The Concubine at Gibea

by Chaya Shalom

[Editor’s note: the concubine at Gibea refers to Judges 19 in the Bible. A traveller, staying overnight In Glbea, offers his concubine to a mob In order to prevent being assaulted himself. The concubine Is raped all night by the mob. The traveller cuts her dead body Into 12 pieces and sends them to his tribesmen, thus provoking a war against the Gibeans.)

I have something horrible to tell you, Hania: the concubine from Gibea came to my door dismembered, eyes gouged out.

I thought I’d go crazy.

“My sister from Bosnia”
She introduced the woman with her
her body dishevelled, ploughed deep

“They did with me as they pleased,”
said one.
“they robbed me of all hope,”
said another.

Carrying in truncated arms
a little girl from the streets of Bangkok
a baby from the alleys of Gaza.

And on the girl’s forehead a mark
and on the baby’s forehead the same sign: a deep round hole
from which their spirit was drained
through which their life was wrenched out.

“We have come,” they warned
“because time doesn’t choose a name
and deed has no limits
You are I
and I am She.”

And it was important to me to hear your voice,
Hania
Rising from your house in Ramalla,
crossing the barricades
passing the barbed wire.
Because I almost went crazy, Hania.
It was really horrible, Hania.

I don’t want to end my life at Gibea.
Nor your life either, in the fields of Bethelem
You are not a plaything.
And I am not for their pleasure.

I know, Hania,
our strength is
in the thread connecting us
it has no watch, no passport:
They, to Gibea,
will return no more.

Chaya Shalom lives in Jerusalem and works with the Israeli women’s peace movement: “This is to my friends Hania from Ramalla, Rulla from Gaza, Pacharapon from Bangkok, Stasa from Beograd, Biljana from Zagreb.” The poem was translated from the Hebrew by H. Ovnat