From Exhilaration to Exasperation: Jerusalem as Represented in the Poetry of Judah Halevi and Yehuda Amichai

JerusalemUnpublished, Jun 2006


Long even before it became the fons et origo of the three great Abrahamic cults,[1] Jerusalem was already the pagans’ “child of magic”.[2] Nevertheless, its near-cosmic importance can only be ascribed to and understood from a monotheistic reading of history: Jerusalem is held to be the locus for Creation, the end of history and the beginning of eternity, and the only terrestrial city to share a celestial twin,. As such, it is hardly surprising that no other city on earth has been so intensely portrayed, sacralised and desacralised in literature. Jerusalem’s fate, however, is also intimately entwined with that of the Jewish people:


The Lord roars from Zion,

And utters His voice from Jerusalem.[3]


This study therefore adopts a decidedly Jewish point of view. As the title indicates, I attempt to compare Jerusalem as portrayed by two Jewish poets separated by a period of one thousand years, leaving much in the way of poetics (prosody), linguistics and Hebrew literary development untouched. Here, the twin macro-motifs “exhilaration” and “exasperation” are employed in a longitudinal, evolutionary sense in order to chart the emotional “transfigurement of Jerusalem” from Judah Halevi to Yehuda Amichai.[4] I begin by discussing Halevi, eleventh century Spanish Jewry’s ‘sweet singer of Israel’, his views concerning the Jewish people in general and Jerusalem in particular, followed by the representations of the latter in his poems, most of which constitute his time-renowned Shirei Tsion. I then shift my focus onto Amichai who was, arguably, the national poet of the modern state of Israel,[5] taking particular interest in his poems concerning Jerusalem after the city’s unification in 1967. The micro-motifs treated in one section may or may not appear in the other, but more importantly, they represent the peculiarities of each poet’s life and times. Given constraints in both time and space, the selection of poems incorporated into this work will necessarily be thematic and somewhat parsimonious. For obvious reasons moreover, I have left the majority of them in the original Hebrew:[6] where otherwise specified, all translations are my own.



Not since the Biblical Psalmist has anyone so passionately articulated the longing for Jerusalem as the philosopher-poet Judah ben Shmuel Halevi (c. 1075-1141 CE).[7] Indeed, he might even have been – to cite Dan Pagis – the “greatest Hebrew poet between the Bible and the twentieth century”, alongside his tormented compatriot Solomon ibn Gabirol.[8] Although born and bred a personage of note in Muslim Spain at the flower of its Golden Age, Halevi gradually became convinced his destiny awaited him in the Holy Land. In Kitab al-Khazari (The Kuzari) – his only significant work of prose – he composed a compelling apologetic “in defence of the despised faith” (i.e. rabbinic Judaism) vis-à-vis Peripatetic philosophy, Christianity, Islam and to a far lesser extent, Karaism. In this he was comparable to Abū Hāmid al-Ghazzālī (the Latin Algazel, 1058-1111 CE), who, seeking recourse to a purer reading of the Qur‘an, nearly single-handedly demolished the sophisticated agnosticism of Peripatetic philosophy, the intellectual trend dominant in the Islamic world then.[9] In the Kuzari however, it is Halevi’s views concerning the unique character of the Holy Land, the role of prophecy or revelation as well as the advent of redemption therein that pertains to our understanding of his decision to emigrate. Halevi believed that despite Exile, the remnants of the Children of Israel continued to be intimately linked to their land. Though the Shechinah accompanied them into exile, it was only in the Land of Israel that divine communion could be realised in full.[10] Similarly, the Holy Land – even merely its “dust and stones” – was the necessary locus for the reception of revelation and prophecy, and in the final reckoning, of redemption.[11] As the narrative concludes, the Jewish chaver decides to emigrate to Eretz-Israel,[12] though, not before convincing the king of the Khazars to convert to Judaism.

In reality, Halevi himself undertook the commandment to emigrate to the “Land of our Fathers” in his twilight years,[13] leaving behind his daughter, his grandson and the material comforts he had hitherto enjoyed. In addition, sociopolitical forces were becoming increasingly inimical to Jews, worse still, if one considers their precarious position between the Crusades’ clashing sides. The arrival of the fanatical and rabidly intolerant Almoravids in al-Andalus pressured many Jews to migrate to the Christian north; yet, even under Christian rule, political intrigue if not outright persecution continued, as the murder of Halevi’s one-time benefactor Solomon ibn Ferrizuel indicated. He believed that as long as Jews continued to be complacent living among Goyim (Gentiles), they would never again attain the moral and spiritual wholeness that once distinguished their people.[14] Consequently, Halevi’s fervent anti-diasporism has rendered him somewhat of a forerunner of twentieth century Zionism and of “Hess, Pinsker and Ahad Ha’am”.[15] An existential crisis at the collective level thus preoccupied the poet, particularly in his attempt to reconcile the Biblical notion of Israel’s election and the jarring (dis)reality of twelfth-century Europe.[16] In his poem Libi be-Mizrach (My Heart is in the East),[17]


לבי במזרח ואנוכי בסוף מערב

איך אטעמה את אשר-אוכל ואיך יערב

איכה אשלם נדריי ואסריי בעוד

ציון בחבל אדום ואני בכבל ערב

יקל בעיני עזוב כל-טוב ספרד כמו

יקר בעיני ראות עפרות דביר נחרב


At the geopolitical level, Zion lay fettered as it were under the Cross (Edom) and the Crescent (Arav). At the psychological level, Halevi himself experienced severe dislocation, as suggested in the first line: “My heart is in the east and I, in the utmost west”. Indignation in the face of Zion’s subjugation appears again in what is perhaps his best-known ode, Tsion ha-Lo Tishali (Ode to Zion/Zionides):[18]


איך יערב לי אכול ושתות בעת אחזה

כי יסחבו הכלבים את-כפיריך

או איך מאור יום יהי מתוק לעיני בעוד

אראה בפי עורבים פגרי נשריך


In these two couplets, the image of dogs and ravens (incidentally but ingenuously, the word Orev, raven shares the same root as Arav, Arab) – scavengers, that is – suggests a pillage that could have been prevented. Again, in Mas’ei Aron ha-Brit (In the Paths of the Ark), the psychological distress due to the presence of “ravens” in Jerusalem – “since the doves have been driven out” – is further compounded, as the German philosopher and Halevi-lover Franz Rosenzweig suggested, by Halevi’s own delay in emigrating:[19]


