As Yom Haatzmaut (Israel’s 70th Anniversary approaches) I offer this poem (and more to come throughout this week) to express both the beauty our people have brought to world Jewry as well as the moral and ethical challenges that come with sovereignty.
This poem written by the Israeli poet Aharon Shabtai expresses the aspirations of Zionism, the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, and the political means by which Israel may enhance the dignity of all the people of the Land.
“Zionism was once a pretty young thing / like my cousin Tsila. / Boys caught sight of (her) – / and were ready to die. / Ahh, what days we spent among the cypresses / not far from Wadi Faleek! / What proud, honest mounds of manure I lifted / with Joseph Mintser at Kibbutz Merhavyah! / But political theses can turn into stinking corpses too, / And it’s better to leave them behind – / before we sink into an ethical mire – / In order to take up a new idea that might enlist / the stores of goodness within our hearts: / Namely, that equal rights be granted / to the children of this land as one, / That two cultures should flourish with dignity, / side by side, like beds in a single garden. / Let this be the girl whose beauty thrills us / And about whom we dream towards the summer’s end, / and through the months of winter.”
Aharon Shabtai (b. 1939)