Rachel and Mt. Nevo–A Translation

Haim Watzman

    <em>Mt. Nevo, photo by Argenberg</em>
Mt. Nevo, photo by Argenberg
I’m reading Rachel’s collected poems straight through for the first time. And being a translator (but not, I should emphasize, a poet), I can’t resist the temptation to try my hand at an English version of one. This is an ongoing project that I’ll be updating as I polish and improve it.

I told Rachel’s story in my book A Crack in the Earth. I noted there how Mt. Nevo was a central image in Rachel’s lyrics—and a central image for her readers as well. Nevo is the mountain from which Moses looked out over the Land of Israel, which he would never enter. In Rachel’s poetry, it’s the place from which the speaker looks out on an alternative life, the life longed or hoped for. The poetess stands in the wilderness and looks to the Promised Land.

Read moreRachel and Mt. Nevo–A Translation

Rachel as a Metaphor–Why Israeli Democracy is Just as Bad/Good as All Others

Haim Watzman

In politics, the pure is the enemy of the good. One need look no further than the discussion that ensued in response to my post Votes Are Not Enough. Some of the most prolific correspondents there, coming from both the right and left, shared the implicit assumption that democracy, if not pure, is not democracy.

Unfortunately, they won’t be able to read the fine essay that Nurit Gretz published in the arts and literature section of Friday’s Ha’aretz—the piece, in Hebrew, seems not to be available on-line. Gretz addresses a problem of the same genre and in doing so shows how wrong purism can be.

She does so by writing about one of the icons of Labor Zionism, A.D. Gordon, the Second Aliya’s guru of back-to-the-earth socialist egalitarianism. One of Gordon’s disciples was the poetess Rachel Bluwstein, who lived and worked at Kevutzat Kinneret on the southern edge of the Sea of Galilee, where Zionist farmers first tried to work on a communal basis. Bluwstein—universally known in Israel today as Rachel the Poetess—lived in accordance with Gordon’s teachings. She abandoned the middle-class life she’d known in Russia and set aside her aspirations for education and culture to become a simple farmer.

Read moreRachel as a Metaphor–Why Israeli Democracy is Just as Bad/Good as All Others