…ואראה נווה נאווה אשר שכחה קנה

וגורשו בני יונה ושכנו בני עורב

עלי-זאת מאד נפשי דווה ונכאבה

כי שב בחטאתי בוקר לעת ערב

לבבי מאד יכלה ויכסוף להר המור

כאשר תאו לשכון נפש בתוך קרב


Each year on the Ninth of Av (Tisha be-Av), Jews commemorate the destruction of both the First Temple by the Babylonians and the Second Temple by the Romans exactly 656 years later. For the next nineteen centuries afterwards, they lived as exiles in the memory of a city perpetually under siege, praying three times daily: “Return in mercy to Thy city Jerusalem and dwell in it as Thou hast promised; rebuild it soon, in our days, as an everlasting structure, and speedily establish the throne of David therein. Praised art Thou, O Lord, Builder of Jerusalem”.[20] In the meantime however, they continued to lament the city that would, by the twenty-first century, suffer not twice, but as Amos Elon observed, “twenty ruinous sieges, two intervals of total desolation, eighteen reconstructions, and at least eleven transitions from one religion to another”.[21] In a medieval twist of the prophet Jeremiah’s annually-recited book of Lamentations (Eicha), Halevi’s own threnody Tsion ha-Lo Tishali – indeed, another of the classic texts recited on that day – throbs with almost comparable poignancy. Where the former opens with the lines “How lonely sits the city / That was full of people! / How like a widow is she, / Who was great among the nations!”, the latter immediately invokes her by name:


ציון הלא תשאלי לשלום אסיריך

דורשי שלומך והם יתר עדריך

מים ומזרח ומצפון ותימן שלום

רחוק וקרוב שאי מכל עבריך

ושלום אסיר תאווה נותן דמעיו כטל-

חרמון ונכסף לרדתם על-הרריך

לבכות ענותך אני תנים ועת אחלום

שיבת שבותך אני כנור לשיריך

שם השכינה שכנה לך והיוצרך

פתח למול שערי-שחק שעריך

וכבוד אדוני לבד היה מאורך ואין

…שמש וסהר וכוכבים מאיריך


Jerusalem’s “dust and stones” constitute another prominent leitmotif. As indicated earlier, the Holy Land’s geological constitution was held to be a (if not the) crucial element, the tinder for the spark of revelation and prophecy, to use a worn but fitting metaphor. By the conclusion of Libi be-Mizrach, Halevi yearns to abandon “all the good things of Spain” so as to “behold the dust of the desolate sanctuary”. In Psalms 102:15, the return of the Lord’s favour upon Zion is at hand, “For Thy servants take pleasure in her stones and show favour to her dust”, recalling somewhat the fact that Tsion originally derived from Tsiyah, “parched desert”.[22] In Tsion ha-Lo Tishali, Halevi likewise revels in the thought of “caressing” the earth:


 מי יעשה-לי כנפיים וארחיק נדוד

אניד לבתרי לבבי בין בתריך

אפול לאפי עלי ארצך וארצה אבניך

…מאד ואחונן את-עפריך

חיי נשמות אוויר ארצך וממר-דרור

אבקת עפרך ונופת צוף נהריך

ינעם לנפשי הלוך ערום ויחף עלי

חרבות שממה אשר היו דביריך

במקום ארונך אשר נגנז ובמקום

 כרוביך אשר שכנו חדרי חדריך


Just as the Prophet Isaiah wandered naked and barefoot three years for a sign and a wonder, and just as King David danced in wild abandon before the Lord when the Ark of the Covenant finally arrived in Jerusalem,[23] so Halevi longed to “walk naked and barefoot” in wild abandon amid the desolate ruins where the Holy of Holies once stood. In the land promised to the seed of Abraham, even the air is suffused with “the life of souls”. Going further still, the poet then expresses his ultimate desideratum in Yefe Nof Mesos Tevel (Beautiful of Elevation) – to be (organically) one with Jerusalem’s dust. More than just “watering thy dust with my tears till they mingle”, Rosenzweig again pointed out in his commentary that the final lines, “Shall I not be tender to thy stones and kiss them, / And the taste of thy soil be sweeter than honey unto me?” in reality concealed a wish to die and be buried in the Holy City.[24] But in Halevi’s own words:[25]


יפה נוף משוש תבל, קריה למלך רב

לך נכספה נפשי מפאתי מערב

המון רחמי נכמר כי אזכרה קדם

כבודך אשר גלה ונווך אשר חרב

ומי-יתנני על-כנפי נשרים עד

ארווה בדמעתי עפרך ויתערב

דרשתיך ואם מלכך אין בך ואם במקום

צרי גלעדך נחש שרף וגם עקרב

הלא את-אבניך אחונן ואשקם

וטעם רגביך לפי מדבש יערב


Intimately connected to the land’s mystical geography, to use Shalom Rosenberg’s term, are the streets and places in which prophets once wandered, as well as the graves that embraced the earthly remains of the Chosen.[26] Already as we noted in the Kuzari,[27] Halevi conditioned prophecy and revelation only on their occurring in the land of Israel, as was typically the case in the Old Testament. In Tsion ha-Lo Tishali the poet writes:


אבחר לנפשי להשתפך במקום אשר

…רוח אלוהים שפוכה על-בחיריך

מי-יתנני משוטט במקומות אשר

נגלו אלוהים לחוזיך וציריך


Likewise the special emphasis on Jerusalem’s dead, who because of their location (particularly on the Mount of Olives), will be among the first to awake when the angel Gabriel announces the resurrection:[28]


אף כי-בעמדי עלי קברות אבותי

…ואשתומם בחברון עלי מבחר קבריך


Similarly, the Ark of the Covenant and the Mosaic Tablets are also at present “buried there / where I hope to go / that I shall fall upon their grave / And my eyes at the sight of their desolation / shall burst forth into rivers.” In the same poem – Be-Chanfei Nesharim (On Eagles’ Wings) – holy archeology, the “fount of prophecy”, “my fathers’ graves” and the “domain of the pure” are all subsumed and symbolised in the dust of the land:[29]


ושם הכרובים ולוחות כתובים

בעד הרגבים ובמקום סתרים

מקום הפלאות ועין הנבואות

ובכבוד צבאות פניהם מאירים

עפרו אחונן ואצלו אקנן

ועליו אקונן כעל-הקברים

וסוף מחשבותי היות משכבותי

בקברות אבותי וברשות טהורים

Concomitant with the restoration of prophecy is the restoration of the Priesthood, a calling Judah the Levite held close to his heart. In Chalomi (My Dream), the heir to the priestly caste himself dreams of and yearns for the reinstatement of the sacrificial cycle in the Temple, with “the burnt offering, meal offering and libation / And all around, dense columns of smoke” and the sweet ecstasy of the “Levites’ song”.[30] A reverie though this brief episode may have been, he nonetheless finds solace in the knowledge that the Divine One is ever present. According to the Kuzari, the one element that distinguished the Israelites (and thereafter Jews) from the world was their acceptance and continued adherence to the seemingly non-rational rituals and ordinances (chuqqim) prescribed in Leviticus.[31] While mishpatim (ethical laws) could be universal in nature, chuqqim were specifically ordained upon the Jewish people who, in fulfilling them, established their ontological relationship with the Divine.[32]

