit I thought would be a controversial posting - though that was not the reason for it being posted. I have not yet reread it, but even on first reading I felt first of all that it was taking this side and then the other.

Adrian Thanks

Watermaid MMMMMM... not sure.

Tommaso Thanks - as, I am sure, we all were.

Sarah Many thanks for that useful feedback.

Jinksy said...

If only more people could learn to live and let live - nobody 'owns' the Earth, when all is said and done...

Anonymous said...

Dave, what are you not sure about...come on now, don't be evasive. Your initial reaction to the play was pretty much the same as mine...you thought at first it was taking one side and then the other.

A Cuban In London said...

I have followed the 'controversy' (why do they like complicating things so much? It's not controversial, it's called 'art', for Christ' sake!) very closely because it goes to the heart of how art should relate to current social and political issues, or if it should relate to them, period. I think that the artist, if he/she is intelligent enough, can make a powerful contribution to a relevant without taking away the full political or social impact. What the artist has not got is an obligation to do so and sometimes it feels to me like they do. Many thanks for the text, dave, it is very moving in ways that I cannot describe.

Greetings from London.

Helen said...

Hello Dave, I read your text and followed with the video ... in either medium this is extremely powerful and thought provoking.

Dave King said...

Jinksy Precisely. If only...

Watermaid I wasn't expressing disagreement. You are correct, I did find it even handed and still do. I should have explained myself more fully. I am not sure what you were getting at. "It didn't finish the sentence at the end of the first paragraph, which should have been 'more than just one voice needs to be heard'." I do not see the unfinished sentence.

A Cuban in London I think you are saying that an artist does not have to concern himself with current political and social issues, which is no doubt true, but unless he is to live and work somewhere other than the present he is bound to be affected by them. They will impinge upon him and that effect will show in his work.

Dave King said...

HelenThanks for that feedback. Much appreciated.

Unknown said...

Dave, I've been meaning to drop in for a while, and when I do this poem greets me - talk about taking the top of your head off. Phew, this is intense work. The repetition and the growing line lengths really add to the tension you've created. It's not an easy subject to take on, but I think you've found a good way into it.

Madame DeFarge said...

Dave - this is so powerful. i'm not familiar with the play, so this is an eye-opener for me. And yes, I agree that it's not anti one thing or another, just highlighting what it must be like for so many people across the world.

Dave King said...

BarbaraGood to hear from you again - I have also been meaning to drop in on you! - and very many thanks for the encouraging comments.

Madame DeFargeYes, it's difficult to untangle all the strings of violence making the situation so extreme, but I think this play gets as close as maybe.

carole said...

Dave, I just thought I didn't make it clear about needing to hear all the voices.

I have a friend who supports the campaign to return the Jews to Jerusalem/Israel. To me this is foolhardy as it just adds to the already insoluble problems.

Cloudia said...

Thanks for caring about ALL people, all children, Dave.
Bless you. Condemnation is part of the problem

Fantastic Forrest said...


My book group was just talking about finding a work which addresses this conflict.

This is a powerful piece.

Are you familiar with the play My Name is Rachel Corrie? I've wanted to see it for some time now. http://www.amazon.com/My-Name-Rachel-Corrie/dp/1559362960

Dave King said...

CaroleI have to agree with you, not your friend. Thanks for clearing that up.

Cloudia Some might say condemnationis the whole of the problem.
Thanks for that.

Fantastic Forrest I'm afraid I don't know Carrie's play. I shall look it up. Thanks for the steer.

Lynda Lehmann said...

The horror of war and genocide belongs to children everywhere, whose parents and grandparents were marched to the slaughter or blown apart by bullets and bombs.

Thanks for sharing this very powerful piece of writing with us. To kill in the name of religion or ethnicity is the most vile of crimes. One day we will all learn how to coexist.

McGuire said...

Tortuous poem, Dave, the first part is masterful, minimalist suspense that drives home the stark reality of brutality.

The seeming inescapable quality of war and turmoil and persecution. Passes on from generation to generation. One trying to cover up the past the other trying to overcome it the other trying to right it the other going to war with it.

I felt the futility in this, was this your intention? The seeming spirall of telling and not telling, confirming the cycle once more.

Very, very interesting poem, I will return too it.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit I am normally not one to sit through a long long post but I read every line of this one long as it was. I am filled with emotions right now, thanks for the post.

I stayed in Israel when I was a child and have heard stories from my father on all these but this post I feel, is far more thought provoking that watching the news or any documentary made about it.

Would be brought to tears if I actually heard this performed in theater.

Good One, Dave :)

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