Songs - or are they poems? - are an extremely important part of Israeli history and culture. There is an ever-growing canon of songs, called Shirim Ivri'im (simply: Hebrew songs), without which one cannot understand how Israelis tick. Since the songs Israelis sing are so crucial, it has long been clear to me one way to tell the evolving story of Israel would be by following these shirim.
This is one of the many books I'd like to write some day, but probably won't.
Yesterday my daughter and I decided it would be a nice idea to write a daily blog post introducing a shir each day from now until Independence Day, in three weeks. We decided to be post-modernist about it (though I mostly agree with Sergio that post modernism is a pernicious invention), by which I mean there will be no attempt to be systematic.
Halicha LeKeisaria - The Walk to Cesarea- was written before the phenomenon of Shirim Ivri'im was invented. The author was Hannah Szenes, 1921-1944. Szenes was born in Hungary, escaped Europe and moved to Mandatory Palestine in 1939, where she settled at the kibbutz of Sdot Yam, a fisherman kibbutz south of Haifa. In 1944 she parachuted into Yugoslavia, crossed the border into Hungary, was arrested, tortured, tried and executed by the Hungarian Fascists. She left behind a number of notebooks with a diary and some poems.
I have no pretensions to be able to translate poetry. Halicha leKeisaria is about a walk along the beach, the beauty of nature, and the yearning that it never end. Szenes wrote this poem shortly before she left, and it all ended.
This version is by Netanella, born in Tel Aviv in 1954 to parents from Uzbekistan. It was recorded in the mid 1970s (my guess: 1974).
Then there's this version. It is by the Breira haTiv'it group, in the late 1970s. HaBreira haTiv'it were (and still are) one of the most interesting creators of Israeli music. They use oriental music (which means, Arab music), sometimes for shirim of their own creation, and sometimes to rework Western music into the Arab format. That's what this one is: