Poetry Candles of Hope for Hanukkah

For every candle of Hanukkah, Shlomit Naim-Naor will present a Hebrew poem, written by an Israeli woman. Enjoy!

The Light of Israeli women poets – Candle #8 – Shlomit Naim-Naor

December 24, 2014 by

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This is one of my poems. Dedicated to my partner, who celebrates his birthday this week. We are celebrating five years of acquaintance, and four years since he told me he loved me.

The eighth candle of Hanukkah. A candle of rain outside, of joy in the home, of faith in general, and of faith in love in particular.

Love is Hard Work

If you see one Rainbow
The second rainbow will show immediately
You said you love me

And if the second rainbow will show
so will the third
You`ll keep loving me
Even if I am fired.

It was raining in Tel Aviv
And Jerusalem kept dry
The price of the petrol just rose

But rainbows are for free.
And love is hard work.

וְאִם קֶשֶׁת אַחַת תּוֹפִיעַ

מִיַּד תַּעֲלֶה הַשְּׁנִיָּה

וְאָמַרְתָּ שֶׁאַתָּה אוֹהֵב אוֹתִי

וְאֵם  תעלהַ הַשְּׁנִיָּה תּוֹפִיעַ גַּם


וְגַם אִם יְפַטְּרוּ אוֹתִי

עֲדַיִן תֹּאהַב אוֹתִי

וּבְתֵל אָבִיב יָרַד גֶּשֶׁם

וִירוּשָׁלַיִם יְבֵשָׁה

וּמְחִירֵי הַדֶּלֶק עָלוּ

אֲבָל קֶשֶׁת זֶה בְּחִנָּם

וְאַהֲבָה זֶה

הַרְבֵּה עֲבוֹדָה


The light of Israeli women poets – Candle #7 – Agi Mishol

December 24, 2014 by

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agi misholAgi Mishol was born in Hungary in 1947 to holocaust survivor parents, and arrived in Israel as a baby. Today she lives in a Moshav, married to a farmer, and her poetry is full of the pastoral landscape in which she lives, of her experiences as a part-foreigner in Israel. I chose the poem “Shahida – Woman Martyr” for its politics. Since when does anyone write a poem about suicide bombings?

                                 “The afternoon darkens,3291_poem_mishol_shahida
and you are only twenty.”
Nathan Alterman
                                 Afternoon in the Market

You are only twenty
and your first pregnancy is an exploding bomb.
Under your broad skirt you are pregnant with dynamite
and metal shavings.  This is how you walk in the market,
ticking among the people, you, Andaleeb Takatkah.

Someone changed the workings in your head
and launched you toward the city;
even though you come from Bethlehem,
the Home of Bread, you chose a bakery.
And there you pulled the trigger inside yourself,
and together with the Sabbath loaves,
sesame and poppy seed,
you flung yourself into the sky.

Together with Rebecca Fink you flew up
with Yelena Konreeb from the Caucasus
and Nissim Cohen from Afghanistan
and Suhila Houshy from Iran
and two Chinese you swept along
to death.

Since then, other matters
have obscured your story,
about which I speak all the time
without having anything to say.

The light of Israeli women poets – Candle #5 – Esther Ettinger

December 22, 2014 by

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esterThe fifth candle I chose to light with the poetry of Esther Ettinger. She was born in Israel in 1941, and lives and works in Jerusalem. Her writing is suffused with religious language while addressing human existential questions.

In the poem Dynasty, she uses shoes as an object that passes from generation to generation and carries within it historical memory. Shoes are often used in Israeli art as a metonymy for the Holocaust and disaster. In this poem they become a source of power.

Hanukkah is a festival full of light, in which we see women lighting Hanukkiot, and taking a full part in the festive joy. In honor of the women who are creating new dynasties of religious activity I lit the fifth candle of Hanukkah.


Shoes –
black suede, size thirty-eight
that I bought in Rome with my mother
near the fountain
in ninety-one.
My granddaughters walk in them.
Their big toes swim down into the boats’
sharp prows,
and they sail on their high haunches
on a journey through the rooms,
fail and stand up again.

This is how we establish a dynasty.

© Translation: 2012, Lisa Katz


© 2011, Hakibbutz Hameuchad
From: Night and Day
Publisher: Hakibbutz Hameuchad, Tel Aviv, 2011

The light of Israeli women poets – Candle #4 – Yona Wallach

December 21, 2014 by

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wallachYona Wollach is a mad woman, the cursed prophet of Hebrew poetry. The woman who wove her madness into a tapestry of words that presaged a great change in the Israeli public. This can be seen in the next poem – Yonatan.

