As an American-Israeli, like Michael Dickel, and having lived through several wars in Israel, I was very interested in reading Michael's book of poems "War Surrounds Us" and I wasn't disappointed. Robert Burns wished the gods would give us the gift to see ourselves as others see us. I think that poets like Michael give us that gift to see ourselves and to see ourselves wanting only peace with our neighbors but being pulled against our wills into a very frightening and disheartening war. Imagine sirens and missiles in Minneapolis Minnesota or Columbus Ohio. What is a gentle soul doing in a scorpion infested place like this? I especially like Michael's poems "The Roses" about the futility of words and ideas, "The Cost of Yellow" about the price of wind and the cost of yellow flowers when missiles and the rubble of buildings seem to be for free, the title poem about the Druze restaurant reminding one of Hinckley Minnesota except for the thunder of war just over the horizon, and "Here does not live in me" -- you don't know how to swim in the rock and sand or set sail on our heat waves. There are no easy answers here; only an exceedingly difficult question: why not peace?
The poems about one of the most profound conflicts between people are rooted in the everyday life of the author and his family who live in Jerusalem. Michael doesn't take sides. Arabs and Jews are represented equally. Through portraying his children he poses larger questions about how we are going to deal with the Other in our lives in the future. I would say that although this is about war, the poems sound hopeful to me. I realize that it takes a lot of pain for the poet not to harbor to convenient ready-to-use justification of Israel's existence as a state and instead face the injustices and acknowledge the painful truth. It must be taking a lot of energy from the author. But once he's done this job for us, we should use it. Once we acknowledge it, we can deal with it. These poems are food for thought not only intellectually. The words connect you to your body through emotions: the last lines of each poem literally give me goosebumps.