As the Levite mediated between God and man, so the fabled gates of Jerusalem bridged heaven and earth. Medieval Hebrew literature professor Raymond Scheindlin wrote that “Halevi intended his journey as a permanent pilgrimage to the place where, he believed, the gates of heaven opened on the earth; it was to usher in for him a new life in anticipation of death”.[33] A passage from the Aggadah likewise counsels the prayerful to present himself in Jerusalem “for the gate to heaven is there and wide open for the Lord to hear”. In Tsion ha-Lo Tishali Halevi sings of them:


שם השכינה שכנה לך והיוצרך

פתח למול שערי-שחק שעריך

וכבוד אדוני לבד היה מאורך ואין

שמש וסהר וכוכבים מאיריך


The reality of Exile notwithstanding, one of Halevi’s lesser known panegyrics, Noda’ be-Chol Hamon (All the Multitudes Know) begins with: “All the multitudes know…/ that the gates of Zion are beloved of the Lord”.[34] By the conclusion, it is revealed that “salvation shall descend, like the dew of Hermon, to my sons / upon the gates of Zion, the Holy Mountain of the Lord”. In Lema’an Beth Eloheinu (For the Sake of the House of our Lord), an emotional reply to a critic of his supposedly irrational Aliyah, Halevi evokes “the spring of eternal life” that flows from “His Holy Mountain”, points to “the land that is filled with gates, / Towards which the gates of Heaven are opened,” and finally asks, rhetorically: “Why then should I seek out crooked / paths and forsake the Mother of paths?”:[35]


הטוב שיהיו מתים זכורים

והארון והלוחות שכוחים

נשחר את-מקום שחת ורימה

ונטוש את-מקור חיי נצחים

הלנו נחלה רק מקדשי-אל

ואיך נהיה להר קדשו שכחים

היש לנו במזרח או במערב

מקום תקווה נהי עליו בטוחים

אבל ארץ אשר מלאה שערים

לנגדם שערי-שחק פתוחים

כהר סיני והכרמל ובית-אל

ובתי הנביאים השלוחים

וכסאות כהני כסא אדוני

וכסאות המלכים המשוחים

…ולנו גם-לבנינו יעדה

ולמה-זה אבקש-לי ארחות

עקלקלות ואעזוב אם ארחים.


Whether Judah Halevi eventually reached and beheld the Holy Land only to be killed by an Arab horseman – so Gedalia ibn Yahya first recounts in his sixteenth century tract Shalshelet ha-Qabbalah – remains a matter of speculation inconsequential to our present discussion.[36] More importantly, as he neared the conclusion of his journey, a palpable sense of exhilaration and Biblically-inspired optimism seemed to permeate his poetic consciousness. The redemption of Jewry would be paralleled by the restoration of God’s own city Jerusalem, the Talmudic recipient of nine out of the ten measures of beauty that descended upon the world and “the joy of the whole earth”, as Psalms 48:3 reminds us.[37] This indeed became a potent concluding motif in many of his poems. In Tsion ha-Lo Tishali, even Shinar and Pathros, the great Muslim and Christian empires presented in metonymy, fall short of the city “[t]hy God hath desired…for a dwelling place”. The final reckoning of Jerusalem, in her favour, unfolds accordingly in the poem’s stunning dénouement:


שנער ופתרוס היערכוך בגדלם ואם

הבלם ידםו לתמיך ואוריך

אל-מי ידמו משיחיך ואל-מי

נביאיך ואל-מי לוייך ושריך

ישנה ויחלוף כליל כל-ממלכות האליל

חסנך לעולם לדור ודור נזריך

איווך למושב אלוהיך ואשרי אנוש

יבחר יקרב וישכון בחצריך

אשרי מחכה ויגיע ויראה עלות

אורך ויבקעו עליו שחריך

לראות בטובת בחיריך ולעלוז

בשמחתך בשובך אלי קדמת נעוריך.


Again, this final “return to thine youth of yore” (emphasis mine) substantiates the parallel notion of the Ingathering of Exiles, Jerusalem and by extension all of Israel’s inhabitants scattered throughout time and space. As the Holocaust survivor and writer Elie Wiesel wrote in his novel A Beggar in Jerusalem:

You’re shaking…so am I. It’s because of Jerusalem, isn’t it? One doesn’t go to Jerusalem, one returns to it. That’s one of its mysteries.[38]

Elsewhere, in Yeri’ot Shlomo (Tent-cloths of Solomon), the tent-cloths, carpets or curtains (depending on the translation) that once bore the glory of Israel are here personified and bear witness to their present state of desolation amid the seed of Ishmael (Kedar). Hope, however, is forthcoming in the reply in which the imagined interlocutor describes the time when “[t]heir splendour as in the beginning He shall restore in the end / and He shall illumine sevenfold their light which darkened”:[39]


יריעות שלמה, איך בתוך אהלי קדר

שניתם, ולא תואר עליכם ולא הדר

,המונים אשר שכנו לפנים בתוכנו”

,חרבות עזבונו ופרץ בלי נגדר

והלכו כלי-קודש בגולה והיו חול

“ואיך תשאלו הדר לשושן בתוך דרדר

דחויי שכניהם דרושי אדוניהם

לכולם בשם יקרא ואיש לא-יהי נעדר

הדרם כראשונה ישובב באחרונה

.ויאיר כאור שבעה מאורם אשר קדר


Finally, in yet another of Halevi’s lesser known poems, Heichal Adonai u-Miqdash Hadomo (The Sanctuary of the Lord, the Temple of his Footstool), we are privy not only to the medieval Zionist’s aching for an end to the Exile, but also to a touching aperçu of the symbiotic relationship between Jew and Jerusalem. Without a city, a people will be swept up in the riptide of history. Without a people, there is no raison d’être for a city either. In exile, it is the strength of memory, the simple act of directing one’s prayer towards her and praying for her peace that keep Jerusalem alive. In the final reckoning, however, the relationship between Jew and Jerusalem, flesh and stone, can only be properly understood in their broader relationship with YHWH, the enigmatic God who set them apart in the first place. I shall quote the poem in full:[40]


– היכל אדוני ומקדש הדומו

,גלה כבודו ונפזר עמו

וממרחקים ידרשו שלומו

.וישתחוו לו איש ממקומו

 – גולים במערב בכוש ומצריים

,מגמת פניהם ירושלים

,אל אביהם אשר בשמים

.לעמוד לשרתו ולברך בשמו

אובד בעילם ונידח בשנער

לדרך ארצו פיהו יפער

מבין שני זאבי יער

ומתוך צער יחזיק בתומו

,גלות ציון אשר בספרד

– בערב מפוזר ובאדום מפורד

לפאת מקדש יתר ויחרד

.לבבו, כגמול עלי אמו

,שפך תפילה – וצור מתעלם

.ושמע חרפות ויהי כאילם

בשוב שבות ציון היה כחולם

!ובהקיצו – אין פותר חלומו

מתי אקרא ואתה תרצה

ואת-משפטי לאור תוצא

– וייוודע – יום תציל ותפצה

?אמת כי רוצה אדוני בעמו


Although he also composed a wealth of secular and devotional poetry, Judah Halevi’s poetic brilliance shines brightest in his poems to Zion. Here was a “God-kissed” poet – to use the German poet Heinrich Heine’s adjective –[41] and the “sweet singer of Israel” whose very human essence became “a harp for thy songs”. It is little wonder then that some decades afterwards, Judah al-Harīzī, in the third Maqamah of his Tahkemoni, wrote about Judah Halevi:

