Tuesday 11 September 2007

Israel 1969, a poem by Jorge Luis Borges

I feared that in Israel there might be lurking,
sweetly and insidiously,
the nostalgia gathered like some sad treasure
during the centuries of dispersion
in cities of the unbeliever, in ghettoes,
in the sunset of the steppes, in dreams,
the nostalgia of those who longed for you,
Jerusalem, beside the waters of Babylon.
What else were you, Israel, but that wistfulness,
that will to save
amid the shifting shapes of time
your old magical book, your ceremonies,
your loneliness with God?
Not so. The most ancient of nations
is also the youngest.
You have not tempted men with gardens or gold,
and the emptiness of gold
but with the hard work, beleaguered land.
Without words Israel has told them:
Forget who you are
Forget who you have been
Forget the man you were in those countries
which gave you their mornings
and evenings and to which
you must not look back in yearning.
You will forget your father's tongue
and learn the tongue of Paradise.
You shall be an Israeli, a soldier,
You shall build a country on wasteland,
making it rise out of deserts.
Your brother, whose face you've never seen,
will work by your side.
One thing only we promise you:
your place in the battle.
In In Praise of Darkness
Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986), Argentinian writer
Translated by Norman Thomas di Giovanni
"Borges was anti-totalitarian, philosemitic and a Zionist." (Raphaël Lellouche)

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