Jewish Journal

The Silver Platter: Sacrifice, Bereavement, Remembrance, and the Israeli Nation State

by Jeremy Elster

June 11, 2014 | 5:04 am

Today’s video report takes it’s name from Polish Israeli poet Natan Alterman. The report, and the poem, addresses the concept of sacrifice and bereavement by Israeli soldiers that has become a strong part of the Israeli national ethos. Alterman’s poem “The Silver Platter” was written in December 1947 in response to future First President of Israel Chaim Weizmann’s declaration that, “The state will not be given to the Jewish people on a silver platter”.

Watch the video report and then read the poem, reproduced in full after the video.

The Silver Platter
Natan Alterman

The Earth grows still.
The lurid sky slowly pales
Over smoking borders.
Heartsick, but still living, a people stand by
To greet the uniqueness
of the miracle.

Readied, they wait beneath the moon,
Wrapped in awesome joy, before the light.
– Then, soon,
A girl and boy step forward,
And slowly walk before the waiting nation;

In work garb and heavy-shod
They climb
In stillness.
Wearing yet the dress of battle, the grime
Of aching day and fire-filled night

Unwashed, weary unto death, not knowing rest,
But wearing youth like dewdrops in their hair.
– Silently the two approach
And stand.
Are they of the quick or of the dead?

Through wondering tears, the people stare.
“Who are you, the silent two?”
And they reply: “We are the silver platter
Upon which the Jewish State was served to you.”

And speaking, fall in shadow at the nation’s feet.
Let the rest in Israel’s chronicles be told.

Translation can be found at http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/the-silver-platter-a-poem-for-yom-hazikaron-2/#sthash.PFTbuH9W.dpuf

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Jeremy Elster is a Southern Californian native and New Israel Fund/SHATIL Social Justice Fellow working as the International Communications Coordinator for Israel Social TV...

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