He came with a treasure of poetry and the booty of its whole treasury. He took all the objects of his longings with him, went out and shut the door after his departure. All the ones that came after him to learn the craft of his poetry did not even approach the dust of his carriages, whereas all the poets tried to overhear some of his words or to kiss his footprints.[42]



The birth of Zionism in nineteenth century, post-Haskalah Europe was more or less paralleled by a Modern Hebrew renaissance, the chief of whose expositors was Chayim Nachman Bialik. By the mid twentieth century however, Hebrew literature in its Israeli manifestation had taken a different direction. Unlike his predecessors, especially the Shlonsky-Alterman school,[43] Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000) embraced a personal, everyday idiom that directly addressed Israel’s beleaguered reality. As Eisig Silberschlag observed,

[s]ublimity has been replaced by drabness, rhyme by unrhymed verse, rhythm by faint echoes of rhythm, association by dissociation, logical sequence by arbitrariness, rural imagery by technological imagery, preoccupation with the past by the cult of the now and the dernier cri.[44]

More significantly, having renounced orthodoxy (though not theism) at the age of fifteen, Amichai’s use of Biblical and rabbinic allusions to cloak the down-to-earth, everyday angst of modern humanity encouraged, in Boaz Arpaly’s words, “a more sober view of the ‘metaphysical’ world”.[45] Not only did he use “traditional material to challenge the assumptions inherent in the tradition”,[46] Amichai’s juxtaposition of seemingly incongruent metaphors offered a fresh vantage point from which to view life.[47] It was this poetic sensibility that would eventually set Yehuda Amichai apart from his contemporaries.

Following the Six-Day War in 1967, Israeli soldiers entering a reunified Jerusalem for the first time wept at the sight of the Western Wall, as Chayim Chefer so movingly captured in his poem Ha-Tsanchanim Bochim (The Paratroopers Cry).[48] Yet, the sense of messianic fervour and redemption that gripped the Israeli consciousness soon gave way to disillusionment – not quite the state of affairs that Judah Halevi had envisioned. In his “Jerusalem 1967” cycle of poems for example, Amichai wryly juxtaposes the ancient longing for Jerusalem and its epithetical peace against the dystopia of a repossessed city. Here, Halevi’s famous dirge, My Heart is in the East is invoked in prefatory expectation, only to be dispelled by the reality of return:[49]


השנה נסעתי הרחק כדי

.לראות את השקט של עירי

.תינוק נרגע בנענועים, עיר נרגעת במרחק

גרתי בגעגועים. שיחקתי במשחק

:ארבע המשבצות החמורות של יהודה הלוי

.לבי. אנוכי. מזרח. מערב

,שמעתי פעמונים מצלצלים בדתות הזמן

אך היללה ששמעתי בתוכי

.היתה תמיד של מדברי יהודה

.עכשו כששבתי, אני צועק שוב

,ובלילות עולים כוכבים כבועות של טובעים

כל בוקר אני צועק צעקה של תינוק נולד

.מבלבול הבתים ומכל האור הגדול הזה


The calm produced by rocking an infant is likened to the calm produced when Jerusalem is contemplated from a distance. The ataractic thrall vanishes however, the moment one draws near, provoking anguished regret by the third and concluding stanza: “Now that I’m back, I’m screaming once more / … and every morning I scream the scream of a newly-born / at the pandemonium of houses and at all this magnified light”. The very fulfillment of an ancient longing – returning to Jerusalem – has thus fallen prey to its own success. In Mizmor (Psalm), the joy borne by the Psalmist in the book of Tehillim – “A song on a day…” – is mockingly inverted in disenchantment with a reconstituted Jewish homeland. The parallel drawn between the latter and the bucolic peace supposedly accompanying the End of Days[50] is decried as “an illusion of God and of justice”:[51]


,הגפנים שתחתיהן ישבתי, התאנה

כל אלה מלים. ואוושת אילנות

.עושה אשליית אלוהים וצדק


The proverbial yet mercurial “City of Peace”, Jerusalem is one of history’s great ironies and the victim of a cosmic joke. Armed with almost child-like innocence, Amichai has managed to capture, with lyrical sublimity, a glimpse of the city’s irreconcilable contradictions and dualities. In the following poem, the problematic of a Janus-faced Jerusalem takes the form of a cri de cœur whose outward simplicity merely reinforces its internal logic:[52]


למה ירושלים תמיד שתיים, של מעלה ושל מטה

ואני רוצה לחיות בירושלים של אמצע

.בלי לחבוט את ראשי למעלה ובלי לפצוע את רגליי למטה

,ולמה ירושלים בלשון זוגית כמו ידיים ורגליים

,אני רוצה לחיות רק בירושל אחת

.כי אני רק אני אחד ולא אניים


The poem’s lyric “I” wants neither a “Jerusalem above” nor a “Jerusalem below”, because either way he might “knock [his] head” or “injure [his] feet”, but one quite in between. And rather than living in the morphologically if not semantically dual Yerushalayim, he invokes his right to live in a single Yerushal because, after all, “I” is fundamentally singular and not dual in inflection. Where the poet himself is concerned, however, it is not the “sanctified myths about the celestial Jerusalem” but rather “the complicated realities of the earthly Jerusalem with its terrors and burdens” that informs his verse, as both Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld have argued.[53] Jerusalem is a city torn asunder – what might uncannily be a reflection of its titular duality – by religious terror and ethnic hatred, “an operation that was left open / [while] the surgeons left to take a nap in distant skies…”.[54] If, so Jewish lore tells us, the Even Shetiyah of the Temple Mount was the locus of Creation,[55] the same spot has become the locus of destruction. Ironically, the vision of peace in the very city named for it is rendered coherent only by the spectre of war, so Amichai observes: “The air of the valleys is lashed by olive branches towards new wars, olives black and hard like the knots in a whip”.[56] A millennium after Judah Halevi, Jerusalem is no longer physically hostage to Edom or Arav. Instead, it is spiritually hostage to its own inhabitants, whom Arthur Koestler diagnosed as “poisoned by religion”.[57] In one poem, Jerusalem is the “city of knives / and even the hopes for peace are sharp enough to slice through reality”. The sound of her church bells are like the sound of a “pestle grinding in a mortar”, and – here lies the beauty of this piece – the chants of the chazzan and the muezzin, though they attempt to be pleasant, end up with quite another kind of Shema:[58]


