Yehuda Amichai (Israel)

 
Yehuda Amichai (Israel)
 
Yehuda Amichai was born in Würzburg, Germany, to an Orthodox Jewish family, and was raised speaking both Hebrew and German. His German name was Ludwig Pfeuffer.
 
Amichai immigrated with his family at the age of 12 to Petah Tikva in Mandate Palestine in 1935, moving to Jerusalem in 1935. He attended Ma’aleh, a religious high school in Jerusalem. He was a member of the Palmach, the strike force of the Haganah, the defense force of the Jewish community in Mandate Palestine. As a young man he volunteered and fought in World War II as a soldier in the British Army, and in the Negev on the southern front in the 1947–1949 Palestine war.
 
After discharge from the British Army in 1946, Amichai was a student at David Yellin Teachers College in Jerusalem, and became a teacher in Haifa. After the 1947–1949 1948 Arab–Israeli War, Amichai studied the Torah and Hebrew literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Encouraged by one of his professors at Hebrew University, he published his first book of poetry, Now and in Other Days, in 1955.
 
In 1956, Amichai served in the Sinai War, and in 1973 he served in the Yom Kippur War. Amichai published his first novel, Not of This Time, Not of This Place, in 1963. It is about a young Israeli who was born in Germany; after World War II, and the 1947–1949 Palestine war, he visits his hometown in Germany and recalls his childhood, trying to make sense of the world that created the Holocaust. His second novel, Mi Yitneni Malon, about an Israeli poet living in New York, was published in 1971 while Amichai was a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He was a poet in residence at New York University in 1987. For many years he taught literature in an Israeli seminar for teachers, and at the Hebrew University to students from abroad.
 
Amichai was invited in 1994 by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to read from his poems at the ceremony of the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. “God Has Pity on Kindergarten Children” was one of the poems he read. This poem is inscribed on a wall in the Rabin Museum in Tel Aviv. There are streets named for him in cities in Israel, and also one in Würzburg.
 
Amichai was married twice. He was first married to Tamar Horn, with whom he had one son, and then to Chana Sokolov; they had one son and one daughter. His two sons were Ron and David, and his daughter was Emmanuella.
 
Amichai died of cancer in 2000, at age 76.
 
 
***
Amichai sold his archive for over $200,000 to the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University. The archive contains 1,500 letters received from the early 1960s to the early 1990s from dozens of Israeli writers, poets, intellectuals and politicians. Overseas correspondence includes letters from Ted Hughes, Arthur Miller, Erica Jong, Paul Celan, and many others. The archive also includes dozens of unpublished poems, stories and plays; 50 notebooks and notepads with 1,500 pages of notes, poems, thoughts and drafts from the 1950s onward; and the poet’s diaries, which he kept for 40 years. According to Moshe Mossek, former head of the Israel State Archive, these materials offer priceless data about Amichai’s life and work.
 
 
 
***
 
I remember a question in the book of the study of arithmetic,
On a train departing from one place and another train
That comes from another place. When will they meet?
And no one asked what would happen when they met,
If they stop or pass one over the other and maybe they will collide.
And there was no question of a man coming out of one place
And a woman who comes from somewhere else. When will they meet
And will they meet at all and for how long will they meet?
And as for the book of the study of the account. I’ve arrived now
To the last pages where the list of solutions is listed.
And then it was forbidden to look at them and to use them.
It’s allowed now. Now I’m checking
What was I right and what was wrong?
And he knows what I did right and what I did not do. Amen.
 
 
שיר 10 – ספר לימוד החשבון
 
אֲנִי זוֹכֵר שְׁאֵלָה בְּסֵפֶר לִמּוּד הַחֶשְׁבּוֹן,
עַל רַכֶּבֶת שֶׁיּוֹצֵאת מִמָּקוֹם אֶחָד וְרַכֶּבֶת אַחֶרֶת
שֶׁיּוֹצֵאת מִמָּקוֹם אַחֵר. מָתַי יִפָּגְשׁוּ?
וְאַף אֶחָד לֹא שָׁאַל מָה יִקְרֶה כַּאֲשֶׁר יִפָּגְשׁוּ,
אִם יַעַצְרוּ אוֹ יַעַבְרוּ אַחַת עַל פְּנֵי הַשְּׁנִיָּה וְאוּלַי יִתְנַגְּשׁוּ.
וְלֹא הָיְתָה שְׁאֵלָה עַל אִישׁ שֶׁיּוֹצֵא מִמָּקוֹם אֶחָד
וְאִשָּׁה שֶׁיּוֹצֵאת מִמָּקוֹם אַחֵר. מָתַי יִפָּגְשׁוּ
וְהַאִם בִּכְלָל יִפָּגְשׁוּ וּלְכַמָּה זְמַן יִפָּגְשׁוּ?
וּבִדְבַר סֵפֶר לִמּוּד הַחֶשְׁבּוֹן. עַכְשָׁו הִגַּעְתִּי
אֶל הָעַמּוּדִים הָאַחֲרוֹנִים שֶׁבָּהֶם רְשִׁימַת הַפִּתְרוֹנוֹת.
וְאָז הָיָה אָסוּר לְהִסְתַּכֵּל בָּהֶם וּלְהִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בָּהֶם.
עַכְשָׁו מֻתָּר. עַכְשָׁו אֲנִי בּוֹדֵק
בַּמֶּה צָדַקְתִּי וּבַמֶּה טָעִיתִי
וְיוֹדֵעַ מֶה עָשִׂיתִי נָכוֹן וּמָה לֹא עָשִׂיתִי. אָמֵן.
 
יהודה עמיחי

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