Saturday, 20 January 2018

That Land, That Place, That World

There is a Hebrew poem by a well-known Jewish poet, Shaul Tschernichovsky. It is called אומרים ישנה ארץ"” (They say there is a Land). In it, Tschernichovsky describes a Land bathed in sunshine, A Land where all that each hoped and wished for will come true (“ארץ אשר בה יתקיים כל אשר איש קיווה”). Though, he never mentions that Land by name and only hints at it, some of us, Jews, know which Land it is. That Land is Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Yisrael.

This poem which I read last weekend prompted the recollection of two very popular English songs. The first, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” The second, “What a wonderful world.”

It is no secret that the first song, written in 1939 by two Jews, Yip Harburg and Harold Arlen has long been associated with Eretz Yisrael. According to Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg, “In writing it, the two men reached deep into their immigrant Jewish consciousness – framed by the pogroms of the past and the Holocaust about to happen – and wrote an unforgettable melody set to near prophetic words. Read the lyrics in their Jewish context and suddenly the words are no longer about wizards and Oz, Jewish survival.

Somewhere over the rainbow/Way up high/ There’s a land that I heart of/ Once in a lullaby.
Somewhere over the rainbow/ Skies are blue/And the dreams that you dare to dream/Really do come through
Someday I’ll wish upon a star/ And wake up where the clouds are far behind me.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops/ Away above the chimney tops/ That’s where you’ll find me.”

As a person who, like Harburg and Arlen, was reared and brought up in the Yiddish language and culture, I heard and sang several Yiddish lullabies about the yearning to That Place, Eretz Yisrael, the Land where my ancestors ached to live in for a very long time.  Harburg echoes similar sentiments to those of Tshernichovsky when he describes that Place where, “Skies are blue [and] the dreams that you dare to dream Really do come through.”

Walking the streets of my city, Herzliya, here in Eretz Yisrael, has brought about the reminiscence of a third, more recent and well-known song, “What a wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong.

Similarly to Armstrong, when I look around me here in Eretz Yisrael, “I see trees of green, red roses too,” in a place that once, not too long ago, was barren and deserted. As I raise my eyes I see the same “blue skies” that Armstrong is talking about.

Like him, I look at the faces “of people passing by, I see friends shaking hands singing ‘How do you do?’” Those who live here know that in a place like Yisrael, where people are bound by the same faith, same fate and same history, where people share a great love for the Land and similar experiences, one almost always comes across familiar faces of family members, friends or mere acquaintances.

Then, of course, there are “the babies,” the ones I hear “cry,” laugh or see smile, the precious future of our People, each a miracle on their own. “I watch them grow,” knowing that “They’ll learn much more than we’ll know.” I feel blessed living in That World.

True, This Land, This Place, This World, Eretz Yisrael, is far from perfect. For me and for many of my fellow Jews, however, it is as close as a Jew can get to it.

And in the words of Yip Harburg, “That is where you’ll find me!”


  1. BatZi, I knew before I started reading this piece, that I would cry through it all - and I was right. I knew about the song by Harburg and Arlen from before and now all your words just add to my feelings - I miss it so much....
    Thank you for this. Love you Lots through all my tears.....

  2. Beautifully said Batzi and beautiful imagery. ❤

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