Yehudah Amichai is the most translated Israeli poet of all time. His poems, written in Hebrew, have been translated into 40 languages, and entire volumes of his work have been published in English, French, German, Swedish, Spanish, and Catalan.
Born in Germany in 1924, Amichai’s family fled the country during Hitler’s rise to power when he was 12 and settled in Palestine. During the 1948 Arab-Israeli war he fought with the Israeli defense forces. The rigors and horrors of his service in this conflict, and in World War II, inform his poetry.
Amichai was on the shortlist for the Nobel Prize for literature and many believe that he would have won it if not for his untimely death from cancer in 2000.
“His humanism, and his uncanny ability to use modern day language and draw from Jewish (and other traditions), his unapologetic secularism, and vast knowledge of the Bible, places him in the forefront of liberal thinkers.” – Ilan Vitemberg, HaMaqom Educator
In Israel, many of Amichai’s poems were turned into popular songs by Israeli artists: Chava Alberstein, Yehudit Ravitz, Mati Caspi, Shlomo Gronich, Shlomo Artzi, and others. In 1994, when the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin traveled to Stockholm to accept the Nobel Peace Prize that he shared with Peres and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, he took Amichai with him. As the poet sat in the audience of distinguished guests at the ceremony, Rabin, the warrior-turned-peacemaker, used one of Amichai’s antiwar poems to illustrate his longing for peace. In simple yet profound ways, Amichai’s poetry challenges us to explore the ways we experience God, war, love, and one another.
If you would like to learn more and dive into the works of Yehuda Amichai, we invite you to join our upcoming course offering, “Recording Artists Meet Yehudah Amichai: Poems Turned to Music”. In this six-part series led by Ilan Vitemberg, we listen to different artists who took Amichai’s poems and turned them into songs. We will analyze the poems, discuss the beauty and depth of Amichai’s use of the Hebrew language, and see how different artists interpreted Amichai’s poetry in varied and beautiful ways. Hebrew knowledge is helpful but not required.
Recording Artists Meet Yehudah Amichai: Poems Turned to Music – Fall 2020
Wednesdays, 10/7 – 11/11
6:00 PM to 7:15 PM