Tearing Down & Building Up: Walls in Ezra-Nehemiah
1 א

(ב) וַיָּבֹ֨א חֲנָ֜נִי אֶחָ֧ד מֵאַחַ֛י ה֥וּא וַאֲנָשִׁ֖ים מִֽיהוּדָ֑ה וָאֶשְׁאָלֵ֞ם עַל־הַיְּהוּדִ֧ים הַפְּלֵיטָ֛ה אֲשֶֽׁר־נִשְׁאֲר֥וּ מִן־הַשֶּׁ֖בִי וְעַל־יְרוּשָׁלִָֽם׃ (ג) וַיֹּאמְרוּ֮ לִי֒ הַֽנִּשְׁאָרִ֞ים אֲשֶֽׁר־נִשְׁאֲר֤וּ מִן־הַשְּׁבִי֙ שָׁ֣ם בַּמְּדִינָ֔ה בְּרָעָ֥ה גְדֹלָ֖ה וּבְחֶרְפָּ֑ה וְחוֹמַ֤ת יְרוּשָׁלִַ֙ם֙ מְפֹרָ֔צֶת וּשְׁעָרֶ֖יהָ נִצְּת֥וּ בָאֵֽשׁ׃ (ד) וַיְהִ֞י כְּשָׁמְעִ֣י ׀ אֶת־הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֗לֶּה יָשַׁ֙בְתִּי֙ וָֽאֶבְכֶּ֔ה וָאֶתְאַבְּלָ֖ה יָמִ֑ים וָֽאֱהִ֥י צָם֙ וּמִתְפַּלֵּ֔ל לִפְנֵ֖י אֱלֹהֵ֥י הַשָּׁמָֽיִם׃

(2) Hanani, one of my brothers, together with some men of Judah, arrived, and I asked them about the Jews, the remnant who had survived the captivity, and about Jerusalem. (3) They replied, “The survivors who have survived the captivity there in the province are in dire trouble and disgrace; Jerusalem’s wall is full of breaches, and its gates have been destroyed by fire.” (4) When I heard that, I sat and wept, and was in mourning for days, fasting and praying to the God of Heaven.

2 ב

(א) וַיְהִ֗י כַּאֲשֶׁ֤ר נִבְנְתָה֙ הַחוֹמָ֔ה וָאַעֲמִ֖יד הַדְּלָת֑וֹת וַיִּפָּֽקְד֛וּ הַשּׁוֹעֲרִ֥ים וְהַמְשֹׁרְרִ֖ים וְהַלְוִיִּֽם׃ (ב) וָאֲצַוֶּ֞ה אֶת־חֲנָ֣נִי אָחִ֗י וְאֶת־חֲנַנְיָ֛ה שַׂ֥ר הַבִּירָ֖ה עַל־יְרוּשָׁלִָ֑ם כִּי־הוּא֙ כְּאִ֣ישׁ אֱמֶ֔ת וְיָרֵ֥א אֶת־הָאֱלֹהִ֖ים מֵרַבִּֽים׃ (ג) ויאמר [וָאֹמַ֣ר] לָהֶ֗ם לֹ֣א יִפָּֽתְח֞וּ שַׁעֲרֵ֤י יְרוּשָׁלִַ֙ם֙ עַד־חֹ֣ם הַשֶּׁ֔מֶשׁ וְעַ֨ד הֵ֥ם עֹמְדִ֛ים יָגִ֥יפוּ הַדְּלָת֖וֹת וֶאֱחֹ֑זוּ וְהַעֲמֵ֗יד מִשְׁמְרוֹת֙ יֹשְׁבֵ֣י יְרוּשָׁלִַ֔ם אִ֚ישׁ בְּמִשְׁמָר֔וֹ וְאִ֖ישׁ נֶ֥גֶד בֵּיתֽוֹ׃

(1) When the wall was rebuilt and I had set up the doors, tasks were assigned to the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites. (2) I put Hanani my brother and Hananiah, the captain of the fortress, in charge of Jerusalem, for he was a more trustworthy and God-fearing man than most. (3) I said to them, “The gates of Jerusalem are not to be opened until the heat of the day, and before you leave your posts let the doors be closed and barred. And assign the inhabitants of Jerusalem to watches, each man to his watch, and each in front of his own house.”

3 ג

(כ) וַיָּלִ֨ינוּ הָרֹכְלִ֜ים וּמֹכְרֵ֧י כָל־מִמְכָּ֛ר מִח֥וּץ לִירוּשָׁלִָ֖ם פַּ֥עַם וּשְׁתָּֽיִם׃ (כא) וָאָעִ֣ידָה בָהֶ֗ם וָאֹמְרָ֤ה אֲלֵיהֶם֙ מַדּ֜וּעַ אַתֶּ֤ם לֵנִים֙ נֶ֣גֶד הַחוֹמָ֔ה אִם־תִּשְׁנ֕וּ יָ֖ד אֶשְׁלַ֣ח בָּכֶ֑ם מִן־הָעֵ֣ת הַהִ֔יא לֹא־בָ֖אוּ בַּשַּׁבָּֽת׃ (ס)

(20) Once or twice the merchants and the vendors of all sorts of wares spent the night outside Jerusalem, (21) but I warned them, saying, “What do you mean by spending the night alongside the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands upon you!” From then on they did not come on the sabbath.

