Curated by Bob Lapidot
“The Shimmer in the Room,” or “The Shimmer in the Mind”
The room, the classroom that is—where we assemble as a group once a week—is one of perhaps a few places where things come into focus for me. The light produced by the halogens is crisp and clear, sharply delineated, I cannot see it creating a shimmer as it bounces off the objects in the room. Really, I cannot see it creating a shimmer even as it bounces off my skin, even though—in its interaction with light—human skin is of an entirely different property than inanimate objects. This is where I absorb; and absorbing new information, ideas and insight takes up literally one hundred percent of my attention. And that, if you can believe, is a comforting experience, as I sit—in formation—among fellow learners and vis a vis our professor—our source of information, of the light. It is a wholly different thing when compared to the situation of sitting on my own, engrossed in my thoughts, and tasked with writing—producing something from nothing. There is truly a diametrical opposition between these two categories of experience. Shimmer comes into play in the torment of finding order, something coherent, in the chaos of the mind, while delving into the abyss of autonomous thought processes. But, what is this shimmer?
Thoughts, like visions forming from scattered images, begin as some loose thin strings of syllables—rarely complete words— floating in a vast space of nothingness. When a spotlight—a single fishing rod cast into a wide ocean—manages to locate a cluster of these strings, a concept will be formed. I must latch on to it, bring it into focus, and control the shimmer that is the fuzziness—the dark matter of the mind; and to do all that, and to do it repeatedly, with only a lone spotlight at hand within a universe of consciousness. Yes, writing is definitely a painful process for me
Made by man
I know myself of little worth,
curved and smooth
of slender girth,
a factory my place of birth,
filled and labelled, then dispatched,
sent to shops to find a match,
Such is me.
Now empty, naked and withdrawn
Screw-top gone and label torn,
my days of use, identity
just a fleeting memory.
In a crate,
to be recycled I await,
Manufactured, made by man,
Such is me.
For Sure It Was That Time of Day
For sure it was that time of day when anything could happen, the silence deafening, waiting; anticipating the worst. The first signs of the sun creep up above the rooftops, slowly breaking the safety of the darkness. I close my eyes that burn from the constant rising of smoke and give a sigh. A new day awaits me, yet another loop of terror that my vivid imagination of what could be, keeps me alert, and so far has kept me alive.
I scramble around collecting my gear into my backpack. I stick the wrappers of granola energy bars into my pocket, eliminating any remnants of last night’s dinner or anyone ever being here. I can’t remember the last time I had a hot meal, I try to think what I would have if given the choice. Definitely roast beef; yep it would win hands down, with all the trimmings, roast potatoes, vegetables, Yorkshire pudding and of course gravy. My mouth starts to water and I will myself to stop torturing myself and thinking about long gone luxuries.
I take out the wipes and start scrubbing the floor and the part of the wall that I slept against, just to be on the safe side; I’ve heard that they have this devise that detects traces of a person’s body heat or something like that. I don’t quite understand it all, but someone once explained that it’s similar to how the good guys used to trace and hunt criminals down, through placing their fingerprints into a database of names. Only difference now is that the good guys are the hunted.
I climb out of the window of the derelict building that has been my haven for the night. Where I’ll sleep tonight I have yet to find out, if at all I reach that far. As of yet I’ve managed to stay off their radar, I’ve been lucky. I remember someone telling me that everybody starts out with a full bag of luck and an empty bag of experience, the trick is to fill the bag of experience before the luck runs out. I pull my hood over my head and hope that today isn’t the day I see the bottom of that bag of luck.
She leaves the bus stop
Wait, I say, it’s only late
Please, Russian, she begs.
A Simple Prayer 
Let there be no end
to the murmur of the sea
or the hopes of man
 Loosely based on an English translation (translator, unknown) of the poem by Chana Senesh, Halicha Lekesaria, more popularly known as Eli, Eli.
