First song

Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.
Genesis 1:11


Tiny horses and zebras, the size of dachshunds
Live in rainforests, even Europe was once a jungle.
The ice age sets in, making it too cold for trees.
Grass spreads. Grass doesn’t need much:
A little sun, carbon, water
is enough, a frugal life.
Grass binds carbon into the soil.
Greenhouse effect in reverse: It stays cold.


And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
Genesis 2:15


790,000 years ago, anthropoids stopped at the Upper Jordan and cooked with fire
at a place called “Daughters of Jacob Bridge,” Jisr Banât Ya’qūb (جسر بنات يعقوب),‎‎or Gesher Bnot Ya’akov (גשר בנות יעקב)
on the border between Israel and the Golan Heights,
exactly by the bridge where the Via Maris crossed the Jordan,
where caravans from China moved on their way to Morocco –
where Egyptians, Assyrians, Hittites, Jews, Saracens, Arabs, Crusader knights, and Ottoman Janissaries went.
There was a lake here back then
And the anthropoids ate grass:
Wild barley, wild olives, wild grapes
They slaughtered animals and cooked with fire.
Here, at the bridge of the daughters of Jacob.

60,000 years ago, in the Kebara Cave:
A Neanderthal is buried.
He can talk.
He collects wild grain and grinds it into a pulp.
He can cook.
A human.
But the others prevail.
Homo sapiens.

And God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it […]
I have given you every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
Genesis 1:27-29


Grass, wild grass.
Grows where it is moist, under the oaks.
Is eaten by wild animals, then they can run.
Humans hunt animals.
Eat grass.
Einkorn grass.
They roam, eat, take nothing, save nothing.
What they have, they share. They are equals.
They hardly grow in numbers. One person kills another from time to time,
Or a child dies. But they are rarely ill.
The large land is like their body; their bodies are like the land.
Their ancestors, the animals and plants show the way.

Ohalo II, on the Sea of Galilee, 19,000 years ago:
Wild barley, wild emmer, wild almonds, wild olives, wild pistachios, wild grapes,
There is so much of everything that they stay a long time,
build themselves huts with grass-covered floors.
Now the winters are turning warm and humid; the summers are long and dry.

People gather grains
to stave off the hunger.
People settle here,
in the Jordan Valley and on the heights of the Negev,
build houses of stone and mud,
Barter with obsidian from Anatolia and fish from the Nile.
Make themselves sickles, mortars, millstones for wild barley.
Make themselves clothing out of flax.
We collect the little grains, where many grow under the oaks.
A handful of little grains to grind in mortars.
It’s quicker with the stone sickle.
The ripe grains leap off of it.

I have to find you unripe, roast you on the fire, so you can be eaten.
You should become taller, more on the stalk, easier to gather.
Einkorn—one grain, only one. There should be more.

Wild einkorn (Triticum boeticum)
Goatgrass (Aegilops speltoides)
Tausch’s goatgrass (Aegilops tauschii)
Domesticated einkorn (Triticum monococcum)
Emmer (Triticum dicoccum)
Spelt (Triticum spelta)
Durum (Triticum durum Desf.)
Common wheat (Triticum aestivum)

For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills. When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land He has given you.
Deuteronomy 8:7-10


We stay where the grains are.
Where there are two on one stalk. Six.
Where they stay on the stalk until we thresh.
Where they all become ripe at the same time.
We observe, choose, build up stocks.
We sow the seeds.
Where we also sow peas and lentils.
Where the family stays together.
Where we do not share with the neighbors.
Where we build ourselves a house and stake our field.
Where our ancestors are buried under the house, proving it is ours.
Where the land is ours because we work it.
We do not need those other grasses, the other trees, the other eaters.
Now the land bears what is useful to us.
Only to us.

Jericho has been here for 12,000 years,
Grains cultivated there, cattle kept,
A wall built, a tower.
They made faces of plaster and eyes of shells for dead ancestors
And buried them inside the houses, behind the threshold.
The living dead protect the house, the property.


Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it, all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
Genesis 3:17-19


The work is hard.
The back aches.
We work from morning to night.
So the families can grow larger and more children live.
My children, not yours.
My family, not yours.
My land, not yours.


And when they were grown up, Esau became a skillful hunter, and a husbandman, but Jacob a plain man dwelt in tents. Isaac loved Esau, because he ate of his hunting: and Rebecca loved Jacob.
And Jacob boiled pottage: to whom Esau, coming faint out of the field, said: Give me of this red pottage, for I am exceeding faint. For which reason his name was called Edom. And Jacob said to him: Sell me thy first birthright. He answered: Lo I die, what will the first birthright avail me?
Genesis 25:27-32


Give me the red dish, the lentils, the grains
You grew by the sweat of your face.
Those I can eat today.
Tomorrow is of no concern to me.
I am a hunter. A hunter owns nothing.
But smooth-skinned Jacob owns the land now.
There is no room for Esau, the father’s first favorite,
No space for the gazelles Esau chased.
The fields have to be made bigger.
The oaks cut down.
Less game, more emmer.
Irrigation ditches, silos, houses, cities, fortifications.
The foreigners come.


They will devour your harvests and food, devour your sons and daughters; they will devour your flocks and herds, devour your vines and fig trees. With the sword they will destroy the fortified cities in which you trust.
Jeremiah 5:17


War! War!
Our gods must protect us:
El, Asherah, Baal, Anat, Yahweh, Anat-Yahu
Weapons must protect us, soldiers, leaders, priests.
All of them demand a share of the crop.

The first money was standard measures of rye, in Sumer, 3000 BC.
You pay wages, taxes, and the price of slaves in rye.
The plants that allow people to live,
Can be exchanged for humans.

