Why Must My City Be Burned?: Short Story Excerpt

I have always been disturbed by the Biblical account of the Israelites' arrival in the Promised Land forty years after escaping captivity in Egypt. It is one of many stories of a new nation founded on the destruction of older societies and cultures. I do not in any way intend this story to express anti-Semitic sentiments, or to play into the hands of those who express such views. But I have long wondered how the story of Israel's settlement of Canaan would have sounded if told by someone on the other side who survived this episode. Here, therefore, is an old woman named Lilat, who wishes for her voice to be heard telling the story of how she survived the destruction of her city when she was a child of eight...


Tuesday, October 17, 2000 A.D./C.E.

Step across the haunted land, and see if you can see the generations that died violently before. Stand still, and see if you can hear their blood cry out to you from the ground. Feel the terror of the ambushed, the despair of the ones burned alive in their houses, the wild savagery of the attackers, the searing of the flames. Sense, if you can, the flowing and spurting of blood that did not will itself to be shed before its time into the earth. Feel in your every sense the gratification without joy or contentment, but only a hidden fear, of the victors who would write history. All this is still with you in the haunted land of milk and honey. Do you understand what this old woman, Lilat daughter of Monat, is trying to tell you? This land is filled with the spirit of unhealed wounds. The blood of so many cries out from the ground, because no healer has come forth to settle it. How will you have the peace in this land that so many hope for, if the spirit (the energy, as you call it) of unjust killing is not banished, cleared and healed? And who will come and heal this land, so that it can birth peace instead of endless war, death, and the wailing and cursing of mothers? There can be no peace here until this is done. Let the world's strongest leaders call for conferences and make treaties. They know nothing about making peace that is deeper than the paper they write on. They have no one among them who can heal the wounds of over three thousand years. The innocent blood haunting this land is too deep for their paper salves.

The cities we built on this long-haunted land were burned down so senselessly many generations ago, by an army with such razor-sharp skill and training that they could separate into branches, burn three cities to the ground at once, and then regroup into one huge force in the time a shooting star could cross the sky. They would not be content with merely building their own settlements neighboring ours; allegedly they made some agreement with an ancestral deity that they would revive His devotion in exchange for the most fertile land their ancestors had settled in for a time many generations before. In between, my ancestors had built cities, planted and irrigated, bred and hunted animals, and venerated the Divine and Sacred as we understood it. We celebrated life as it seemed proper to us to do. We committed no crime against any clan or tribe that would merit our extermination. And so we haunt the land still, until somebody heals our wounds. Until somebody understands that innocent blood demands justice. Until then, the wounds poison the spirit of the land and the spirits of those who live there, inspiring warfare, hatred and the spilling of innocent blood of every generation thereafter.

2000 by Karen I. Olsen



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