,לפעמים ירושלים היא עיר של סכינים

ואפילו התקוות לשלום הן חדות לחתוך במציאות

.הקשה והן נעשות קהות או נשברות

,פעמוני הכנסייה משתדלים כל-כך להשמיע קול רגוע ועגול

,אבל הם נעשים כבדים, כמו עלי שכותש במרגמה

קולות כבדים ועמומים ורומסים. והחזן

והמואזין רוצים להנעים בקולם

:אבל בסוף מתפרצת היללה החדה

,אדוני אלוהי כולנו אדוני אחד

.אחד, חד, חד, חד


The wordplay between the “One” of divine unicity (echad) and the one, “sharp” side of a knife (chad) brings to mind Aldous Huxley’s onetime description of Jerusalem as the “slaughterhouse of the religions”.[59] Indeed, in the thanatic madness that is also, ironically, the lifesource of monotheism, it is the “voice of the firefighters /…police cars…and ambulances” that call the faithful to prayer.[60] “And when the prayers rise heavenward, they fall back down again / like fragments of shells that were fired at planes / but missed, and once again, the call of sirens to prayer.” The violence and hostility that soak Jerusalem to the core are not just internecine but neverending. In wry tongue-in-cheek, the poet elsewhere depicts the Holy City as a merry-go-round of religions “instead of colourful elephants and horses”, and from which “there is no getting off”:[61]


ירושלים היא קרוסלה מסתובבת ומסתובבת

.מן העיר העתיקה דרך כל השכונות וחוזרת לעתיקה

ואי-אפשר לרדת ממנה. ומי שקופץ ממנה מסכן את חייו

ומי שיורד ממנה בתום הסיבובים חייב לשלם שוב

.כדי לעלות עלייה לסיבובים שאין להם סוף

ובמקום פילים וסוסים צבעוניים לרכוב עליהם

יש דתות שעולות ויורדות וגם מסתובבות

.על צירן לקול מנגינות משומנות מבתי התפילה


And of course, as we have already been led to understand, this same merry-go-round turns davka “to the tune of the oiled melodies coming from the houses of prayer”. Nevertheless, in Sof Elul, a poem from the early collection Achshav ba-Ra’ash, Amichai takes issue with Jerusalem’s frenzied religiousity. The period concluding the month of Elul up to the beginning of the high holidays is traditionally marked by reflection and repentance. However, quiet introspection is marred by the cacophony of dissonant faiths shrieking for attention, provoking in the poet, as Silberschlag pointed out, a reaction bordering on the blasphemous but for its subtle irony:[62]


 אני עייף ומקלל את שלוש הדתות המפורסמות

שלא יתנו לי לישון בלילה, בפעמונים

.וביללות, בשופרות ובסליחות מטרידות

,אלוהים, סגור את ביתך, תן מנוחה לעולם

…?למה לא עזבתני


In biting satire of one of Christ’s supposed last words as he hung on the cross, the poet demands: “Why hast thou not forsaken me?” On a different semantic plane, one might even go so far as to suggest a double reading of the root אל(ו)ל as (אל(י)ל(ות, i.e. having to do with idolatry. If the point of embracing religion is to bring humanity peace on some level, then, it may be argued, the unruly manifestations of monotheism have become but “empty vessels full of noise”, like idols – hence the poet’s outcry. Otherwise, since religious praxis is only an ordained, outward expression of faith in the divine, it is the latter that is directly held responsible for the disquiet. Amichai hints at this in the concluding poem of the cycle Shirei Erets Tsion ve-Yerushalayim. Here, God Himself is presented as the grey eminence, the agent provocateur, and the relentless yet unsuccessful purveyor of religion. Sadly, “not a single prophet has come to buy”:[63]


כל ערב מוציא אלוהים את סחורותיו

המבריקות מחלון הראווה

מעשי מרכבה, לוחות ברית, פנינים יפות

,צלבים ופעמונים זוהרים

ומחזיר אותם לתוך ארגזים אפלים

בפנים וסוגר את התריס: “שוב

.”לא בא אף נביא אחד לקנות


On a different metaphorical plane, Jerusalem has been addressed as a feminine persona as far back as Biblical times. Where the Israelites fell foul of the divine covenant, “prostituting” themselves to other gods in the process, Jerusalem, their kindred polis, became the metonymic harlot. The prophet Jeremiah referred to her as a widow in light of her demographic desolation during the Babylonian exile. Judah Halevi employed the feminine possessive noun suffix “-ayich”/“-eich” as a principal rhyming device approximately sixty-six times in his masterpiece Tsion ha-Lo Tishali. The Shechinah (the Divine Presence or “Indwelling”), accompanying the Jews in the Exile even as she “continued to brood over her ruins”, was and still is regarded as the feminine, maternal counterpart of the Divine.[64] Without exception, Yehuda Amichai too addresses Jerusalem as a woman, though with a pinch of irreverence:[65]


 “איכה ישבה בדד” קונן הבניא על ירושלים. אם היא אשה

האם יש לה אביונה וכשהיא זועקת, האם מהנאה

או מכאב. ומה כוח משיכתה

?ומתי היא נאנסת ומתי פותחת שעריה ברצון

וכל מאהביה נוטשים אותה, ומשאירים לה

אתנני אהבה, ענקים ועגילים, מגדלים ובתי תפילה

,בסגנון איטלקי ואנגלי ורוסי ויווני וערבי

צריחים וכרכובים, שערים מקושטים וטבעות

.מזהב ומכסף, מעץ ומאבן ובשלל צבעים

.וכולם משאירים לה מזכרות ונוטשים אותה

רציתי לדבר אתה שוב, אך היא אבדה בין

.הרוקדים והרוקדות. הריקוד הוא אובדן הכול

ירושלים רואה רק את השמים מעליה

ומי שרואה רק את השמים מעליה

ולא את פני אהובה, היא באמת שוכבת בדד

.ויושבת בדד ועומדת בדד ורוקדת בדד


The opening quote – “How lonely sits the city” – is Jeremiah’s, the putative author of the book of Lamentations (Eicha). Taking the Biblical trope even further, Amichai voices the unthinkable: “If Jerusalem is a woman, / does she know desire? When she cries out, is it from pleasure / or pain? What is the secret of her appeal? / When does she open her gates willingly and when is it rape?”[66] Jerusalem’s solitude, as it happens, is that of a woman abandoned by all her lovers, left only with their love-gifts and souvenirs; on the ground, the evidence is borne out by the city’s baffling kaleidoscope of architectural legacies. Drawing the obvious parallel between Amichai and Jeremiah, Daniel Grossberg contended that

[f]ar from a process of reductio ad absurdum, Amichai’s pressing of the metaphor raises questions about the city that a student of its history since 586 BCE is constrained to consider – What is it about Jerusalem that invites conquest and domination?[67]

Unlike its Biblical inspiration, the poem concludes in the minor key, possibly an indication of the perceived disjuncture between Biblical Jerusalem and its modern-day aberration or – to borrow Jean Baudrillard’s term – “simulacrum”. In a vaguely similar poem, Jerusalem “plays hide-and-seek among her names: / Yerushalayim, al-Quds, S[h]alem, Jeru, Yeru, / yet whispering: Y’vus, Y’vus, Y’vus, in the dark”.[68] Jerusalem’s love affair with history is once again a mélange of sacred and profane: “She comes to every man who calls her / at night, alone. But we know / who comes to whom.”

