water is the finest drink

And so
it has taken me
all of sixty years
to understand
that water is the finest drink,
and bread the most delicious food,
and that art is worthless
unless it plants
a measure of splendor in people’s hearts.

The poem above is written by the Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali. Ali was born in 1931 in the Galilee village of Saffuriya. He is very much a village storyteller, and some of his work reminds me of another Galilean storyteller of long ago! He is an autodidact and owns a souvenir shop, which is mostly run by his sons and the family live in Nazareth. Ponder the words above and answer the question – What is it that brings splendor to my heart?

The writer and poet Edward Hirsch, describes the next poem by Ali as one which should be required reading in Washington DC. In this poem the character named Abd El-Hadi, is a sort of holy fool, who would never hurt a soul, and would welcome so called enemies and serve them “labneh” which is a kind of cheese made with yogurt. Read carefully and dare to do likewise.

Abd Eli-Hadi Fights a Superpower
In his life
he neither wrote nor read.
In his life
didn’t cut down a single tree,
didn’t slit the throat
of a single calf.
In his life he did not speak
of the New York Times
behind his back,
didn’t raise
his voice to a soul
except in his saying:
“Come in please,
by God, you can’t refuse.”

Nevertheless –
his case is hopeless,
his situation
His God-given rights are a grain of salt
tossed into the sea.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury:
about his enemies
my client knows not a thing.
And I can assure you,
were he to encounter
the entire crew
of the aircraft carrier Enterprise,
he’d serve them eggs
and labneh
fresh from the bag. Taha Muhammad Ali

Lord God
you taught us to pray, saying
“give us this day our daily bread”
yet we clamor for more, demand more,
insist on more, and more is never enough!
Forgive our greed and teach us afresh to
be mindful of what is enough in the hope
that all will be fed and all shall drink water.
Let us hear again the words of Jesus,
“I am the bread of life”
“but those who drink of the water 
that I will give them will never be thirsty.
The water that I will give will become
in them a spring of water 
gushing up to eternal life.”
Lord God we join with the poet, saying,
water is the finest drink and
bread the most delicious food. Amen.

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