Rahel the Poetess

Rahel's poetry expounded on the beauty of the land of Israel--but it was a tragedy in space that gave one of her poems renewed attention.

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The Hebrew poet known only as Rahel (1889-1931, born Rahel Bluwstein) expressed her love for the land of Israel through her beautiful and evocative poetry. Today, her grave beside her beloved Lake Kinneret is visited by tourists, pilgrims, and Rahel's many Israeli admirers.

 

When Ilan Ramon, Israel's first astronaut, perished aboard the space shuttle Columbia, one of Rahel's poems received renewed attention and popularity in Israel; Ramon had chosen to listen in space to a song whose lyrics were the Rahel poem "Sad Song" ("Zemer Nugeh" in Hebrew), which is also commonly known by its opening line, "Can you hear my voice?" ("Ha-tishma koli?").

The poem is reprinted below in Hebrew and in English translation, with the permission of the Jewish Agency. For more on Ilan Ramon, see the Jewish Agency's website.

Sad Song

 

Do you hear me, you who are
So far away from me, my dear?
Do you hear me crying aloud,
Wishing you were well, wishing you were near?

The world is vast, its ways diverse,
Brief meetings, partings long,
Men, with unsure feet, post on never to return, too weak
To find the treasure they have lost.
My last day drawing near
Of the tears of separation
I will await you until
my life leaves
as Rahel did her beloved.