Page 65 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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ABRAMSON / RETURN TO 1948
57
an extent with the sensibility of his generation that his poetry
easily bears its labels of rhetoric, ritualization and “classicism.”
THE PALMAH YEARS
One of the areas of this quasi-autobiographical classicism re­
lates to the military experience of Amichai’s generation in 1948.
The so-called
Palmah?
generation or “the generation of the land”
(Dor ba-aretz,
after a line in Tchernichowsky’s
Ani ma’amin)
is
chronologically well into middle age. Yet the shadows of the
young men of 1948 with their open-necked shirts, their endur­
ing machismo and their
bloriyot
(shocks of hair) are never far
away. In his last but one book,
Gam ha-egrof hayah pa'am yad
petuhah ve-etzba’ot,
1989, Amichai pays tribute to them, to himself
as he once was and to the period whose epic nature is an en­
trenched part of Israeli culture. There is something abidingly
unresolved about that period, with continuing disputes about
the early founding “mythology,” whether it is to be preserved,
demythologized or obliterated. This wrangle has political over­
tones as is obvious from the interview with Amichai by Dalia
Karpel.6It seems the preservation of the early heroic stereotypes
(coalesced in the person of Amichai’s fellow soldier, Dickie, who
appears again in
Gam ha-egrof)
implies the glorification of the
origins of the present Israeli crisis. The
sabra
hero embodied
militarism, nationalism, masculinity — traits more unfashion­
able in present day liberal-intellectual thinking than they were
then.
Amichai’s poetry on the subject of war published during the
first decade after the War of Independence was a sustained
remonstration with God for his indifference to the fate of his
creatures in the world and his abandonment of them, his lack
of mercy, his “madness” in his dealing with his world, and his
absence, themes well elaborated throughout Amichai’s entire
5. The title given to this generation implies that they all fought in the War
o f Independence and that they constitute a unified literary “school.” How­
ever, not only did they not all serve in the
Palmah,
but they do not share
identical concerns, themes or viewpoints which would justify their belonging
to such a “school.” There were many unifying factors among them, but
there are as many differences in their education, their languages, their
birthplaces and their relationship to traditional Judaism.
6. Karpel, ibid.