Witness To History (In The Promised Land)

Yesterday, shortly after Donald Trump’s plane took off from Ben Gurion Airport, Israel’s President Rueven Rivlin, opened the 50th annual Jerusalem Day Celebrations.

Earlier Prime Minister Netanyahu had stated that “we didn’t occupy Jerusalem, we liberated it.”

Fifty years ago (long before the advent of insta-communication), Iris Keltz received a telegram from her mother in New York.

IRIS STOP WAR IMMINENT STOP GET OUT NOW STOP TAKE FIRST PLANE OR BOAT TO CYPRUS STOP MOM

But for Iris, in that place, at that time, there was no going back

Iris Keltz is a long-time Taos resident. Her first book, Scrapbook of a Taos Hippie is an award-winning memoir documenting the counterculture in Northern New Mexico, In the foreword to her documentation of Taos’ singular place in the annals of Hippiedom (this summer San Francisco celebrates the 50th Anniversary of The Summer Of Love), Fugs member, poet and journeyman Ed Sanders, writes that she “has an eye for detail. Her honesty reinforces her arguments that the commune movement has something to say in 2000 and beyond.” 

The Zeitgeist of the 60’s changed the way we would see the world and live in it. Bob Dylan’s anthem The Times They Are A’Changin‘ would be replaced by the prophetic, A Hard Rain’s A’ Gonna Fall. The Peace, Love and Good Vibrations of that highly mythologized moment in time was equally backdrop to some of the darkest moments in modern history; Malcom X, Martin Luther King, Jack and Robert Kennedy – all voices for change – had been brutally silenced and more Helter Skelter horror was soon to follow.

In the Old City of Jerusalem, families who had lived there for centuries, were already living in a waking nightmare which certainly did not resemble Liberation as described by the Zionist Prime Minister in his remarks yesterday. Iris recalls hearing the gun fire and explosions from the direction of Mount Scopus or possibly the Temple Mount. Yesterday Israeli Media reported that artillery shells and bullets had been discovered during excavations on and around the Temple Mount where the Dome Of The Rock has stood since 691 CE. Built by Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik on the site of the Roman temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, which had in turn been built on the site of Herod’s Temple, on the alleged site of King Solomon’s Temple, first captured from the Jebusites by his father, the Biblical King David.

This tangled history continues to confound many, both those with knowledge of the centuries of conflict and conquest and those without.

When Iris found herself caught in the crossfire, little did her mother know, she had already stepped over to the “other side” and had married the proverbial “enemy.

Her latest book, Unexpected Bride In The Promised Land, challenges all of our belief systems and asks us to look at an ancient and embittered territorial war with compassion and understanding. She tells her almost too surreal to be plausible story, with the same eye for detail and the honesty (that) reinforces her arguments, Ed Sanders noted in his foreword to her previous book. Hitchhiking from Paris (where she’d gone on a romantic, literary and philosophical quest), to Jerusalem (Jordan), in 1967, Iris had to wait three days for permission to cross a U.N. checkpoint into Jerusalem, (Israel). Fate’s intervention found her embraced by a Palestinian family who lived in the heart of the Old City. The rest of this introduction to Jerusalem reads like a brilliantly written fairy story. A young Jewish woman from New York falls in love with the adored son of the family; a poet, musician, and world traveler
After a whirlwind romance of less than three weeks, they were married and were planning their honeymoon when the Six Day War began. On the day when Israeli soldiers barged into the basement apartment (in Ramallah where they were visiting Faisal’s mother), where the newlyweds had found sanctuary with other Palestinians, Iris was frozen with fear. She had thought of calling out, “I’m Jewish, American and these are my friends.” She says her fear-induced silence in the moment, compelled her to write this book.
Iris was raised in NYC on the Ashkenazi Jewish narrative of suffering in a two thousand-year Diaspora that had evolved at that point to include a dramatic narrative of Arabs in Palestine, determined to drive Jews into the sea.
Never mind that this family had not only welcomed her into its fold, but was currently providing her with sanctuary while the Jews who were supposed to be driven into the sea, were high on an unimaginable victory.

This new book is an erudite tribute to this family that embraced and protected her while War tore the tapestry of the life they had known forever, to shreds. The peaceful rhythm of a life attuned to the seasons and the Land was violently disrupted and displaced. Checkpoints and soldiers with machine guns on every corner proved a harsh new reality. The book circles into the present time as Iris continues to bear witness to the on-going conflict and cycle of violence seemingly without end.

She recently retired from a forty-year teaching career that began in Harlem, NY. Keltz’s articles, op-eds, and essays have appeared in print and electronic media, She has spoken in universities, synagogues, churches, high schools, and civic centers, and has represented her district in a national Tikkun lobby. A member of Jewish Voice for Peace, Keltz has spent decades working to support human rights for Palestinians. Although she and her fist husband Faisal Khatib long ago parted ways, they remain close.

“He’s family.” Iris says and adds, “my mother loves him.”

This Saturday May 27 @ 2-3:30 PM at OP.CIT Books on Bent Street, Iris Keltz will read from Unexpected Bride In The Promised Land, it promises to be an eye-opening and very educational, not to mention delightfully engaging afternoon with one of Taos’ most Remarkable Women.

For more information on the event please visit Op.Cit’s (John Dunn Shops) site linked below

If you can’t make it on Saturday Iris will be reading for SOMOS on August 16th, for details visit their site also linked below.

Op.Cit Books

somostaos

Unexpected Bride In The Promised Land

Top images c/o Iris Keltz
Other photographs stock files of Jerusalem before the 6 Day War and after

2 thoughts on “Witness To History (In The Promised Land)

  1. Thanks for writing this Lynn. I like when you said, “reads like a brilliantly written fairy tale.” Truth is often stranger that fiction. You cant make this shit up!

    • No, you can’t and I urge all my Taos readers to go on Saturday. You’ll come away from this event with more information about the reality on the ground in Jerusalem and the West Bank than you thought possible. Thanks for writing the book Iris, it’s such a gift to History.

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