Ruth Fogelman was born in England and came to Israel as a teenager. She worked on a kibbutz for a year, served two years in the army, and holds degrees in English literature from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Bar Ilan University.  In 1979 she and her husband, Dr. Yakov Fogelman, moved to Jerusalem’s Old City, a setting which has inspired much of her poetry and photography (all her books contain photographs as well as poems), in a spirit of “to raise Jerusalem above my chief rejoicing.”  Her first book, Within the Walls of Jerusalem – A Personal Perspective, was released in 2000, and her first full poetry collection, Cradled in God’s Arms, was released in 2009. Her chapbook, Jerusalem Awaking, (Sifrei Bitzaron) will appear later this year.  She won the Reuben Rose Poetry Competition in 2006, and her poems have appeared widely in magazines and anthologies.  She heads the Jerusalem writing workshop, Pri Hadash.  You can visit her website at  The poems below, except for "Hanging Rainbows," appeared in The Deronda Review.


Succot Nights in Jerusalem, 2007     Hanging Rainbows    Don't Slam the Door    There Should Be a Poet    Uncle David's Song    Jerusalem's Midsummer Nights     To a Pigeon at Dawn    Jacob's Ladders    What Is Its Name?    Dawn at the Western Wall    Within the Cave    The Words of the King's Son and a King's Daughter    A Poem Has a Life       Brothers-in-Law      The Tale of Two Wives    Above the Minaret




A flute’s shadow on the Old City walls,

two guitars, a drum and ethereal melodies;

Hasidic songs played on oud

high on the window ledge within Jaffa Gate.


An eclectic blend of keyboard, violins and Indian bells

near ancient olive trees in David’s City

where lights paint the rock-face red

and where figs and lavender lace the air.


 Jerusalem enchanted.




Hanging Rainbows


When the sky is grey and there’s no sign

of the sun shining through –

can I hang rainbows on the line?


When the day grimaces and you

think there’s no chance of light, no chance

of the sun shining through,


can I  still get up and dance,

tossing such thoughts across mountains to the seas –

that there’s no chance of light, no chance


of gold-winged butterflies riding the breeze?

Can I drape indigo, violet and pink

and toss such thoughts across mountains to the seas,


knowing that the sun can smile in an eye’s blink –

azures and reds of morning –

can I drape indigo, violet and pink


on miracles unfurling?

When the sky is grey and there’s no sign

of azures and reds of morning –

can I hang rainbows on the line?


(This poem won an honorable mention in the 2006 Reuben Rose poetry competition)






Though you’re irritated, frustrated, your emotions raw,

grabbing your jacket and keys in your hand –

don’t slam the door!


Though you think that no-one will understand

as you pack your bags to escape everyone,

grabbing your jacket and keys in your hand –


though you want to flee the commotion, to run

away from a world that is not as it seems

as you pack your bags to escape everyone –


though you need to evade the spins and the schemes,

far from the static, to hear yourself think,

away from a world that is not as it seems –


though you feel others are opaque as black ink,

and you must get outside for a gust of fresh air,

far from the static, to hear yourself think –


though you’re seething, huffing, in the depths of despair,

though you’re irritated, frustrated, your emotions raw,

and you must get outside for a gust of fresh air –

don’t slam the door!







There should be a poet      

who crafts villanelles

counting meter on her fingers

with rhymes flowing from her pen.


Like Jacob’s Ladder, her poetry

bridges heaven and earth –

angels drinking from jacaranda blossoms –

swifts and butterflies.


Like a magnet, her poetry

draws you to itself, as if

you, too, walk in an olive-tree’s shade

or across the parched ground.


With the poet, you travel

through the gates of tears and laughter,

through the gates of darkness

and through the gates of luminescent light.



There should be a poet


who rides her ego like Moses

   who requested erasure from G-d's book

who shocks like Esther

   in her unheard-of entry to the king,

& who is unsentimental like Aaron

   who replaced people's pain with peace.






