One of the many things that Israelis and Palestinians have in common is the role that poetry plays in their popular culture. For both Israelis and Palestinians, poetry is a bridge that connects their personal experience to the national, collective narrative of their people.
Yehuda Amichai is Israel’s most prominent modern poet, widely considered the country’s poetic voice of peace. When Yitzhak Rabin was invited to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, he asked Amichai to join him and read a couple of poems. One of his selections was his piercing anti-war poem, God has Pity on Kindergarten Children.
Four years after the ceremony in Oslo and two years after his death in 2000, Amichai published his last book of poems, Open Closed Open, a crescendo of Amichai’s unique combination of philosophy and playfulness, humanity and humor, irony and innocence.
If you like Amichai’s poetry, you will love this book. Consider this poem, titled I, May I Rest in Peace:
I, may I rest in peace – I, who am still living, say,
May I have peace in the rest of my life.
I want peace right now while I'm still alive.
I don't want to wait like that pious man who wished for one leg
of the golden chair of Paradise, I want a four-legged chair
right here, a plain wooden chair. I want the rest of my peace now.
I have lived out my life in wars of every kind: battles without
and within, close combat, face-to-face, the faces always
my own, my lover-face, my enemy-face.
Wars with the old weapons—sticks and stones, blunt axe, words,
dull ripping knife, love and hate,
and wars with newfangled weapons—machine gun, missile,
words, land mines exploding, love and hate.
I don't want to fulfill my parents' prophecy that life is war.
I want peace with all my body and all my soul.
Rest me in peace.
We wish you a peaceful and restful holiday season, and may 2016 bring better news to us all.
For a donation of $108 or more, APN will send you this book. Please note that all but $18 of your donation will be tax deductible and please be sure to put “Open Closed Open” in the comment field. Thank you.