Jerusalem is a space overburdened with symbols, hopes, dreams and fears, and despite – or perhaps even because of – this, it is “a place where everyone remembers / he’s forgotten something / but doesn’t remember what it is”.[69] In this connection, Amos Elon was hardly exaggerating when he pointed out that, “[f]ar from existence conditioning consciousness, as in Marx’s famous dictum, consciousness has conditioned existence in Jerusalem over the centuries”.[70] In Halevi’s Tsion ha-Lo Tishali, the air over Jerusalem is animated with “the life of souls”; in Amichai’s Ekologia Shel Yerushalayim (Jerusalem’s Ecology), it is similarly “saturated with prayers and dreams”. But “like the air over heavy industrial cities, / it is hard to breathe”:[71]


האוויר מעל לירושלים רווי תפילות וחלומות

.כמו האוויר מעל לערי תעשייה כבדה

.קשה לנשום


On the ground below, the stones of Jerusalem – the brilliant limestone-chalk in which the entire city is masoned and swaddled (and for which Naomi Shemer’s famous folksong was named) – are given emphatic treatment in Amichai’s poetry. After all, at the heart of the threshing floor that King David purchased from Araunah the Jebusite for fifty shekels lies an immense, unadorned rock.[72] Yet it is as if this spot, to borrow a concept from physics, has become compressed into a gravitational singularity in time-and-space and is hence unable to hold out much longer.[73] Jerusalem, as the poet tells us, “is built on the vaulted foundations of a stifled scream”.[74] To remove the scream would be to destroy the foundations. Yet, “were the scream to be released, Jerusalem would explode to high heavens”, mirroring Koestler’s “[t]ragedy without catharsis”.[75] In our earlier discussion of Halevi, it was the seemingly irrational and unsavoury prospect of experiencing Zion’s “dust and stones” that offered the poet spiritual catharsis. And so, left with no choice, the mayor of Amichai’s Jerusalem can only hope to “build and build and build”.[76] The after-effect is almost logical, if surreal – “Jerusalem stone is the only stone / that feels pain. It has a network of nerves”. In this last poem, it is revealed that her pain derives not just from within but also from without, namely “God-the-police” who beats her down each time she “gathers in mass protests like the Tower of Babel”:[77]


האבן הירושלמית היא האבן היחידה

.שכואבת. יש בה רשת עצבים

מזמן לזמן מתגודדת ירושלים

.להמון מחאה כמו מגדל בבל

אך במקלות גדולים מכה אלוהים-המשטרה

,לתוכה: בתים נחרבים, חומות נפרצות

ואחר כך תתפזר שוב העיר, תוך מלמולי

תפילות תלונה וצעקות-פה-ושם מכנסיות

.ומבתי-כנסת וצריחת צריחים ממסגד

.כל אחד למקומו


Death is a powerful constituency in a city where “the right to vote is granted even to the dead”.[78] Jerusalem herself, however, belongs to the realm of the undead. For all her suicide attempts, the sweet taste of death eludes her:[79]


הדמעות כאן אינן מרככות

את העיניים. הן רק מלטשות

.ומבריקות את קשי הפנים, כמו סלע

,נסיונות ההתאבדות של ירושלים

,היא ניסתה שוב בתשעה באב

היא ניסתה באדום ובאש

ובהרס אטי של אבק לבן

;עם רוחות. לעולם לא תצליח

.אך היא תנסה שוב ושוב


Despite the perpetual violence and bloodletting, the romantic in Amichai longs for respite, a theme he works into gorgeous but poignant verse. In the poem Be-Yom Kippur (On the Day of Atonement), the memory of his father (another of Amichai’s central motifs, requiring a separate analysis on its own) who was a haberdasher, as well as his own childhood evoked through “threads and buttons”, is introduced as a solvent to an otherwise unthinkable admixture: Jew and Arab. Like his father previously, the Arab haberdasher in the Old City of Jerusalem owns a shop resplendent with “buttons and zippers and thread spools / in every colour, press-studs and buckles / a precious light and many colours, like an open Ark”.[80] And on the Day of Atonement, of a year whose Hebrew numerals coincidentally form the root for “forgetting” (Tashkach), and in “dark holiday clothes”, a plea for forgiveness and reconciliation is offered up. When it is time for the Gates of Prayer to close, the Arab too, closes his shop. But whether prayers are answered is left ambiguous – only the following year will tell. “The traditional prayer in the synagogue,” wrote Esther Fuchs, “is replaced by a silent meditation on the human bond between enemies…that the enemy is just as human as the speaker.”[81] In another poem, Ro’eh Aravi Mechapes Gedi be-Har Tsion (An Arab Shepherd Searches for His Goat on Mount Zion), reconciliation is slightly more forthcoming:[82]


,רועה ערבי מחפש גדי בהר ציון

.ובהר ממול אני מחפש את בני הקטן

רועה ערבי ואב יהודי

.בכשלונם הזמני

קולות שנינו נפגשים מעל

.לבריכת השולטן בעמק באמצע

שנינו רוצים שלא יכנסו

הבן והגדי לתוך תהליך

.המכונה הנוראה של חד גדיא

,אחר-כך מצאנו אותם בין השיחים

.וקולותינו חזרו אלינו ובכו וצחקו בפנים

החיפושים אחר גדי או אחר בן

היו תמיד

.התחלת דת חדשה בהרים האלה


Here, both Arab shepherd and Jewish father are portrayed with equal brushstrokes, with equal failings and, when one’s goat and the other’s son are finally found, with equal rejoicing. The “cogs and wheels of the terrible Chad Gadya machine”, it goes without saying, are symbolic of the cycle of hate, one both shepherd and father are keen to protect their charges from. Fortunately, the resolution that is so elusive in reality is attained when “we found them among the bushes / and our voices returned to us laughing and crying within”. The poem then concludes with a motif that is frequently repeated in Amichai’s poetry: simple gestures or words that could provoke “the beginning of a new religion”. The middle stanza from the poem Yerushalayim is perhaps one of the tenderest expressions of the absurdity of war:[83]


,על גג בעיר העתיקה

:כביסה מוארת באור אחרון של יום

,סדין לבן של אויבת

מגבת של אויב

.לנגב בה את זעת אפו

ובשמי העיר העתיקה


– ובקצה החוט


,שלא ראיתי אותו

.בגלל החומה

,העלינו הרבה דגלים

.העלו הרבה דגלים

.כדי שנחשוב שהם שמחים

.כדי שיחשבו שאנחנו שמחים


In the Old City of Jerusalem, there is no clearer symptom of strife than its numerous dividing walls. In such an extreme atmosphere, the mere sight of a kite flying in the sky overhead carries profound significance – even if the child is nowhere in sight – and may indeed offer the only symbol, however whimsical, of reconciliation. Despite the sense of exasperation then, Amichai remains faithful to Jerusalem. Just as the poet-as-childhood-chorister in Mizmor sang “until my voice broke…/ first voice and second voice”, he likewise pledges his love to his ancestral city “until my heart breaks, first heart and second heart”:[84]

