A Modern Argentinian Poet’s Versions of Classical Sephardi Poems

On a day of grave news like today, it’s good to be able to end with a bit of poetry. The Argentine Jewish poet Juan Gelman (1930-2014), during a dark period in his country’s history, found himself drawn to the Jewish religious and literary tradition, and especially to the great works Spanish Jewry—from medieval poets like Samuel ha-Nagid to the 16th-mystic Isaac Luria. As Ilan Stavans explains, “Gelman, from the 1980s onward, rewrote scores of these sources in his own style. He wasn’t interested in translating them; his objective was to appropriate them flat out, projecting their echoes into our modern sensibility.” Gelman, a native Yiddish speaker, even studied Ladino and wrote a series of poems in that language.

Herewith, Stavans’s translation of Gelman’s take on a Hebrew prayer by the great poet-philosopher Judah Halevi (1075–1141):

you became my nest of love/and my love
lives where you live/the enemies
tormented me/let them be/let your ire be/
as long as I don’t find my path to you/
my bones tremble embracing a stranger/
the foreigner of his own skin/
let it be/
as long as you don’t absolve my pain/
seat me/redeem me/
rescue me from myself.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Argentina, Judah Halevi, Latin American Jewry, Medieval Spain, Poetry, Sephardim

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict