Planet of the Jews
A transhuman political fantasy. Copyright 2019-2020 by Tal Liron.
Arrived at the Planet of the Jews. Day 1. The weather is cold and very damp. Everything smells of rust and blood. Tracks lead up the hills through oily-looking trees to a village caked in soot. The lieutenant signals to follow and we follow. Gravity is just over the threshold of comfort. Even sweat feels heavy.
Is on the Planet of the Jews. Day 2. We found one old tin shack still roofed, shelter for the night. Nobody wants to sleep in the open where the stars burn too brightly and form crooked, vertiginous shapes. The shack floor is covered in pottery shards and the air is dense with the thinnest dust. Those who succeed in falling asleep, coughing, dream they are on a train rushing far too quickly down into a gorge, over tracks that creak and buckle and fail. Morning adds rain to the fog.
Is on the Planet of the Jews. Day 3. We found our first, a small and nervous adult. Though like all Jews its wings were useless for flight, it could click their ridges powerfully against its thin chitin shell, emitting a terrible noise that convinced us to leave it and its eggs alone, for now. In the evening, the lieutenant had some wine and her mood was better. She told us a version of the old fable about the kindly Jew. In this retelling, the Jew escapes in the end. We all thought it was very funny.
Is on the Planet of the Jews. Day 4. Two misshapen moons appear in the sky. The first, Ezekiel, was colonized in the era of the 28th Temple, later abandoned when its wells went sour. The second cannot and will never be named. It spins quickly and its magnetic field confuses our instruments. We found what seems to be the body of a larval Jew, but it was too moldy to collect cells from it for the research. It crumbled at our touch.
Is on the Planet of the Jews. Day 5. At the far end of the village we found a black pit. It seemed to reach deep into the planet’s shallow crust, and the wind blowing from it smelled faintly of sea salt, though there were never any oceans here. Along the ridge we found faint inscriptions in old Terran Hebrew, תנו לצה"ל לנצח they said, and there were images of laughing Jew children. The lieutenant ordered us to seal it, but as much earth as we poured into it, its emptiness could not be satiated.
Is on the Planet of the Jews. Day 6. We climbed to the highest point in the crater and surveyed the landscape. In the vicinity we saw abandoned towns, steel skeletons of small factories, and old trade roads overgrown by the wretched native vegetation. But what shook us is spread out just beyond the remnants of life. As far as the eye can see, in every direction, all the way to the crater’s rim, are gravestones. Even the lieutenant, who had seen dozens of failed colonies in her career, seems grim. “Focus on the mission,” she says. A third moon, Shabak Samech, rises brightly above the stones and their shadows merge.
Is on the Planet of the Jews. Day 7. We’re running out of clean water. No stars this evening, no moons, just a uniform haze. In the sway of mild dehydration I tried to imagine life as a Jew here so many years ago, smelting ores during the harsh day, reading books by moonlights, tending to my tough little eggs of which only a small fraction would survive. We’re camping in a large empty field and despite the cold we welcome the bitter-fresh wind. Something came over me and I started whistling an old tune by Mashina, but the lieutenant told me to shut up.
Is on the Planet of the Jews. Day 8. We’ve finally, exhausted, reached our destination: the crumbling West Wall of the 35th Temple, a symbol of what makes the Jew one of the most researchable races of this part of the galaxy, and by far the most famous of the many breathtaking failures of civilization to emerge from planet Earth (a.k.a. “Planet Loser”). You see, there never was an actual temple, only a remnant wall. Jews build ruins. The factories were made from rust. The gravestones do not adorn graveyards. Even the broken pottery was produced as unassemblable shards. We take a lunch break, our backs to the Wall, in the shadow of yet another monument to King Bibi XVII. The hilltop is littered with abandoned Jew nests.
Is on the Planet of the Jews. Day 9. There was an accident. The trouble began when we sent a team to accompany the military archaeologist into an underground passage connecting various structures in the city outskirts. At first we assumed it was a bunker or some kind of emergency defense system, but were surprised to find evidence of planning for a massive assault. This corroborated data we retrieved from other planets in the system, which portrayed the Planet of the Jews as a threat. An overzealous sergeant blasted a sealed portal and now here we are, stuck in a forsaken Jew tunnel, waiting to be rescued. We found what seemed to be a map, but it proved useless. Jew maps, it seems, are ideal rather than practical. It’s as if they depict a different planet altogether.
