Is it possible to fool death?

On Taha Muhammad Ali’s ‘Fooling the Killers’


Hardly anything tangible remains of those killed interror attacks. What ever remains to us of others?

Perhaps, despite everything, Qasim, the childhood friendof Taha Muhammad Ali, and Anna, with whom I once worked,share the same fate. According to the elderly poet fromthe Galilee, Qasim vanished in 1948 (“forty years ago” ina poem dated 1988); we cannot tell whether Ali is makingan appeal to a lost friend from his past or to a friendwho is no longer alive. Anna Orgel and I worked togetherin 1999, in the interests of poetry and among poetry lovers,for the Mishkenot Sha'ananim Cultural Center, to plan theFifth Jerusalem International Poets’ Festival. Anna didn’tmanage to fool her killer; she died in the June 11 bombing(two weeks ago as I write this), along with sixteen otherpeople, after a young terrorist decided to commit suicideand murder on a bus in Jerusalem. In Ali’s words, even ifQasim was killed, no trace of him remains, not “even a singleshoe.” Hardly anything tangible remains of those killed interror attacks either. What ever remains to us of others?What remains of the time spent in their presence? Feelingsand memories, which remain alive as long as we do. Thepoet’s Qasim is still a boy of ten in the poem; Anna leftbehind only her 55 years. Each and every one of us tries,mostly unconsciously, sometimes in vain, to fool the killersand cheat death. This is a basic condition of life. TahaMuhammad Ali’s lament for his friend, who was “skill[ed] athiding/ in the games of hide-and-seek” more than twogenerations ago, and my sorrow for Anna, who chanced to bein the wrong place at the wrong time (Where is the rightplace and when does it exist? Can we really fool death?), havejoined together in my mind, without any advance planning. Only life can fool death; ‘the dead won’t praise God,’ as thesaying goes. It remains for us, who live our daily life in theharsh reality of killers and killed, to wonder – Why? How manymore? Until when? It remains for us to think and to do something:to read poems and live our lives. We must remember the deadand fool death as much as possible.


© Rami Saari  
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