Page 67 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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estine.”4 They had been nu r tu red , first, on the idealistic and
idyllic rhetoric o f the maskilic writers, then on the mystic u to ­
pianism o f Zionism. They were no strangers to romantic na­
tionalism which had defined cultural though t since the revo­
lution o f 1789. They discovered that these sources had largely
overlooked the practical process o f separation from family and
landscape o f the diaspora, and the searing problems con fron t­
ing the inexperienced p ioneer which the Galician-born Pales­
tinian poet Uri Zvi G reenberg (1894-1985) was among the first
to describe in a poem celebrating the majesty o f Jerusalem :
We abandoned our dreams and ambition
That we might be poor laborers in the desert.
Where in the world is there such a thing? Ask, you who were
burned by Titus! . . .
The heat slowly burns away our beloved youth
Whose dust each day is scattered like gold on the crevices
And we ask no payment fo r our destruction.
We cover the marshes with our precious bodies
As our hands drive in the eucalyptus trees,
We who provide a feast fo r the worms o f Canaan
We are ready with faithful bodies which fever
To be the warm bridge fo r your rulership, over
The abyss of blood.5
Embodied in the labor idealism o f halutziut was the anomaly
o f a largely urbanized and intellectual g roup o f young men and
women, with little experience o f either heavy labor o r agricul­
ture, arriving to become farmers and road builders. Second,
the literature o f this period reveals that from time to time the
p ioneers’ exhilaration is tempered by a nostalgia or yearning
for the country they had left behind. The
in their poetry is stylistically reminiscent o f tha t o f the maskilic
poets for the Holy Land, except that the object o f the yearning
has become inverted in an ironic reversal o f 18th-century mas­
kilic nostalgia. Within the minutely observed poetic rendering
o f the yishuv, some o f the Palestinian poets write with equal
4. Patterson David, “Some Aspects o f the Transference o f Hebrew Literature
from Eastern Europe to
Eretz Yisrael,”
in Rabin, Chaim et al., eds.,
in the Bible and the Hebrew Language Offered to Meir Wallenstein.
Kiryat Sefer, 1979, p. 57; also, pp. 45-66.
5. Greenberg, Uri Zvi, “Le-Margelotayikh, Yerushalayim,” in his
Sefer ha-
K itrug veha-Emunah,
Jerusalem-Tel-Aviv, 1937.