Standing on the Ledge
Loser, crater face, fatso… I can hear each and every insult over and over again in my mind. No matter how hard I try to cut out the voices, they just seem to scream at me louder and louder. Well today it changes. No more insults, this is the day I win the game. All those who thought I wouldn’t make it this far, I sure showed them. I’ve been waiting for this moment to arrive; They told me that if I don’t reach the end they will help me to win the game, but I don’t need their help, I don’t need anyone’s help. Those were my last thoughts as I stood on the ledge of the twenty- two story building and took my last step ever, and won the game.
Language. Creating the world we live in, capable of both causing pain and remedying it. What we say and how we say it not only shapes who we are but also has the strength to shape and reshape others.
Creating an incredible range of emotions, which quite often makes the difference between someone loving their life and someone sabotaging it.
Moving nations with our words in order to justify actions of racist cruelty, as Hitler did. Or leading people from the darkness into the light, as did the famous speech of Martin Luther King.
Our means of communication today has expanded immensely, changing the pace and scale of those receiving the message. Let us take for example, the social media that has overtaken so many of our lives. Whereas, in many cases this is a positive aspect and contributes to society, it also opens up a whole new world through various networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and more that may become either political platforms or personal tools used to harass and bully (cyber-bullying) others.
The shift in the way we communicate and the means that we use may have dire consequences for people, especially adolescents who may be more susceptible to peer-pressure when experiencing either positive or negative emotions. It is easier to manipulate the susceptible, insult and bully the under –dog, thus, causing profound psychological outcomes including depression, anxiety, isolation and even suicide.
An online game called the Blue Whale Suicide Challenge that initially started in Russia, is now spreading across Europe causing fear and worry for every parent. The participants are given missions to do, beginning with simple tasks such as waking up in the middle of the night or watching horror movies and then extending to self- harm tasks and eventually the end dare which wins you the game – suicide. Participants are told if they do not reach the end someone will find them and help them reach the end. Believe it or not, in Russia alone over 130 teens between the ages of 10-14 have died as a result of this game. The game targets teenagers that are either victims of verbal or physical abuse, making them more vulnerable to peer pressure (scared at what may be said about them if they do not join the game or go through with it). It also manipulates their inner craving to achieve attention even if it is twisted praise for taking part in activities forced upon them.
This game is an extreme example of the dangers out there; however with the constant increase of networking sites, online activities and messaging apps, it becomes easier to target each and every one of us. Although, Cyber bullying has long been more closely associated with the intentional bullying of children particularly teenagers, adults are not immune and this can manifest itself in many different forms.
I, myself have been a victim of such abuse. During my first year of teaching in an elementary school, a student dissatisfied with a mark I had given him on a test decided to open up a page on Facebook entitled “The Whore Jessica Amsellem – Join if you hate teachers.” Within a day this page had reached children from other schools and the numbers of followers to this page was high. With the option of being able to post comments for everyone to see, students who had never even met me were posting insults and obscenities about me. The amount of time that it took that specific page to reach such a vast audience made it difficult to close down the page and therefore continued to reach more and more people.
In the past we had more control over the direct contact we have with the words of others that either bullied or praised us. People had the chance to at least attempt to avoid areas and situations that would make them feel uncomfortable or at risk. However, Cyber-bullying can follow victims wherever they go, whether they are in a crowd or alone. Cyber-bullies can reach their victims, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,
Our words have serious implications; they can shape us the world around us for the better or they can bring it tumbling down. They make the difference of whether we step down from the ledge or jump off it.
It Was That Time Of Day
I do not know what time it was. But I do know it was that quiet darkening hour when no matter whether summer or winter, religious men leave their homes and wives for their afternoon and evening devotions. It was that time– just one hour – when the sun sinks into the sea and the dankness of twilight is felt, when day metamorphoses into night and our conceptions of the world change; it was then, that I found myself approaching the small copse of oak trees behind my house.
It is a route I usually avoid at that time of day.
Under the darkening branches, as the bird song fades, breathing in the cooling dank air, I shudder and a feeling of fear runs through me. And yet, standing still in the silence, I am enveloped by a feeling of descending calm.
I usually avoid this route at that time of day.