Is on the Planet of the Jews. Day 10. We had to explore the tunnels in order to find a way out, which forced us to descend to lower strata. We found some signs of the first Jew settlement: a novel by Meir Shalev in its Br’QQQthálaT’ang translation, a tattered jersey of the Ha’poel Gliese 581c soccer team. And then we found signs of the original native inhabitants, friendly blue little critters who wore white caps, lived in mushroom houses, and competed to mate with their last surviving female queen. They, like too many others, didn’t make it, which is why the Jews came here. Jews are “play-it-safe” colonizers, always choosing to nest on uninhabited planets. As I record these words the lieutenant is ordering us to set camp in this gloomy dark. Her thin chitin shell glows blue in the fungal light and I’m wishing I had chosen a different career.
Is on the Planet of the Jews. Day 11. Still trapped underground and everyone seems to be losing their minds. Every time we follow what appears to be an exit, it takes us deeper and lower and further back in time. This planet experienced aeons of life, multiple spurts of colonization and cis-/trans-evolution and extinction, long before the first Jew egg was laid. Our mission is scrambled. What are we trying to find? What’s more important: learning from past mistakes or building on past solutions? Or maybe it’s time to move forward? Wait, wait. Up ahead there is a light.
Is on the Planet of the Jews. Day 12. There’s an old, old silence down here. It was here before the Jew, even before the human. For some of us the darkness brings relief from the oppression we felt on the surface. But the lieutenant, a former Jew herself, seems deflated. I know that she will complete the mission without hesitation. I also know that the best genetic surgery in the galaxy can’t undo the stain of cultural heritage. Just a few more steps up and we’ll be outside, back in the present. I want off this planet. I want to be myself again.
Is on the Planet of the Jews. Day 13. Mission accomplished. We found the database not far from the Wall, in the ruins of the original ruins (so they built them) of a presidential museum. There it was, unassuming, the original Apology that was digitally signed by King Bibi III. The content was boring and narrowly political, all about “turning a new page” with the then-young Palestine Planetary Union. But we still feel its constitutional impact. The Apology was to be the founding document for the New Palestine Systems, established in the Sagittarius-Carina Arm as the first multi-species state in galactic history, and still the most successful. New Palestine would become a symbol of both economic freedom and cultural cultivation, and indeed many post-humans, including Jews, would end up leaving their own dismal colonies to nest on the Arm with the rest of us. “We're done here,” says the lieutenant. And yet I feel she wants to linger a while longer among these so-they-built-them ruins.
בכוכב היהודים. היום השמונה עשר. לא באו לקחת אותנו. שכחו אותנו בגן. רוצים הביתה לאמא 1, לאמא 2, ולרוממותה מלכת הכוורת הטרנס-גלקטית. ואולי פלסטין החדשה נפלה, ואולי היתה רק חלום. אם אשכחך זרוע קרינה-קשת תשכח ימיני, תדבקנה לשונותיי לזנבותיי אם לא אזכרכי. אבל המטרה קידשה את האמצעים, ואנחנו האמצעים. חשון יתגלגל לו לכסלו, טבת יתבולל לתוך שבט, ואדר יחרבן את ניסן. אנחנו גמורים, המפקדת. משתינים עלינו בקשת ונמות פה בכוכב הרקוב הזה, בביצות, בקדחת, בחורשת האקליפטוס, הגשר, הסירה, ואללהו אכבר על המים. המפקדת, זה נכון שהיודנראט היו גיבורים? טוב למות בעד כוכבנו, העיקר לא לצאת פראיירים. אמא 1, אמא 2, מהרו נא והניחו על ליבי תחבושת.
Is on the Planet of the Jews. Day 4201. No fuel, no communication, no objective. So much for a career as a military archaeologist! See the galaxy, they said. Unfurl the past into the present, they said. And this shithole planet will be our last home. Life is mediocre and though there’s a little bit of love, too, it tastes like blood. We lay eggs, eat eggs, and tend to the rust and rubble. The lieutenant fancies herself a poet now, like Yeshurun, Wallach, QQ’hrüu’thmmm, or Shabazi. But you can’t be a poet if you’ve killed. I’ve dedicated my days to building a water lake and maintaining its pH. On occasion a Jew or two nests on its shores, for a moment filling the short nights with clicks and whirs. We get rid of them in the morning and they come back in the evening. I hope that one day this lake will be gone. I hope that no one ever finds these diaries.