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Channel Esther: Weiss’s Chicken Farm, Before and After

Lawrence Bush
March 22, 2017

by Esther Cohen

1.

Many stories begin with Part One.

A long time ago (a long long time ago -- do you like that better?)
before going to a volunteer program in Israel,
we had to spend four days at a chicken farm in New Jersey
called Weiss’s. The idea being that this chicken farm
somehow had a relationship to what we would be doing.
Ninety of us went to Weiss’s Chicken Farm.
Only sixty survived the farm.

2.

Two of the people who survived
Weiss’s Chicken Farm, New Jersey
preparation for Israel:
ex-soldier who’d been in Vietnam. He’d lost his
hand, now had a hook. And a legally blind
tall funny man named Danny who knew
about computers when they were big
and foreign. Two days ago, Danny
came to visit. We spent a lot of time
remembering this and that.
Starting with Weiss’s Chicken Farm. “I’d
never seen a chicken farm before,”
said Danny. “And I didn’t see
it then, either.”

3.

in the city of Nazareth
naive Americans there we were
to make things better
not understanding that we
were the ones learning.

In an ulpan
language center on top of the city
near immigrants from Georgia
every single day I took the bus
to Lower Nazareth where Palestinians lived
every single day
instead of learning Good Hebrew
I would sit at an olive wood store
owned by a man named Agram I would sit
on a low stool he sold kitschy camels
I still have his camel tourists would get
off the buses they were visiting Nazareth
shouting LOOK AT THAT
pointing to his camels, and me.

Esther Cohen is Jewish Currents' arts and events consultant. She blogs a poem every day at esthercohen.com.

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.