But that evening I was hurrying, my thoughts elsewhere, the few minutes saved more important than my apprehensions: and so it was that I was caught up sharp as I sighted a figure beneath an ancient oak.
Quicken, slow, show no alarm, walk. Dead, alive, threatening, harmless, escaped, down-and-out? Show no fear!
All possibilities ran through my head. But the figure did not move.
He was, thankfully, harmlessly asleep, his cap fallen off his head, propped up against a hollow trunk. I passed, and looking back saw there was a familiarity about him: the curly brown hair, the grey flannels, the neckerchief, the brown brogues. It was the cheerful bohemian-looking young man who had stopped me to ask the way the previous week. His image had remained in my mind and I had enquired of him.
A great guest to have at the Sabbath table. Full of tales and amusing anecdotes. A favourite with the children and young ladies, I had been told. More than this was not to be divulged; where he came from, his craft, how he earnt his bread seemed to be shrouded in mystery.
Here he was, I had found him almost on my doorstep, I could waken him and invite him in…
Personification of an Inanimate Object
Stage I: I prepared with care a bag with my lunch, but when I opened the bag, I discovered that my water bottle had leaked into the bag, and all my food was floating in water.
Stage II: Water, sloshing in my bag.
Stage III: A Letter from Spilt Water
My Dear Friend,
It wasn’t my intention to cause you harm. You see, it was a matter of lack of self-control. I hadn’t planned to be there. It wasn’t my place. My place was the little bottle from which you would drink, and I would feel proud that I had fulfilled my mission – to give you sustenance, wet your throat, and hear you sigh of comfort.
And then it just happened. I sloshed around towards the lid as you laid your bag on its side. There was a little tiny opening. At first I spilled out with fear. “Oh, what have I done?! She will be so annoyed. I didn’t want to cause her harm.” These were my thoughts as I flowed forth with more gusto. The sense of freedom excited me.
Then, it stopped. My unlimited freedom was over as I bumped up against the side of the plastic bag which held the rest of your lunch – your sandwich which you had prepared with much thought, the orange which you had readied for a quick bite. There was also a yummy-looking pastry. Each was carefully wrapped in a plastic sandwich bag. So . . . . . I flowed around each one, and they bobbed up and down on my little waves. Even though my freedom was limited, I was still free enough to have some fun.
Then, you startled me and opened the bag. At first you looked in disbelief. All your effort to have an enjoyable lunch was drowned in me.
Please, try to understand. You see, we all have our good points and our bad points. That’s how G-d made us. What are my good points? Well, I can sustain life. I fill most of your body; otherwise, you would be a pile of dry bones. I clean objects, and I can mix with other things and moisten what is parched. I help plants grow and make rivers flow.
Freedom is something we both want. Sometimes, my desire for freedom is uncontrollable. I flow into places I should not be. I flood the ground and overflow my banks in rivers and in oceans.
Please, remember, we are similar. We both want our freedom, but we also need boundaries. I hope you will remember me for my good qualities and forgive me for ruining your lunch.
Karen Abu Adra
I climb onto the drifted tree
With the broken branch sticking straight up
The perfect backrest
And sit and absorb
The myriad shades of grey
Of the sky
The smooth pebbles on the beach
The pelicans playing in the surf
The stormy waves crashing
The tide pools teeming with candy colors
The lime green of the anemone
The raspberry pink
Or mango orange of a starfish
Laughing at the somber grey
And forbidding melancholy
On the drifted tree with the broken branch sticking up
The perfect backrest
To sit and absorb.
The myriad shades of grey:
The sky reflected in the crashing waves,
The smooth pebbles on the beach,
The pelicans playing in the surf
Walk down the beach,
Grains of black sand dotting my feet,
But not sticking between my toes,
Misty rain and salty spray dampening my face;
The squawk of an eagle gliding high
The rhythm of the sea calling to the whistle of the wind
Though the hole in the sea stack
The tide pools
The lime anemone, the raspberry or mango starfish
Laughing at the somber grey,
Forbidding any melancholy