The final line “Forgive us, we didn’t know you were like that” is directed at the older generation, with its hierarchy and expectations of what is masculine and feminine behavior.

This final line that ends the poem, raises many questions regarding what we do expect from someone who is “like that”. That they should behave differently when being beheaded? Wollach plays freely with the Biblical Jonathan, reminds us of the love of David and Jonathan, not only the story of the honey forest. Is this the reason for the beheading? The blood lust? And what is the gladiola doing there? Is it a guillotine? Or an aesthetic flower that beautifies the horrific crime that is taking place?

I dedicate the fourth candle to those women who were before their time.



I run on the bridge
and the children after me
Jonathan they call
a little blood
just a little blood to top off the honey
I agree to the pierce of a tack
but the children want
and they are children
and I am Jonathan
They lop off my head with a gladiola
stalk and gather my head
with two gladiola stalks and wrap
my head in rustling paper
Jonathan they say
forgive us really
we didn’t imagine you were like that

© Translation: Linda Zisquit
From: Wild light
Publisher: Sheep Meadow Press, New York, 1997, 1-878818-54-6
© 1966, Yona WallachFrom: Dvarim (Things)

Publisher: aKHSHAV



The light of Israeli women poets – Candle #3 – Zelda

December 19, 2014 by

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In honor of Friday – in honor of Shabbat eve, I choose the poetess Zelda to add some light for us.

Zelda (Shneurson-Mishkowsky) was a Chassidic poet, and accepted in the secular world. Her poems were first published by the United Kibbutz Publishers, in the days when they mainly published poets from kibbutzim connected to the working settlements.

The poem I have chosen distils the difficulty I feel every Friday. What does the sacred feel like? How can one usher in the Sabbath, the rest, the sacred, into a heart still full of quotidian concerns?



Light a candle,
drink wine.
Softly the Sabbath has plucked
the sinking sun.
Slowly the Sabbath descends,
the rose of heaven in her hand.

How can the Sabbath
plant a huge and shining flower
in a blind and narrow heart?
How can the Sabbath
plant the bud of angels
in a heart of raving flesh?
Can the rose of immortality grow
in a generation enslaved
to destruction,
a generation enslaved
to death?

Light a candle!
Drink wine!
Slowly the Sabbath descends
and in her hand the flower,
and in her hand
the sinking sun.

The light of Israeli’s women poets – Candle #2 – Leah Goldberg

December 18, 2014 by

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This second candle is particularly challenging. When I first read the poems of Leah Goldberg, I feared I would never be able to write poetry again. I was twelve or thirteen years old, I scarcely understood what was being said, but the power of the words struck me. I’m not a fan of Holocaust literature, I struggle to cope with the atrocities. In Leah Goldberg’s creation the horrors of the thirties and the Holocaust years are gently drawn. That date. 1935. And the location Tel Aviv.

I dedicate the second candle to all the men and women who left one homeland for another.

Memories of memories

Then the aerials on the city’s roofs were
like the masts of Columbus’ ships
and every raven that perched on their tips
announced a new continent.
And the kit-bags of travelers walked the streets
and the language of a foreign land
cut through the heat of the day
like the blade of a cold knife.
How could the air of the small city
bear so many
childhood memories, wilted loves,
rooms which were emptied somewhere?
Like pictures blackening in a camera,
the clear cold nights reversed
rainy summer nights across the sea
and shadowy mornings of great cities.
And the sound of footsteps behind your back
drum the marching songs of foreign troops
and it seems – if you but turn your head
there is your hometown church floating on the sea.

In “Tel Aviv 1935” (page 134) –
the first section of a long poem called “The Shortest Journey,” trans:  Rachel Zvia Back

הַמַּסָּע הַקָּצָר בְּיוֹתֵר / לאה גולדברג
מספרה “עם הלילה הזה”, 1964

א. תֵּל-אָבִיב 1935
הַתְּרָנִים עַל גַּגּוֹת הַבָּתִּים הָיוּ אָז
כְּתָרְנֵי סְפִינָתוֹ שֶׁל קוֹלוּמְבּוּס
וְכָל עוֹרֵב שֶׁעָמַד עַל חֻדָּם
בִּשֵּׂר יַבֶּשֶׁת אַחֶרֶת.

וְהָלְכוּ בָּרְחוֹב צִקְלוֹנֵי הַנּוֹסְעִים
וְשָׂפָה שֶׁל אֶרֶץ זָרָה
הָיְתָה נִנְעֶצֶת בְּיוֹם הַחַמְסִין
כְּלַהַב סַכִּין קָרָה.

