Thursday, April 15, 2010

Winter of '73

The story of shirim ivri'im and Israeli society, were one to tell it in a coherent manner and not in the lazy all-over-the-place anecdotal form I'm using here, would grapple with the question When did Israeli society realize how permanent war was going to be.

Late 1973 was an important milestone. Between 1967 and 1973 Israel was in a weird cognitive hiatus. There was a war going on much of the time along the Suez Canal; there were terrorist attacks of growing severity; and there seemed no serious chance for peace anytime soon. Yet Israelis arrogantly told themselves that after the humiliating defeat they'd inflicted on Egypt Jordan and Syria, there wouldn't be full-fledged war, either.

And then there was. The trauma of late 1973 reverberated loudly for 20 years, informing almost every public discussion and action for a generation. Its first chapter was the simple shock at the number of casualties in the 1973 war, at the price paid to stop and then throw back the attacking Arab armies.

If you're following this thread you'll not be surprised that those dark months called forth some important and memorable shirim. Yet as we approach Memorial Day next week, here's perhaps the most bleak and uplifting of them, even though it was written twenty years later.

Shmuel Haspari was born in 1954: he was precisely of the generation that fought in 1973, and came home to mourn their friends and get on with life. He is one of our most important playwrights, screen writer, and occasional writer of lyrics. He's also one of the few but prominent public intellectuals of the Zionist Left who are still trying valiantly to make their political camp relevant by recognizing reality but also offering a left-wing way forward. (Not many people are following, and the radical left of course despises him).

This shir is about him, though it's written and sung from the perspective of his children. It says, in essence: war is permanent in our country, but we're strong.

I'm embedding two films. The first has two recordings of the song by the team of soldiers that sang it, the second of the two recorded in the heady early days of the Oslo process, when we thought maybe it would prove too pessimistic. The second film has the same recording, overlaid with slides that speak for themselves, most of them from the past decade: so they're also part of the story.

Hebrew lyrics
English translation
We are the children of winter 1973
You dreamt us first at dawn at the end of the battles
You were tired men that thanked their good luck
You were worried young women and you wanted so much to love
When you conceived us with love in winter 1973
You wanted to fill up with your bodies that what the war finished
And we were born the country was wounded and sad
You looked at us you hugged us you were trying to find comfort
When we were born the elders blessed with tears in their eyes
They said:" we wish those kids will not have to go to the army"
And your faces in the old picture prove
That you said it form the bottom of your hearts
When you promised to do every thing for us
To make an enemy into a loved one

You promised a dove,
an olive tree leaf,
you promised peace
You promised spring at home and blossoms
You promised to fulfill promises, you promised a dove

We are the children of winter 1973
We grew up and now in the army
with our weapon and helmet on our heads
We know how to make love to laugh and cry
We are men we are women
and we too dream about babies
This is why we will not pressure you we will demand of you
And we will not threaten you
When we were young you said promises need to be kept
We will give you strength if that is what you need
We will not hold back
We just wanted to whisper
We are the children of that winter in the year 1973

You promised a dove,
an olive tree leaf,
you promised peace
You promised spring at home and blossoms
You promised to fulfill promises,
you promised a dove


AKUS said...

Yakov -

Thanks again for this song.

I was just finishing basic training when the war broke out and spent many months in Sinai and "Africa". In addition to this, there was a great Naomi Shemer song "lu yehi" about the longing for home and peace, which I think was really the song of that war , followed later by "Al kol eleh" - (al hadvash v'al ha'oketz) which became part of the sadness of giving up beautiful Yamit as a result of that war. I spent a lot of my time in miluim near Yamit at one point, and giving it up was the price for nearly 40 years of cold peace with Egypt.

Anonymous said...

It is so beautiful. There are tears in my eyes. Thank you.