82. Negev

Author: Mat Goldberg, Senior

Pitted between nothingness
and holiness, it is a dead land,
fossilized in time
with the shards of seashells,
uplifted from the sands
by our questioning feet.

Absent of light, we walked
unseen against the wholeness
of the earth. Humbled
by the glorious abyss of the night,
I felt alive. Following
the endless plateau of sand and stone,
I devoted myself to the unknown
in search for unanswerable truths.
Listening to the hymns of Isabel’s
voice, trusting her as our guide amidst
the sunless sky and resounding silence.

It was in this hour
I was told I would find God;
believing, I opened myself
and prayed. Hoping the darkness
could console my fears, I
waited, ready to no longer
feel forlorn and understand
my role in the world. But finally
with verity and uncomforting
certainty I knew I was alone.

Rejected by the boundless universe,
consumed in thought, I dared
to ease myself and soul
with words of divinity.
I felt spiritless,
betrayed by meaningless prays
and the brokenness whole of life.
Craving to dispel the air’s stillness
with shouts of enmity
I wished for the truth to be a lie
and the washed sky studded
with stars to flash with life,
giving me a renew sign of hope.

Reuniting, Isabel’s voice called us
together and I saw the outline
of my peers’ faces smeared with streaks
of tears that wetted the sand.
Their eyes elated with hope
and I knew I cried for a different reason. 
Walking with unwanted knowledge,
I stood back, disconnected
as the group grasped hands,
rejoicing and reflecting
in faith of God and of life, still
silent except for Isabel’s voice.

Exhausted, the weight of the truth
drained me and my body collapsed,
falling, but instead of sinking into the cold
weathered ground, a gentle hand
seized me, with surprising strength,
lifting my body and steadying my balance.

I did not find God in the desert
but I found a hand of a person, of a people
that I can call my own.
This is my community.
I found my purpose
Tikkun olam – to repair the world.
Now it is my time to be
a hand and a community
for another and bring with me all that I am.
I am Israel as the Negev is me.


This poem was written in my creative writing class, inspired by my travels to Israel for Birthright and my exploration of what it means to be Jewish, discovering the intersection of social justice and religion.

Make an Appointment