אֵיךְ יָכוֹל הָאֲוִיר שֶׁל הָעִיר הַקְּטַנָּה
לָשֵׂאת כָּל כָּךְ הַרְבֵּה
זִכְרוֹנוֹת יַלְדוּת, אֲהָבוֹת שֶׁנָּשְׁרוּ,
חֲדָרִים שֶׁרוֹקְנוּ אֵי-בָּזֶה?

כִּתְמוּנוֹת מַשְׁחִירוֹת בְּתוֹךְ מַצְלֵמָה
הִתְהַפְּכוּ לֵילוֹת חֹרֶף זַכִּים,
לֵילוֹת קַיִץ גְּשׁוּמִים שֶׁמֵּעֵבֶר לַיָּם
וּבְקָרִים אֲפֵלִים שֶׁל בִּירוֹת.

וְקוֹל צַעַד תּוֹפֵף אַחֲרֵי גַּבְּךָ
שִׁירֵי לֶכֶת שֶׁל צְבָא נֵכָר,
וְנִדְמֶה – אַךְ תַּחְזִיר אֶת רֹאשְׁךָ וּבַיָּם
שָׁטָה כְּנֵסִיַּת עִירְךָ.

The light of Israel’s women poets – Candle #1 – Esther Raab

December 17, 2014 by

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At this Hanukkah festival I choose to light a small candle for women’s Hebrew poetry. Without detailed historiography or complicated biographies. Every day I’ll bring a short poem, translated into English, and explain why it’s significant for me. I do hope this small candle will light a great light and develop within us the taste, memory, and longing for words once spoken in a whisper and today as a cry.

The first poetess is Esther Raav. She was born in 1894 in Petach Tikvah, and saw herself as a native-born poet. Her poems are full of sensuous descriptions of landscapes, and excel at their details of flora and fauna. She sang songs of praise to the Land, songs of longing for a lover taken from her, and many of her poems deal with women and femininity.


For our first Hanukkah candle I chose the poem “Who Made Me A Woman”, that in its gentle way argues with the Dawn Blessing “Blessed be He who has not made me a woman.” Esther Raav reflectively suggests some more positive language with which to address God.

Every morning I bless “Who made me a woman”. You (f) are invited to join me.

Blessed is he who made me a woman –
that I am earth and Adam,
a tender rib;
Blessed is he who made me
circles upon circles –
like the orbits of planets
and spheres of fruit –
who gave me living flesh
that blossoms,
and made me like a plant of the field –
that bears fruit;
so your cloud tatters,
slide like silk
over my face and thighs;
and I am grown
and want to be a girl,
weeping from sorrow,
and laughing, and singing aloud,
thinner than thin –
like the smallest cricket
in the sublime chorus
of your cherubs –
smallest of the small –
I play
at your feet –
my Creator!

© Translation: 2002, Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature
From: Thistles: Selected Poems of Esther Raab. Translated by Harold Schimmel
Publisher: Ibis, Jerusalem, 2002, 965-90124-8-9

שירַת אִשָּׁה/ אסתר ראב

בָּרוּךְ שֶׁעָשַׂנִי אִשָּׁה –

שֶׁאֲנִי אֲדָמָה וְאָדָם,

וְצֶלָע רַכָּה;

בָּרוּךְ שֶׁעֲשִׂיתַנִי

עִגּוּלִים עִגּוּלִים –

כְּגַלְגַּלֵי מַזָּלוֹת

וּכְעִגּוּלֵי פֵּרוֹת –

שֶׁנָּתַתָּ לִי בָּשָׂר חַי


וַעֲשִׂיתַנִי כְּצֶמַח הַשָּׂדֶה –

נוֹשֵׂא פְּרִי;

שֶׁקִּרְעֵי עֲנָנֶיךָ

מַחֲלִיקִים כְּמֶשִׁי

עַל פָּנַי וִירֵכַי;

וַאֲנִי גְּדוֹלָה

וּמְבַקֶּשֶׁת לִהְיוֹת יַלְדָּה,

בּוֹכִיָּה מִצַּעַר,

וְצוֹחֶקֶת וְשָׁרָה בְּקוֹל,

דַּק מִן הַדַּק –

כִּצְרָצַר זָעִיר

בְּמַקְהֵלַת כְּרוּבֶיךָ

הַנַּעֲלָה –

קְטַנָּה שֶׁבִּקְטַנּוֹת –

אֲנִי מְשַׂחֶקֶת



© 1988, Zmora Bitan Publishers
From: Collected Poems
Publisher: Zmora Bitan, Tel Aviv, 1988
ISBN: 965-03-0528-9

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