Amichai and Nasrallah: Poets of Abraham

“Once I said, Death is God and change is His prophet. / Now I have calmed down, and I say: / Change is God and death is His prophet.”

-Yehuda Amichai, “Jewish Travel: Change is God and death is His prophet.”

“Time is a coffin, while nakedness is the daily news.”

-Ibrahim Nasrallah, “The Exile”

Contemporary political discourse about the Middle East often underscores the divide between Israelis and Palestinians. But in reading and re-reading the poems of Yehuda Amichai, one of Israel’s most celebrated poets, and Ibrahim Nasrallah, one of the foremost Palestinian poets of his generation, what strike me are the similarities.

Obviously, the physical landscape they describe is the same — but beyond this, their inner landscape of grief and hope, forged in the intensity of a war-torn homeland, steeped in ancient traditions, yields poems at once timeless and immediate, universal almost to the point of allegory, yet also deeply and achingly personal. Continue reading…