Over the years I have translated to English some of the Hebrew poems I found most evocative and/or meaningful to me personally. Among them are quite a number by Fania Bergstein. Her name most likely means nothing to most Israelis, although so many know her rhymes by heart. They just aren’t aware of who wrote them, who enriched our childhood, whose lines became cherished household staples.
Amazingly, Fania Bergstein faded into undeserved anonymity. But she’s important to understanding our Israeli identity, why we are here, what moves and motivates us.
She died young, at age 42, some 17 years before the Six Day War to which she is tragically connected. There is relevance to remembering her these days when we mark another anniversary of that 1967 showdown, which has increasingly become yet another occasion to besmirch our self-defense, demonize us as land-grabbing imperialist ogres and castigate us for having inconsiderately emerged victorious.
Fania provides context and connections to who we really are. Hers is a quintessentially Israeli story – not only figuratively so. Israeli was her married surname. Continue reading