POEM: Israel’s warrior poet expresses the deep emotion of a soldier’s parent

POEM: Israel’s warrior poet expresses the deep emotion of a soldier’s parent

My child is fragrant with peace.

My child is fragrant with peace.
When I lean over him,
it’s not just the scent of soap.

All the grownups were children once, fragrant with peace.
(And all through the land, there’s not a single
gristmill whose wheels still grind.)

O, land ripped up like clothes
that can never be mended.
Fathers hard and lonely even in the Caves of the Patriarchs.
Silence bereft of children,

my child is fragrant with peace.
His mother’s womb promised him
what even God Himself cannot
promise us.

—Now in the Storm (1968)

ילדי נודף שלום.
כשאני רכון מעליו,
זה לא רק ריח הסבון.

כל האנשים היו ילדים שנדפו שלום.
(ובכל הארץ לא נשאר
אף גלגל טחנה אחת שיסתובב.)

הו, הארץ הקרועה כבגדים
שאץ להם תקון.
אבות קשים ובודדים גם במערות המכפלה.
דממה חשוכת בנים,

ילדי נודף שלום.
רחם אמו הבטיחה לו
מה שאלהים אינו יכול
להבטיח לנו.

Yehuda Amichai was born in Würzburg, Germany, to an Orthodox Jewish family, and was raised speaking both Hebrew and German, his German name was Ludwig Pfeuffer.

Amichai immigrated with his family at the age of 11 to Petah Tikva in Mandate Palestine in 1935, moving to Jerusalem in 1936. He attended Ma’aleh, a religious high school in Jerusalem. He was a member of the Palmach, the strike force of the Haganah, the defense force of the Jewish community in Mandate Palestine. As a young man he volunteered and fought in World War II as a member of the British Army, and in the Negev on the southern front in the Israeli War of Independence.

After discharge from the British Army in 1946, Amichai was a student at David Yellin Teachers College in Jerusalem, and became a teacher in Haifa. After the War of Independence, Amichai studied Bible and Hebrew literature at theHebrew University of Jerusalem. Encouraged by one of his professors at Hebrew University, he published his first book of poetry, Now and in Other Days, in 1955.

In 1956, Amichai served in the Sinai War, and in 1973 he served in the Yom Kippur War. Amichai published his first novel, Not of This Time, Not of This Place, in 1963. It was about a young Israeli who was born in Germany, and after World War II, and the war of Independence in Israel, he visits his hometown in Germany, recalls his childhood, trying to make sense of the world that created the Holocaust. His second novel, Mi Yitneni Malon, about an Israeli poet living in New York, was published in 1971 while Amichai was a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He was a poet in residence at New York University in 1987.[2] For many years he taught literature in an Israeli seminar for teachers, and at the Hebrew University to students from abroad.

Amichai was invited in 1994 by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to read from his poems at the ceremony of the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo.

“God has pity on kindergarten children” was one of the poems he read. This poem is inscribed on a wall in the Rabin Museum in Tel-Aviv. There are Streets on his name in cities in Israel, and also one in Wurzburg.

Amichai was married twice. First to Tamar Horn, with whom he had one son, and then to Chana Sokolov; they had one son and one daughter. His two sons were Ron and David, and his daughter was Emmanuella.[8]

He died of cancer in 2000, at age 76.

Sources: Haviv Rettig Gur, Wikipedia and the Cortland Review

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