Many shirim ivri'im deal with bereavement. The mother of them all is Bab elWad. Bab elWad is the Arab name for the narrow pass when the road to Jerusalem first enters the Judean Hills on its way up from the coast: a perfect place to block traffic, if you're of that mind. Which is precisely what the Palestinian's decided to do in the early months of 1948, as the British control of Mandatory Palestine was winding down: bring the Jewish majority in Jerusalem to starvation. I suppose the assumption was that they'd then pick up and leave or something like that. Today this would be a major breach of international law and all that, but in 1948 it wasn't anything special. The British allowed it to happen, but the Hagana didn't. Eventually a second road was paved, and then the Palestinians villages were conquered and the threat removed, but for a while in early 1948 100,000 Jewish civilians in Jerusalem were supplied by occasional convoys which managed to shoot their way through the pass. Remnants of the vehicles which didn't make it are still scattered along the roadside to remind us not to take things for granted.
Here I am passing, standing by the stone.
An asphalt road, rocks and ridges.
Day goes down slowly, sea-wind blows
Light of a first star, over Beit Maschir.
Do remember our names forever,
Convoys broke through, on the way to the City.
Our deads lay on the road edges.
The iron skeleton is silent like my comrade.
Here pitch and lead fumed under the sun,
Here nights passed with fire and knives.
Here sorrow and glory live together
With a burnt armoured car and the name of an unknown.
And I walk, passing here silently,
And I remember them, one by one.
Here we fought together on cliffs and boulders
Here we were one family.
A spring day will come, the cyclamens will bloom,
Red of anemone on the mountain and on the slope.
He, who will go on the road we went,
He will not forget us, Bab-el-wad.
Haim Guri (born 1923) wrote the song; we'll talk about him later. It has been sung over the years by lots of singers and groups, but here's an old recording by the original, Yaffa Yarkoni. Yarkoni, born in 1925, was widowed in WW2 when her husband, Yossef Gutstein, was killed fighting for the British. She eventually became famous as "the singer of all the wars", since she sang in and about all of them until the 1980s at least. (She remarried, and one of her daughters writes for Haaretz.
And here's a much later recording, by Shlomo Gronich. More about him some other day, when I write about the Ethiopian immigrants, perhaps.