Last updated October 11th 2014
In the mood for love… and reading? Why not discover the art of of Israel’s most romantic poets and writers. When it comes to describing love most of us would just pick a Shakespeare sonnet, or associate it with Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind. But whoever read the Torah’s famously sensual Song of Songs knows: Hebrew literature and romantic penmanship goes hand in hand.
Jealous love – “An Ancient Melody” by Nathan Alterman
The Warsaw born poet is one of the most influential Hebrew avant-garde artists. He became a master in describing romantic agony when he started to translate dramas by Shakespeare and Moliere.
From his original works I picked his interpretation of the Song of the Songs, enchanted with his signature modernist twist.
My favorite quote: “If ever when I am not with you, you laugh and carouse without thought, I’ll burn down the rafters above you”
Unconditional Love – “Take Me Under Your Wing” by Hayyim Nahman Bialik
Some call him Israel’s national poet, others just recognise his name while sightseeing in Tel Aviv’s famous Bialik street. Although his marriage with Manya Averbuch was arranged, Bialik wasn’t unfamiliar with true love – the letters of the couple were published posthumously.
In his poetry he discovered as many aspects of literature as possible, from nationalistic poems to children’s songs, however no less mind blowing are his passionate love poems.
My favorite quote: “Take my head to your breast, my banished prayers to your nest.”
Forbidden Love – “Shyra” by Shmuel Yosef Agnon
Agnon was born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but his unique way of linking traditional Jewish life with the modern world in his books turned him into a central figure of Hebrew fiction.
The Nobel Prize writer’s unusual love story tells about a middle age Professor, Manfred Herbst who’s classic mid-life crisis targets his work, marriage, and even friends. His confusion becomes an obsession with Shira, an outspoken Israeli nurse whom he loves and hates, but never can escape from.
My favorite quote: “When he remembered her, a certain kind of purifying spirit passed trough him. A purifying spirit that runs over him every time he remembers her. The joy of those black eyes that lack any seed of rage. Her gentle face. Her sweet silhouette, and her beautiful body parts – loyal testimonies that creation still did not fail bringing beauty to life.”
Love-sorry – “Slichot” by Leah Goldberg
Even though she was the master of Russian, Lithuanian, German, Italian, French, and English language, when she was only 15, she admitted to herself in her diary, “Writing not in Hebrew is the same for me as not writing at all”.
Not only she learnt the language but trough her life she translated books by Maria Rilke, Thomas Mann, Paul Veraline, and even Tolstoy’s epic novel War and Peace. Her expression of love is rather Western-style, wrapped into her special, chosen language, Hebrew.
My favorite quote: “You came as night comes to the owl to show him, in the darkness, all things.”
Adventurous Love – “My Michael” by Amos Oz
As a public voice of the two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict Oz has been a published writer in 41 languages, and his books are sold all over the world – including most Arab countries. He is not only a humanitarian, but also a man in love: he lives with his wife and three children by Arad in the Negev desert.
The leading lady of her novel – which was also adapted to silver screen – awakens her memories from her childhood when she used to play with two boys, the Arab twins, who – as it turns out – still has some effect on her. But not only she has desires: she also has husband who is fighting at the war, and a child to take care of…
My favorite quote:“On a winter day, nine in the morning a young stranger grasped myelbow. His hand was firm yet gentle. I saw short fingers, flat nails, pale fingers with black hair on their joints. He hurried to stop my fall. I leaned on his arm until the pain was over. (…) When he supported me I felt the warmth of his fingers trough the sleeve of the blue wool dress that my mother knitted for me. It was winter in Jerusalem.”
Did you know?
My write ups on Israel can also be found in print magazines such as InStyle and Cosmopolitan Hungary, and Time Out Israel‘s English edition – look for the free magazine in the big hotels, visitor centers, and at Ben Gurion Airport. To experience the ultimate Tel Aviv day trip, book me as your tour guide while visiting the White City.