We are very fortunate to introduce two poems from two great immunologists, Alex Whelan and Irun Cohen. Alex’s poem, titled “Aleppo,” is a stark insight into the horrors which scar the population of that blighted city. Irun has written a haiku in response which evokes the interminable nature of that horror. When I walked into Irun’s lab at the age of 18, one of the technicians took one look at me and said in Arabic “Enta Halabi” —You are from Aleppo. And indeed, without knowing who I was, he recognized that I have the features of an Aleppine Jew. My great-great-grandfather was the chief rabbi of that city’s once flourishing Jewish community. As for the great synagogue from which he preached—I do not know if it exists today. And if it does exist today, I do not know if it will exist tomorrow.
Alex Whelan was Chief Medical Scientist in the Department of Immunology, St. James Hospital, Dublin, a part-time Senior Lecturer in Immunology at Trinity College Dublin and, until recently, an Adjunct Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Dartmouth University.
Irun Cohen is Professor of Immunology, Emeritus, at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. This haiku flows from years of poetry, written and unwritten, with Danny Douek and Alex Whelan.
Daniel Douek is the Poetry Editor of Pathogens and Immunity. He spent his gap year in Irun Cohen’s laboratory. He met Alex Whelan at the first T-Cell Vaccination Meeting in Israel, where together they consumed a bottle of whiskey.