,בילדותי שרתי במקהלות בית הכנסת

שרתי עד קולי נשבר, שרתי

קול ראשון וקול שני. אשיר

עד לבי יישבר, לב ראשון ולב שני



Although he was born in Würzburg, Germany, Yehuda Amichai’s love for Jerusalem remains to this day one of the hallmarks of his poetic canon. For him, the relationship between Jew and Jerusalem is irrevocably symbiotic, though far more personally rendered than that of Halevi’s poetry, in Heichal Adonai u-Miqdash Hadomo for instance. In poem #15 from the “Jerusalem 1967” cycle,[85]


.אני וירושלים כעיוור וקיטע

היא רואה בשבילי

.עד ים המלח, עד אחרית הימים

ואני מכתיף אותה על כתפיי

.והולך עיוור בחשכתי למטה


The rabbinic parable of the blind and the lame – two watchmen who were both equally incriminated for picking and eating the owner’s figs – are here transposed into a sublime portrait of the relationship between Jew and Jerusalem. While Man (who can walk) provides a kind of ontological currency and historical impetus, it is the City (who can see) that is directly tapped into eternity and that, as a result, guides the former towards his destiny, towards the “End of Days”.[86] But even so, for Amichai it is the individual and not Jerusalem, reified by tourists that gives meaning to all human experience and existence:

I said to myself: redemption will come only if their [tourist] guide tells them, “You see that arch from the Roman period? It’s not important: but next to it, left and down a bit, there sits a man who’s bought fruit and vegetables for his family.”[87]



Though the foregoing study may not have been exhaustive in its analytical scope, it has at least attempted to examine Jerusalem as portrayed in the poetry of two important Jewish social critics and poets, and by extension, their individual attitudes towards the Holy City. On the one hand, Judah Halevi lived during a time of Jewish cultural renaissance, in a land historically noted for its great learning and relative social emancipation. And yet, he mourned the ruins of Palestine and yearned to migrate eastwards, exhilarated by the dream of returning to Jerusalem. On the other hand, Yehuda Amichai came of age with the actual rebirth of the ancient Jewish homeland, followed by the restoration of Jerusalem two decades later. Sadly, the fulfillment of the same dream that teased Halevi a thousand years before has brought with it not resolution, but geopolitical conflicts, socioreligious tensions, and on balance, acute personal and generational exasperation. Even so, like Amichai, there will be those among future generations of Israeli Jews who will continue yearning for Jerusalem until their hearts break, “first heart and second heart”, and who, like Halevi, will not relinquish hope till they behold “the rising / of thy light and the breaking of thy dawn /…when thou returnst to thine youth of yore”.


If I forget thee, O Jerusalem,

Let my right hand forget its cunning!

If I do not remember thee,

Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth –

If I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.

– Psalms 137:4-6


Painting: David Roberts, 1839


[1] Alix E. Ginsburg, Jerusalem Diminished: Aspects of Jerusalem in the Contemporary Hebrew Short Story (In the Works of David Shachar, Aharon Apelfeld, Amos Oz and A.B. Yehoshua), Ann Arbor, Michigan: University Microfilms International (Doctoral dissertation, Brandeis University, Departments of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, May 1984), p. 2.

[2] Amos Elon, Jerusalem: City of Mirrors, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1989, p. 22.

[3] Amos 1:2; Mordecai S. Chertoff, “Jerusalem in Song and Psalm”, in Alice L. Eckardt (ed.), Jerusalem: City of the Ages, Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1987, pp. 234-5.

[4] Term borrowed from Ginsburg, Jerusalem Diminished, p. 2.

[5] This is in contrast to Chayim Nachman Bialik, who was the quintessential Hebrew, not Israeli poet.

[6] For the purposes of this work, I have taken the liberty to replace ktiv chaser with ktiv male.

[7] T. Carmi (ed. & trans.), The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse, Middlesex, UK: Penguin, 1981, p. 107.

[8] Dan Pagis, Hebrew Poetry of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, foreword by Robert Alter, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991, p. xii.

[9] Here, I refer to al-Ghazzālī’s magisterial Tahāfut al-Falāsifa (The Incoherence of the Philosophers); For similarities between al-Ghazzālī and Halevi, see for example D. Z. Baneth, “R. Yehuda Halevi ve-al-Ghazzali”, Kneset 7 (1942), pp. 311-28.

[10] Shalom Rosenberg, “The Link to the Land of Israel in Jewish Thought: A Clash of Perspectives”, in Lawrence A. Hoffman (ed.), The Land of Israel: Jewish Perspectives, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1986, pp. 155-6.

[11] Judah Halevi, Liber Cosri (The Kuzari), reprint of John Buxtorf’s 1660 translation, introduction by Herbert Davidson, England: Gregg International Publishers, 1971 (Latin, with a parallel text in Hebrew based on Judah ibn Tibbon’s translation), 5:27.

[12] Halevi, The Kuzari, 5:22.

[13] Yosef Seh-Lavan, Rav Yehuda Halevi, Tel-Aviv: Or-Am, 1978 (Hebrew), p. 5.

[14] Ibid., p. 36.

[15] Abraham Regelson, “Israel’s Sweetest Singer: Yehuda Halevi (1080-1140), first published by the Hebrew Poetry Society of America in 1943, available at:

[16] David Hartman, Israelis and the Jewish Tradition: An Ancient People Debating its Future, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000, p. 32.

[17] Judah Halevi, Selected Poems of Jehudah Halevi, Heinrich Brody (ed.), Nina Salaman (trans.), New York: Arno Press, 1973 (English and Hebrew), p. 2.

[18] Ibid., pp. 3-7.

[19] Ibid., p. 37; Judah Halevi, Ninety-Two Poems and Hymns of Yehuda Halevi, Franz Rosenzweig (ed.), Thomas Kovach, Eva Jospe & Gilya Gerda Schmidt (trans.), Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000, p. 267.

[20] See Daniel Grossberg, “Yehuda Amichai’s Jerusalem”, Midstream, Vol. 50, Iss. 4, May-June 2004.

[21] Elon, Jerusalem: City of Mirrors, p. 20.

[22] Ibid., p. 14.

[23] Isaiah 20:3; 2 Samuel 6:14-6.

[24] Halevi, Ninety-Two Poems, Rosenzweig (ed.), p. 233; Here, it is Nina Salaman’s English re-translation of Brody’s German version that appears, Selected Poems, p. 19.

[25] Ibid. loc. cit.

[26] For the use of the term, see Rosenberg, “The Link to the Land of Israel in Jewish Thought”, p. 150.

[27] Halevi, The Kuzari, 2:8-24.

[28] See Eckardt, Jerusalem: City of the Ages, p. 23.

[29] Halevi, Selected Poems, Brody (ed.), pp. 39-43.

[30] Ibid., p. 9.