As I listen to a long-lost tape

 sung with no instrumental accompaniment,

I remember Uncle David's songs

and how I used to sit beside him and gaze into his face

while he sang melodies from his childhood.


Though I did not know their source,

his melodies captivated me

as he swayed with the words, "by by by ."

What was hidden in those words

below the depths of "by, by-by?"


Slowly, meditatively, "by-by by,"

faster, more intensely, "by-by-by,"

the melody swirled, flowing from a lost world

into an English drawing room that was totally unaware

of what was lost,

             of a princess who was lost.






Darboukas and ouds on Old City rooftops,

jazz saxophone and keyboard in Mamilla’s new mall,

Latin American xylophone and charango in Safra Square ,

self-playing bells, harp and pipes within the Citadel 

all open-air on midsummer nights.


Under yellow lights

Herodian stones glow.

A Crusader arch turns from purple to pink.

Ottoman walls are decked with blue and white lights 


Music and magic

in Jerusalem.






Your coos awake me.

You perch lightly outside my window

and your landing makes the shutter creak.

Then with a whish of wings you are gone.


Are you the pigeon pecking bread

near the Western Wall

or the pigeon on its ledge

eying those below?

Are you the pigeon

who once nested on my kitchen sill?


Or are you a descendant of the pigeon

who nested in the oak

that lent its shade

to Sarah s Tent?






The poets of the town

that may never have existed

uncover silence with poetry

which they craft in the back rooms of their dwellings.


Their poetry flows

as if heaven is their ink;

they claim they are but channels

which bring down verses from on high.


Their ladders bridge earth and heaven:

angels drink from jacaranda petals,

an old lady’s swollen fingers caress pages of Psalms,

the messiah’s footsteps echo in the city’s cobbled lanes.


Yes! Their poems are more

than ladders bridging heaven and earth  

they stretch earth up to heaven

as they pull heaven down to earth.






“What is its name?”

I ask, pointing to the tree next to the locked mosque.

He shrugs, as if the name

has the importance of a shell on the seashore.


“What is its name?”

I ask a woman with covered head and wrist-length sleeves.

She returns a blank stare,

as if to say, “Since when do trees have names?”


I gather the tree’s purple blossom

strewn across the cobbled stone

and walk over to Marietta at the book store.


“What is its name?

Her eyes light up, her lips spread into a smile.

“Oh —that’s jacaranda.”


Jacaranda —the smile of my day!






Dawn breaks over the Western Wall.

On the ledges, pigeons that slept as motionless as the ancient stones,

now stretch their wings.

Sparrows land from nearby trees

and hop at my feet.

A flock of swifts flies west

towards the pale moon still high after night’s retreat.


Above my head

glide a pair of white, luminescent wings —

an angel’s — a dove’s?

At the Western Wall,

when night and light embrace


more than birds meander through the sky. 








       “the Lord said that He would dwell in thick darkness.”

                                         I Kings 8:12, II Chronicles 6:1


I stand in the cave by the Western Wall.

A deep voice fills it  

“Yitgadal Veyitkadash“

And I see her pain —   

Red coals,

And water cannot extinguish their fire.

Barbed flames rise up

And rivers cannot quench them.


And I fear I will turn to ash,

Yet cannot flee.

And I must walk through these flames,

Allow them to tear at me,

Pray that G-d holds my hand within the fire,

Trust that from this, too, I shall return,

That through these flames G-d is showing me my self

— one strengthened by the test.


          And you will dance with the pain

          And you will climb its ladder

          Rung by fiery rung

                         And you will let the pain guide you and be your light.

          For G-d is in the fire

          As He is in the pain.








The king’s son writes stanzas in the wilderness;

A king’s daughter pens lines on a mountain-top.

They dip their quills – feathers from the same phoenix –

In the same fountain of ink.

His words stretch forth their hands and enter her soul.


Her words stretch forth their fingers, pry open and enter his heart.

The phoenix flies between the wilderness and the mountain,

Perches on a lily in the dunes,

Rests in a cypress on the mount,

And carries their phrases, like pollen, one to the other.




