The little square is full of activity:
Buses emit swirls of exhaust
And pilgrims who rise into surrounding streets;
Other clusters of tourists dawdle
In the breezy sunlight,
Admiring the warm stone of the houses
Or drinking coffee in the open air
Outside the gallery at one side of the square.
A narrow alley of artists’ shops
Winds up the hill like a congested snake
To the rarified reaches of tiny synagogues,
Each dedicated to a particular fine point
Of rabbinical thought.
Just out of sight of the square,
A children’s playground sparkles
In sunlit primary colors,
Full of the sound of children’s laughter.
At the top of the square, the old police station
Squats, almost windowless,
A reminder of death in dark concrete,
Its plain, square face pocked with bullet holes.
Here the British kept their own version of order,
Here the tiny band of becoming-Israelis
Drove back the Arabs who intended to claim
Their birthright after the British departure.
What a strange place is this Safed,
What a juxtaposition of bullets, devotion,
Disputation, art, and the laughter of children, under
The gray concrete presence shadowing the square.