Sunday, July 27, 2014

On the Attitude Toward Children in Times of War, by Dahlia Ravikovitch (translated by Chana Bloch)

This is from Chana Bloch, in response to the deaths in Gaza:

I have no words. This is by Dahlia Ravikovitch (1936-2005), one of the great Hebrew poets of our time, acclaimed for her poetry, admired and vilified for her political activism...Chana Bloch

On the Attitude toward Children in Times of War

He who destroys thirty babies  
it is as if he'd destroyed three hundred babies,
and toddlers too,    
or even eight-and-a-half year olds;
in a year, God willing, they'd be soldiers
in the Palestine Liberation Army.  

Benighted children,     
at their age
they don't even have a real world view.
And their future is shrouded, too:       
refugee shacks, unwashed faces,
sewage flowing in the streets,
infected eyes,
a negative outlook on life.

And thus began the flight from city to village,
from village to burrows in the hills.
As when a man did flee from a lion,
as when he did flee from a bear,
as when he did flee from a cannon,
from an airplane, from our own troops.  

He who destroys thirty babies,
it is as if he'd destroyed one thousand and thirty,
or one thousand and seventy,
thousand upon thousand.
And for that alone shall he find  
no peace.

from Hovering at a Low Altitude: The Collected Poetry of Dahlia Ravikovitch
trans. Chana Bloch & Chana Kronfeld (Norton 2009).

     Author's note: This is a variation on a poem by Natan Zach that deals [satirically] with the question of whether there were exaggerations in the number of children reported killed in the [1982] Lebanon War. 
     Lines 1-2, He who destroyscf. Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 4:5: "He who destroys a single human soul . . . , it is as if he had destroyed an entire world." 
     Lines 16-17, As when a man: Amos 5:19, about the danger of apocalyptic yearnings.