This is the offering that you shall make: one sixth of an ephah from each homer of wheat, and one sixth of an ephah from each homer of barley.
Ezekiel 45:13


We write that down. We calculate. That goes into the archive.
Name, seals, numbers, registers, accounting, tax, commandments, prohibitions, penalties.
The people of Jericho, or thereabouts, are multiplying.
They move through Anatolia to Europe.
They move through the Sinai to Egypt
There they meet African herdsmen, who gather wild sorghum.
The Nile makes the land fertile.
“He, who diverts the water,” becomes Prince.
Some years, the harvest fails to appear.
He who builds up stocks in silos, becomes Prince.
The princes fight each other.
One unites the land,
He is called Pharaoh, “Great House.”


The Egyptians, one and all, sold their fields, because the famine was too severe for them. The land became Pharaoh’s, and Joseph reduced the people to servitude, from one end of Egypt to the other. […] Joseph said to the people, “Now that I have bought you and your land today for Pharaoh, here is seed for you so you can plant the ground. But when the crop comes in, give a fifth of it to Pharaoh. The other four-fifths you may keep as seed for the fields and as food for yourselves and your households and your children.”
Genesis 47:20-24


We have cleared all the oaks, turned them into fields
The land does not yield as much as before,
Son, you are one too many here. Go away,
Seek your fortune elsewhere.


Second song

Farmers from the Levant, from Anatolia, settle between the hunters and gatherers,
From the Mediterranean to the North Sea to the Atlantic.
Where they once worshiped goddesses, they worship gods now, then God.
Brandenburg is in a remote corner of Europe.
Slavic tribes hunt under the beech trees
Defend themselves against the Christians, the monasteries
Who clear the forest, dry the swamps
And only bring Christ to Himmelpfort
In the 12th century AD, and with him
The newly-cultured wheat, the shimmering white bread,
The body of the Lord, the God you can eat.


And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.
Luke 22:19


The church grows rich
My brother is a monk
Body and soul belong to the Lord, his God
He toils in the fields of the monastery
Eats little, sleeps cold, dies early
The free people become farmers, tenant farmers, day laborers, serfs.
Taxes in the form of grain, cattle, forced labor, then: taxes in the form of money.
It isn’t just the pharaoh, king, liege lord, or bishop who makes money
Large farmers, merchants and millers do too.
Crop failures, fire, hail, pest

I can not pay the tax
The feudal lord’s grain is sown
Where village cattle once grazed,
Those who take from the forest and lake, which belonged to everyone and no one:
Wild animals, wood, fish – are punished.
We want our freedom back.


Offering sacrifice from the property of the poor is as bad as slaughtering a son before his father’s eyes.
The bread of the needy is their life: he that defraudeth him thereof is a man of blood.
To take away a fellow-man’s livelihood is to kill him; to deprive an employee of his wages is to shed blood.
Ecclesiasticus, 34:24-26


Canals, irrigation, waterwheel
Digging stick, scratch plow, pulverizer plow, wooden plow, reclamation plow,
Furrow opener, wheeled plow, iron plow, trowel, steel plow
Grinding mill, watermill, windmill, motor mill
Crop rotation, permanent crop with turnips and clover
Animal manure, legumes, fertilizer
Serfdom ends, serfs are no longer needed.
Soon there will be tractors.
More energy consumption, less muscle power and more wheat.
Always more and more wheat.
Fewer and fewer people are farmers. Now you can
Research, develop, produce, graft
A world filled with people and goods
Nourished by cheap wheat.


Third song

And the wheat itself can be improved:
Since Mendel inheritance is a controllable game,
Plant breeding is becoming a science.
What Erwin Baur, the German “father of plant breeding”
Writes about racial hygiene,
Is read and implemented by Hitler.


Woe to me! The treacherous betray!
With treachery the treacherous betray!
Terror and pit and snare await you, people of the earth.
Whoever flees at the sound of terror will fall into a pit;
whoever climbs out of the pit will be caught in a snare.
The floodgates of the heavens are opened, the foundations of the earth shake.
Isaiah 24:16-18


In Brandenburg, in Gut Winkel, I learned everything
About grains, milking, tractors, fertilizers, preserves
Finally it’s off to the Aliyah, to Eretz Israel
My parents stay behind in Germany, with the madmen
Who think themselves the superior race.
We start with nothing, with stones and thistles.
In the neighboring Arab village, they still work by hand
And allow the fields to lay fallow.
Our kibbutz lays the pipes and the channels
Makes the land fertile, buys tractors together
We are proud of the new country and our community,
In which all are equal.
We plant European trees to feel at home
And modern wheat with large, plump ears.
More people, more wheat need more water.
Desalination and irrigation systems are invented.
These days, they try to cross wheat with very old grasses.
It is to be made resistant: against fusarium,
Viruses, cold and dryness,
Because the area around Jericho,
Around the Daughters of Jacob Bridge,
Canaan, Eretz Israel
Will soon become hotter and drier,
And the sea will rise
More and more land will turn to desert
And humans will fight for water,
The waters of Jordan and the Sea of Galilee, Kinneret.


If my land cries out against me and all its furrows are wet with tears, if I have devoured its yield without payment or broken the spirit of its tenants, then let briers come up instead of wheat and stinkweed instead of barley.
Job 31:38-40


If we unlearned the farmers’ way of thinking
Became less, contented ourselves with little
And shared with all who are human, as well as the others
If the land were no longer our property
And we honored and protected our ancestors, the animals and plants,
Part of our family, not only our fathers,
As well as the strangers who are our sisters and brothers.
If we shared the water with them,
And gratefully nourished ourselves by the sun, like plants
Could all of us live together a little longer?


We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope.
1 Chronicles 29:15