In the weeks following the Hamas attack on Israel, Ukrainian artists and intellectuals as well as members of the Ukrainian diaspora in North America have voiced support for “the people of Palestine,” condemned Israel, and even drawn pernicious parallels between Russia’s war against Ukraine and Israel’s military operations in Gaza. Maxim D. Shrayer, author and Boston College professor who has deep roots in Ukraine, found this dearth of Ukrainian solidarity with Israel both bewildering and disheartening, especially so because Israeli volunteers have been fighting for Ukraine’s freedom. This poem is Shrayer’s way of expressing his dismay.
Israeli Soldiers in Ukraine
Israeli soldiers volunteering in Ukraine,
your Ukrainian accents audible in Russian
but not in Hebrew. Your faces Levantine,
your Stars of David like insignia of pain.
Israeli soldiers fighting in Ukraine,
at Soledar and Bakhmut, Kharkiv and Kherson,
in fields of ripening wheat, in valleys of stone,
in seething trenches and open terrain.
Israeli soldiers dying for Ukraine,
where your ancestors had been killed before,
could you ever imagine a Ukrainian bard
or poet crying not for Israel but for Gaza?