A New Translation of the Work of a Great Hebrew Poet

A collection of the later work of Leah Goldberg (1911-1970)—one of Israel’s most important and most beloved poets—has recently appeared in English translation, alongside some of her own drawings, under the title On the Surface of Silence. In her review, Alicia Ostriker writes:

Leah Goldberg grew up in Lithuania, began studying Hebrew as a child, and was already an accomplished scholar and poet when she emigrated to Palestine in 1935. At the age of fifteen she had written in her diary, “The unfavorable condition of the Hebrew writer is no secret to me. . . . Writing in a language other than Hebrew is the same to me as not writing at all. And yet I want to be a writer. . . . This is my only objective.” . . .

For most of her life, Goldberg was a formalist, fashioning sensuously elegant lyrics in traditional patterns, sonnets and terza rima in particular. Unrequited romantic love was a frequent theme; she wrote also of nature, seasons, the land. The last book published in her lifetime, With This Night (1964), begins to loosen this attachment to convention. . . .

A few of the poems in On the Surface of Silence were previously published in journals and newspapers. Most were collected from Goldberg’s notebooks and scattered papers found in her house after her death by her friend and fellow poet Tuvia Ruebner, who arranged and published them in Hebrew under the title The Remains of Life in 1971. Stripped down, seemingly spontaneous improvisations, cryptic yet urgent, they are what the translator Rachel Tzvia Back in her excellent introduction calls fragments, but, paradoxically, “whole fragments”—in other words, not accidents. Unique in themselves, not portions of something greater.

Read more at Moment

More about: Arts & Culture, Hebrew literature, Hebrew poetry, Israeli literature, Leah Goldberg

Why President Biden Needs Prime Minister Netanyahu as Much as Netanyahu Needs Biden

Sept. 28 2023

Last Wednesday, Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu met for the first time since the former’s inauguration. Since then, Haim Katz, Israel’s tourism minister, became the first Israeli cabinet member to visit Saudi Arabia publicly, and Washington announced that it will include the Jewish state in its visa-waiver program. Richard Kemp, writing shortly after last week’s meeting, comments:

Finally, a full nine months into Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest government, President Joe Biden deigned to allow him into his presence. Historically, American presidents have invited newly installed Israeli prime ministers to the White House shortly after taking office. Even this meeting on Wednesday, however, was not in Washington but in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Such pointed lack of respect is not the way to treat one of America’s most valuable allies, and perhaps the staunchest of them all. It is all about petty political point-scoring and interfering in Israel’s internal democratic processes. But despite his short-sighted rebuke to the state of Israel and its prime minister, Biden actually needs at least as much from Netanyahu as Netanyahu needs from him. With the 2024 election looming, Biden is desperate for a foreign-policy success among a sea of abject failures.

In his meeting with Netanyahu, Biden no doubt played the Palestinian issue up as some kind of Saudi red line and the White House has probably been pushing [Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman] in that direction. But while the Saudis would no doubt want some kind of pro-forma undertaking by Israel for the sake of appearances, [a nuclear program and military support] are what they really want. The Saudis’ under-the-table backing for the original Abraham Accords in the face of stiff Palestinian rejection shows us where its priorities lie.

Israel remains alone in countering Iran’s nuclear threat, albeit with Saudi and other Arab countries cheering behind the scenes. This meeting won’t have changed that. We must hope, however, that Netanyahu has been able to persuade Biden of the electoral benefit to him of settling for a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia rather than holding out for the unobtainable jackpot of a two-state solution.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship