Page 67 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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ABRAMSON / RETURN TO 1948
59
to the hill where I once had battles/ so that they should un­
derstand the things I did/ and forgive me for the things I didn’t
do” (9). Since the appeal for forgiveness is immediately followed
by the suggestion of forgetting this may be the fault for which
forgiveness is required. “The things I did” is qualified in a later
poem whose refrain “we did our duty” refers to the unsatis­
factory and equivocal nature either of this duty or of its ful­
fillment. One of the undischarged duties is that of remember­
ing: “we exchanged the word ‘remembrance’ for ‘forgotten.’ ”9
INDIVIDUAL AND COLLECTIVE MEMORY
The duty to remember is a national obligation. Because of
the nature of the War of Independence and its powerful cul­
tural implications for Israeli society the individual act of remem­
bering assumes national ritualistic proportions. Not only the
youth of the soldiers, which left many bereaved parents requir­
ing a means of memorialization, but also the unified and co­
hesive nature of Israeli society at the time demanded the de­
vising of a memorial ritual which could give equal consideration
to all the fallen. In these circumstances, when the personal, in­
dividualized memory achieves clear public expression it tran­
scends the private to aid the establishment of communal mem­
ory: the personal or familial memory becomes integrated with
that of the collective.10 Many fiction writers and poets created
works which ultimately served as ritual texts for the community.
In the context of war Amichai promotes the communalization
of personal concerns by utilizing personal experiences (visiting
the battle sites, recalling dead comrades) to memorialize the
communal effort. The statement, ‘I went up to the roof of the
white house/ to see what there was once/ and to remember those
who died here”(13) is at once an act of personal and public
remembrance. Because of the general indeterminacy of his
memories and their non-specific character, they can be deemed
to relate not only to him, but to the ordeals and accomplish­
ments of his entire generation.
Since public commemoration is derived from personal mem-
9. “Asinu et hamutal aleinu,” in
Gam ha-egrof,
p. 143.
10. See Emanuel Sivan,
Milhemet tashah: mitos, deyokan, zikkaron,
Tel Aviv:
Ma’arkhot,
1991, pp. 128, 131.