Jo-Ann Mort

In Case the Messiah Comes
March 25, 2023 Mort Jo-Ann

In Case the Messiah Comes


Split screen city.
East doesn’t go West
and West doesn’t go East.
Occupied neighborhoods,
buildings on buildings on dust of history.


Ramat Shlomo Haredi new homes
with their backside to Shuafat.
The Red brick headquarters model
of 770 Eastern Parkway rising
amid the white stone–in case
the Messiah comes and wants
to live a short walk from a refugee camp.


The innocent Judean hills,
their grape essence, unkosher wineries
threaded between the rabbis’ blessed canisters.
Here is what it takes to make wine kosher:
Only Jewish hands can touch the grape to the bottle.
It seems an unholy use of God—to separate
us from the fields to the label.


Back in the neighborhoods, busy
ramps coming and going from Route 1
and 443—sometimes you can tell
from the car who is who
without glancing inside, but
other times, not at all.
There is no union here,


No common language,
the clogged tzomet, junction
East-West veers forward
and backward. The light rail
like a careening snake
moving back and forth,
like a traveling steel pendulum
striking at the rubble of centuries
and the Messiah’s endless climb.



*Ramat Shlomo is a new neighborhood for Lubavitcher Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews built on land adjoining Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and an expansive refugee camp (Shuafat). The Lubavitchers believe that their founder, Menachem Schneerson, is the Messiah and they build replicas of their Brooklyn brick-faced headquarters wherever they are, in case Schneerson, upon a re-emergence, wants to feel at home in any of their enclaves.

Jo-Ann Mort is a poet and journalist who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, though she is a frequent traveler, especially to Israel and its neighbors. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, her poetry has recently appeared in The Atlanta Review,  UpstreetStand, and The Women’s Review of Books. Her journalism and analysis have appeared in The New Republic, Washington Post opinion,  Foreign PolicyDissent (where she is also a member of the editorial board), The American Prospect, and other publications. She is co-author of a book about the kibbutzim in Israel published by Cornell U. Press. She tweets at @ChangeCommNYC.