Two active Israeli poets who often use Jewish sources have recently responded in their work to the current political situation in the country: an attempt by the administrative and legislative branches of government to override the judiciary, an attempt which has been met with a weekly outpouring of mass protest. Rivka Miriam’s poem was written for a special edition of the Haggadah, the book read aloud at the Passover holiday meal. This new Freedom Haggadah, which opens with a preface by novelist David Grossman, includes pieces by Israeli writers interwoven with the traditional text, itself a pastiche of texts circling the biblical story of Israelites released from bondage in Egypt. For poet Rivka Miriam, their Jewish/Israeli descendants seem never to have left Egypt behind. Admiel Kosman, writing his own prequel to traditional morning prayers, proposes that the extreme nationalist government’s desire for overweening power is an apparent attempt to counteract the antisemitic and sexist stereotype of Jews as weakly feminine, and, therefore, constitutes an acceptance of both masculine toxicity and the stereotype.—LKPoets-on-politics
Rivka Miriam (b. Israel, 1952)is the Yehuda Amichai Prize-winning author of some 20 books of verse, eight volumes of short stories, five books for children and a collection of essays. The daughter of Holocaust survivors, her nom de plume is a combination of the names of her murdered grandmothers. A selection of her poetry is available in English translation by Linda Zisquit, These Mountains (Toby Press 2009).
Poet and scholar Admiel Kosman: b. Haifa, Israel, in Germany since 2003. Professor of religious studies and director of the School of Jewish Theology at Potsdam University, Germany, and academic director of the Geiger Rabbinical Seminary in Berlin. The author of nine books of Hebrew poetry and the bilingual Hebrew-English selections: So Many Things Are Yours, tr. Lisa Katz,2023, Zephyr Press, and Approaching You in English, Zephyr 2011; five academic books on Talmud and Midrash, two of which have appeared in English – Men’s World and Gender and Dialogue in the Rabbinic Prism.
Lisa Katz (b. New York, in Jerusalem since 1983) is, most recently, translator of So Many Things Are Yours, a bilingual selection of the poetry of Admiel Kosman, (Zephyr Press, 2023) and The Absolute Reader, a chapbook of verse by Miri Ben Simhon (Toad Press 2020) A chapbook of her own work, Are You With Me, was published by Finishing Line and Shihzur/Reconstruction, poetry in Hebrew translation, by the Am Oved Press.
NOTE: In translating Rivka Miriam, I was assisted in understanding the original by translator Orr Scharf, whoteaches in the Cultural Studies M.A. Program at The University of Haifa. He is author of Thinking in Translation: Scripture and Redemption in the Thought of Franz Rosenzweig (De Gruyter, 2019), and editor of volume 5 in the critical edition of Martin Buber’s complete works, Vorlesungen über Judentum und Christentum (Gütersloh, 2017). And in creating the English version, by American poet Natasha Sajé https://natashasaje.com/
The Freedom Haggadah may be found here. The translation of Rivka Miriam’s poem appears in it in an earlier version.