In the Land of Prayer represents a collection of poems/prayers written at the time of the disengagement of Jewish settlements in Gaza. These poems/prayers reflect the powerful pain and longing of ordinary people, mostly residents of Gush Katif, for whom prayer is particularly important and who, in a time of crisis and abandonment, called out of the depths.
The artwork that is interspersed throughout the volume lends another dimension to the feelings that the writers are trying to capture.
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The uprooting from Gush Katif brought with it a great deal of sorrow and emotional pain, rage and bitterness together with feelings of despair and loss of direction. Many of these feelings remained deeply hidden within the hearts or were transmitted from one person to another in a dialogue of affliction.
Some of these feelings, however, received expression in poetry, yet honest poetry, expressions of deep feeling and inner experience. And when those elements were brought to the framework of poetry, they went through a certain degree of sublimation. The powerful and primary emotions were ripened; the strong feelings were distilled.
And here before us is the poetry of many hearts, poetry that is very private and very universal, poetry that achieves lucidity and a completenss of expression, with veiled beauty. --Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
The poems/prayers here reach out in poetic prayer forms that clearly spring from the hearts of torn souls of passionate faith. The reader may well be inspired in the realization that there are things we need to say to God in our own language; that this is woven into the language of prayers and texts that are part and parcel of the fabric of the Jewish people and that all of this creates a language that the siddur itself may not contain for him.
Some of the selections in this compilation have wonderful poetic voices, such as Ruchama Shapira's Prayer for Strength to Sacrifice and Akedah, as well as Elkana Erlich's The Soldier's Lekha Dodi. Emuna Elon's Disengagement, A Short Story is a powerful prose entry.
The collection has been skillfully edited by Daniel Gutenmacher, who arranged the poems thematically and provided an introduction to each unit that is not only informative but also challenges the reader to internalize the poems/prayers intellectually and emotionally. It is further graced by a selection of artwork and photographs that generally illustrates and captures the mood of the prayers. Particularly moving is Boris Shapiro's painting In Flight which powerfully complements Elon's short story. --Jewish Action Magazine, Fall 2007
The prayers in this collection display a range of literary power and technical quality. The value of this book is in its presentation of contemporary prayers written by living Jews during events that we have all experienced first, second, or third hand. The writers walk amongst us, are us.
As an introduction to the world of prayer-writing, to help individuals find their voice in prayer, for educators to initiate their students into the world of prayer- composing, with the hopes that they may recover the personal elements of their own prayer and perhaps even compose their own prayers, this slim volume (159 pages) can be a valuable tool. --Bookjed Digest 48
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