Page 73 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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ABRAMSON / RETURN TO 1948
65
Despite the repeated declaration which grows in irony with
each repetition, the duty has not been fulfilled or its fulfilment
is adverse, painful or undesirable. The poem is constructed of
a repeated pattern: the statement, “we did our duty,” the ex­
position of the duty itself and the conclusion which negates ei­
ther the value or the consequences of the duty. The “duty”
initially relates to Zionist ideology, a reasonable acknowledg­
ment of one of the essentials of the founding philosophy, to
make the land fruitful, to plant forests. The forests denote the
childhood of the
Palmah
hero, planted before the Israeli land­
scape changed utterly both topographically and ideologically af­
ter the war in 1948, and lost its innocence. In earlier poetry
Amichai had suggested the indivisibility of person and land and
the collectivity of experience related to the land:
When I was young so was the country. My father
was everyone’s father. When I rejoiced, the country rejoiced,
when I jumped on it,
it jumped under my feet. The spring grass covering it
softened me too, its dry summer earth hurt me
like a blister on my heel. When I loved deeply,
its independence was proclaimed. When my hair flew
so did its flags, when I went to war
it did too, and when I sank
it began to sink with me.15
Post-1948 events irrevocably altered the notion of the landscape,
and in the 60s the forest was singled out for ideological expur­
gation by A.B. Yehoshua in his famous novella
Mul ha-ye’arot,
(Facing the forests) 1962, which perceives the JNF forest as one
of the negative and destructive features of Zionism. In Amichai’s
Asinu
the wild flowers, like the forests, become a metonym of
a reformulated landscape: many Israeli wildflowers are red, like
drops of blood, bringing to mind the battlefields of World War
I with which the war of Independence has often been compared.
Flowers also recall Israeli military codes which sometimes in­
corporated their names. Pastoralism has disappeared from
Amichai’s redrawn environment in
Asinu;
the forests, the mush­
rooms and the flowers have lost their nostalgic function. The
landscape now serves the surreal outcome of an equivocal
“duty.”
15.
Ha-Zeman,
Schocken Books, 1977, p. 32.