The phoenix rides the rolling winds far beyond the wilderness

And spreads its wings, carrying their words, far  beyond the mountain.

Their words’ song is heard in the corners of the world.

They stretch forth their arms,

Embrace the children of Eve and open their hearts.


The phoenix carries the words, which stretch forth their legs

And form a ladder standing on earth and touching heaven;

From the ladder’s peak the phoenix flies into the light from the lost palace.

The words unlock its gates of pearl and enter its courts

And the phoenix sets them, phrase by phrase, in the scepter of the king.




A POEM HAS A LIFE                    


A poem has a life of its own.


Do not clip its wings to leave it tottering on the ground

— release it to fly beyond sunset’s gold.


Do not make it squawk like a caged bird

— allow it to sing a rainbow’s song.


Do not shackle it in chains

— free it to scale a mountain range or sail upon a cloud.


Do not mangle it into a nightmare scream

— let it fly and let it sing and let it share its dreams.


For a poem has a life of its own.


It may lead you through fields of sunflowers, tall as men,

nodding yellow heads to the sun.


It may wind through wadis

or span across waterfalls.


It may soar on a swallow’s wings

or awake in the cave of a bear shaking itself from hibernation.


A poem has music of its own.


It may soothe like the melody of a moonbeam on the sea

or surf retreating from a pebbly beach.


It may have the cadence of footsteps on a forest path,

or of horses galloping down a hill.


It may sing like a butterfly perching on a rose

or stretch through the silences between shofar blasts.


A poem has a light of its own.











When my father stabs me with his jibes,

I shrink away, like a stream deprived of water –                             

I walk with David in the vales

For only he can hear the words beneath the ones I say.




When I am nothing but a clod of earth,

At a loss for melody and psalm,

And fear that G-d may not receive my thoughts,

Jonathan hears

The words I cannot express.




When my father’s melancholy turns to rage

I escape the palace for a breath of air –

I walk with David through a wadi in the wilderness

For only he can hear the scream that barely leaves my lips.




When enemies encircle me as fields of thorns on fire

Jonathan finds me praying in a cave.

Though I fear G-d may not listen to my prayer

Jonathan hears

The scream refusing to leave my throat.





When courtiers nag me for an audience with the king

And a myriad requests invade,

I walk with David in the hills

And he gives me his melodies and psalms.



When nightmares plague my sleep

And I have none with whom to share the pain

I walk with Jonathan in the hills

For only he can hear

My melodies and psalms.



When parents’ expectations grate and make me flee

And I have none with whom to share my dreams,

David listens as we walk together in the hills

And he gives me his melodies and psalms.



When the palace seeks my life and I know not where to hide,

Jonathan comes and finds me shelter from the night.

We sit together in the hills

And even in the storms he stays to hear

My melodies and psalms.







Though fever rages in my head,

I still must rise, bathe the children, give them food.

They are his, too, but Elkana is over there, with her

And emptiness fills my tent.




          I see her children running across the fields,

          Climbing fig trees, I hear their laughs

          And I beg Elkana   give me child.

          But emptiness fills my womb.




At night I dream of horseback riders in the fields

Chasing me, overtaking me, and I fall,

Scream out for help, but Elkana is over there, with her

And emptiness fills my tent.





          Her jibes are arrows that pierce,

          Her taunts, spears that tear apart my sleep

          And I beg Elkana   give me child

          But emptiness fills my womb.










the minaret

on the Mount of Olives

dawn’s mist

mutes the sun.

In the plaza below –

two black, yowling cats

nose to nose

eyes ablaze

tails curved outwards

like a symmetrical paper-cut.





the minaret

a pale pink crest

rises in the haze.

A thin cloud

slices the sun.

In the plaza below

on a sea-blue shawl,

a calico cat

cleans a raised limb

like a princess in her morning bath.





of the minaret

beyond pink quilt-clouds,

when twilight rises

above time,

the cats –

 lions standing guard

at the courtyard gates;

the sea-blue shawl –

the purple, scarlet and peacock-blue

curtains draping the palace of twelve gems.