Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Happy birthday, Israel 

64 years and going strong ... 

Tomorrow night will mark the beginning of the celebrations. In my household we feel the holiday by listening to Hebrew songs, of any kind.

This year I chose to post a love song, written by Nathan Alterman, one of Israel's greatest poets. It's called: ZEMER SHALOSH HATSHUVOT, which means:  SONG OF THE THREE ANSWERS. One comment following the youtube vid characterized it, most appropriately, as a psychotically totalitarian love song. If you read the lyrics you will understand why. Read as an allegory, it could also be an expression of the abiding love that the house of Israel bears for the state of Israel, in the Biblical tradition exemplified in Jeremiah 2:2, when God said to his  long-suffering "chosen" nation:

"I remember your youthful grace, your bridal love, when you followed me in the desert, in a waterless sterile land..."

When Paula Ben-Gurion passed away, it was said that her husband stood next to her bed and whispered these words to her.


   Rivka Zohar sings:

He said if you follow me
there will be no fine velvet or silk gowns,
Our life will be bitter to exhaustion perhaps
She said slowly, "I have strength
If need be, I will walk in rags
as if they were priceless velvet
if need be I will wash floors
and regard myself a queen  

All that you will request and ask,
I will do and continue joyous
all will be well, my beloved, and easy
I will never run out of strength

So he said "what if I cheat
and I leave you, unwanted,
for long nights, waiting, waiting,
until I return from another's arms?

"if I need to wait, I'll wait"
she said, and her face all lit up
"if I must not cry, I won't cry,
 so long as I know you'll come back
 All that you will request and ask,
I will do and continue joyous
All will be well, my beloved, and easy
I will never run out of strength

So he said: "what will you do if I tell
you to pack up and leave
and to forget all about me,
never to return or you'll be thrown out?

She was momentarily silent and smiling
And then she spoke her face frozen
"If you tell me to go, I will go
If you tell me not to return, I won't return
but don't ever ask this one thing
don't tell me to forget you
for this, my beloved, I cannot do
for this I will not have strength.


At 1:21 AM EDT, Anonymous liamalpha said...

Hello Noga, and happy Yom Ha'Atzmaut!
Some nitpicking regarding the quote from Jeremiah: According to Wikipedia in Hebrew, Ben-Gurion used this quote to dedicate one of his books to Paula, after she agreed to move with him to Sde Boker. Personally, I better remembered its use by Menachem Begin to thank his wife Aliza for her support of him, in his 1977 election victory speech.




At 5:20 AM EDT, Anonymous Will James said...

Beautiful poem, Noga. Touched me deeply. Thanks!

At 6:26 AM EDT, Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

liamalpha: thanks for the quibble. Whatever the circumstances it is a beautiful quote worthy of being remembered.

Hi, Willjames: I'm glad you liked the poem and the song.

And Chag Sameach, again.


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