4 ד

(א) וִֽירִיחוֹ֙ סֹגֶ֣רֶת וּמְסֻגֶּ֔רֶת מִפְּנֵ֖י בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל אֵ֥ין יוֹצֵ֖א וְאֵ֥ין בָּֽא׃ (ס) (ב) וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־יְהוֹשֻׁ֔עַ רְאֵה֙ נָתַ֣תִּי בְיָֽדְךָ֔ אֶת־יְרִיח֖וֹ וְאֶת־מַלְכָּ֑הּ גִּבּוֹרֵ֖י הֶחָֽיִל׃ (ג) וְסַבֹּתֶ֣ם אֶת־הָעִ֗יר כֹּ֚ל אַנְשֵׁ֣י הַמִּלְחָמָ֔ה הַקֵּ֥יף אֶת־הָעִ֖יר פַּ֣עַם אֶחָ֑ת כֹּ֥ה תַעֲשֶׂ֖ה שֵׁ֥שֶׁת יָמִֽים׃ (ד) וְשִׁבְעָ֣ה כֹהֲנִ֡ים יִשְׂאוּ֩ שִׁבְעָ֨ה שׁוֹפְר֤וֹת הַיּֽוֹבְלִים֙ לִפְנֵ֣י הָאָר֔וֹן וּבַיּוֹם֙ הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י תָּסֹ֥בּוּ אֶת־הָעִ֖יר שֶׁ֣בַע פְּעָמִ֑ים וְהַכֹּ֣הֲנִ֔ים יִתְקְע֖וּ בַּשּׁוֹפָרֽוֹת׃ (ה) וְהָיָ֞ה בִּמְשֹׁ֣ךְ ׀ בְּקֶ֣רֶן הַיּוֹבֵ֗ל בשמעכם [כְּשָׁמְעֲכֶם֙] אֶת־ק֣וֹל הַשּׁוֹפָ֔ר יָרִ֥יעוּ כָל־הָעָ֖ם תְּרוּעָ֣ה גְדוֹלָ֑ה וְנָ֨פְלָ֜ה חוֹמַ֤ת הָעִיר֙ תַּחְתֶּ֔יהָ וְעָל֥וּ הָעָ֖ם אִ֥ישׁ נֶגְדּֽוֹ׃

(1) Now Jericho was shut up tight because of the Israelites; no one could leave or enter. (2) Adonai said to Joshua, “See, I will deliver Jericho and her king [and her] warriors into your hands. (3) Let all your troops march around the city and complete one circuit of the city. Do this six days, (4) with seven priests carrying seven ram’s horns preceding the Ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the horns. (5) And when a long blast is sounded on the horn—as soon as you hear that sound of the horn—all the people shall give a mighty shout. Thereupon the city wall will collapse, and the people shall advance, every man straight ahead.”

5 ה

Jerusalem by Yehudah Amichai

On a roof in the Old City

Laundry hanging in the late afternoon sunlight:

The white sheet of a woman who is my enemy,

The towel of a man who is my enemy,

To wipe off the sweat of his brow.

In the sky of the Old City

A kite.

At the other end of the string,

A child

I can’t see

Because of the wall.

We have put up many flags,

They have put up many flags.

To make us think that they’re happy.

To make them think that we’re happy.

6 ו
Mending Wall by Robert Frost
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbours."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbours? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down." I could say "Elves" to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbours."
7 ז
These Walls - Kendrick Lamar (excerpts)
(I)
If these walls could talk they’d tell me to swim good
No boat I float better than he would
No life jacket I’m not the guard in Nazareth
But your flood can be misunderstood
Wall telling me they full of pain, resentment
Need someone to live in them just to relieve tension
Me? I’m just a tenant
My lord said these walls vacant more than a minute
These walls are vulnerable, exclamation
Interior pink, color coordinated
I interrogated every nook and cranny
I mean its still amazing before they couldn’t stand me
These walls want to cry tears
These walls happier when I’m here
These walls never could hold up
Everytime I come around demolition might crush
If these walls could talk
I can feel your reign when it cries gold lives inside of you
(II)
If these walls could talk
I love it when I’m in it, I love it when I’m in it
If these walls could talk they’d tell me to go deep
Yelling at me continuously I can see
Your defense mechanism is my decision
Knock these walls down that’s my religion
Walls feeling like they ready to close in
I suffocate then catch my second wind
I resonate in these walls
I don’t know how long I can wait in these walls
I’ve been on these streets too long looking at you from the outside in
They sing the same old song about how they walls are always the cleanest
I beg to differ, I must’ve missed them
I’m not involved I’d rather diss them
I’d rather call all you put your wall up
Cause when I come around demolition gon’ crush
If these walls could talk