[31] Hartman, Israelis and the Jewish Tradition, pp. 45-6.

[32] Yochanan Silman, Philosopher and Prophet: Judah Halevi, the Kuzari, and the Evolution of His Thought, Lenn J. Schramm (trans.), Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995, pp. 143-5.

[33] Raymond P. Scheindlin, “Yehuda Halevi and the Poetry of the Judeo-Arabic Age”, Midstream, Vol. 49, Iss. 5, July-August 2003.

[34] Proyect Ben-Yehuda, available at:

[35] Halevi, Selected Poems, Brody (ed.), pp. 14-17.

[36] Seh-Lavan, Rav Yehuda Halevi, p. 7.

[37] Talmud, Kiddushin 49b.

[38] Elie Wiesel, A Beggar in Jerusalem, London: Sphere Books, 1971, p. 166.

[39] Halevi, Selected Poems, Brody (ed.), p. 116.

[40] Proyect Ben-Yehuda, available at:

[41] Cited by Nina Salaman in her introduction to Halevi, Selected Poems, Brody (ed.), p. xiv.

[42] Cited in Arie Schippers, Spanish Hebrew Poetry and the Arabic Literary Tradition: Arabic Themes in Hebrew Andalusian Poetry, Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1994, pp. 66-7.

[43] Ziva Shamir, “The Conceit as a Cardinal Style-Marker in Yehuda Amichai’s Poetry”, in Glenda Abramson (ed.), The Experienced Soul: Studies in Amichai, Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1997, p. 19.

[44] Eisig Silberschlag, “Dissociation and Discontinuity in Contemporary Hebrew Literature: Yehuda Amichai”, ch. 13 in his From Renaissance to Renaissance II: Hebrew Literature in the Land of Israel, 1870-1970, New York: Ktav Publishing House, 1977, p. 131.

[45] Boaz Arpaly, “On the Political Significance of Amichai’s Poetry”, in Glenda Abramson (ed.), The Experienced Soul: Studies in Amichai, Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1997, p. 42.

[46] Leon I. Yudkin, Escape into Siege: A Survey of Israeli Literature Today, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974, p. 143.

[47] Joseph Cohen, Voices of Israel: Essays on and Interviews with Yehuda Amichai, A. B. Yehoshua, T. Carmi, Aharon Appelfeld and Amos Oz, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990, p. 21.

[48] See Mordecai S. Chertoff, “Jerusalem in Song and Psalm”, p. 239.

[49] Poem #1 “Yerushalayim 1967”, Yehuda Amichai, Poems of Jerusalem: A Bilingual Edition, New York: Harper & Row, 1988, p. 38.

[50] Micah 4:4.

[51] Amichai, Poems of Jerusalem, p. 116.

[52] Poem #9 “Yerushalayim Yerushalayim, Lama Yerushalayim?”, Yehuda Amichai, Patuach, Sagur, Patuach, Tel-Aviv: Schocken, 1998 (Hebrew), p. 144.

[53] Chana Bloch & Chana Kronfeld, “Amichai’s Jerusalem”, Tikkun, Vol. 14, Iss. 5, Sept 1999.

[54] Poem #22 “Yerushalayim 1967”, Amichai, Poems of Jerusalem, p. 62.

[55] Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, Henrietta Szold (trans.), 7 vols., Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, c. 1937-66, 1:12; Grossberg, “Yehuda Amichai’s Jerusalem”.

[56] “Garti Chodshayim be-Abu Tor”, Amichai, Poems of Jerusalem, p. 24.

[57] Cited in Elon, Jerusalem: City of Mirrors, p. 64.

[58] Poem #19 “Yerushalayim Yerushalayim, Lama Yerushalayim?”, Amichai, Patuach, Sagur, Patuach, p. 149-50; the last two lines of the poem, however, do not seem to have come through too well in the English translation by Bloch and Kronfeld; see their article “Amichai’s Jerusalem”.

[59] Cited in Elon, Jerusalem: City of Mirrors, p. 63.

[60] Poem #12 “Yerushalayim Yerushalayim, Lama Yerushalayim?”, Amichai, Patuach, Sagur, Patuach, p. 146.

[61] Poem #6 “Yerushalayim Yerushalayim, Lama Yerushalayim?”, ibid., pp. 142-3.

[62] Yehuda Amichai, Achshav ba-Ra’ash: Shirim 1963-1968, Tel-Aviv: Schocken, 1975 (Hebrew), pp. 93-4; Silberschlag, “Dissociation and Discontinuity”, p. 135.

[63] Poem #36 “Shirei Erets Tsion ve-Yerushalayim”, Amichai, Poems of Jerusalem, p. 84.

[64] Elon, Jerusalem: City of Mirrors, p. 32.

[65] Poem #13 “Yerushalayim Yerushalayim, Lama Yerushalayim?”, Amichai, Patuach, Sagur, Patuach, pp. 146-7.

[66] Translation from Grossberg, “Yehuda Amichai’s Jerusalem”.

[67] Ibid.

[68] Poem #8 “Yerushalayim 1967”, Amichai, Poems of Jerusalem, p. 46-8.

[69] Poem #21 “Shirei Erets Tsion ve-Yerushalayim”, ibid., p. 64.

[70] Elon, Jerusalem: City of Mirrors, p. 22.

[71] Amichai, Poems of Jerusalem, p. 100.

[72] 2 Samuel 24:24.

[73] Here, my reference is to Jerusalem imploding and collapsing from all the weight of her history piled onto her. Creationists-cum-astrophysicians believe that before the Big Bang occurred, the entire universe was compressed into a gravitational singularity, that is, a single point where time, space, eternity and infinity meet. The same theory holds that once the universe reaches the limits of its expansion, the process will be reversed, collapsing once again into that single point of everything and nothing.

[74] Poem #19 “Yerushalayim 1967”, Amichai, Poems of Jerusalem, p. 58.

[75] Elon, Jerusalem: City of Mirrors, p. 64.

[76] “Rosh Ir”, Amichai, Poems of Jerusalem, p. 36.

[77] Poem #12 “Yerushalayim 1967”, ibid., p. 51.

[78] Poem #4 “Yerushalayim 1967”, ibid., p. 42.

[79] “Nisionot ha-Hitabdut Shel Yerushalayim”, ibid., p. 32.

[80] Poem #5 “Yerushalayim 1967”, ibid., p. 44.

[81] Esther Fuchs, “Remembering Yehuda Amichai: Homage to an Israeli Poet”, Midstream, Vol. 47, Iss. 4, May 2001.

[82] Amichai, Poems of Jerusalem, p. 106.

[83] Ibid., p. 4.

[84] Ibid., p. 116.

[85] Poem #15 “Yerushalayim 1967”, ibid., p. 54.

[86] Sanhedrin 91b; Silberschlag, “Dissociation and Discontinuity”, p. 132.

[87] “Tayarim”, Amichai, Poems of Jerusalem, p. 134; English translation by Glenda Abramson and Tudor Parfitt, p. 135.


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