I tried my hand at translating a song from Chava Alberstein’s incredibly rich exploration of Israel beyond the Arab-Israeli conflict, “End of the Holiday.” Chava’s husband, screenwriter Nadav Levitan, is the lyricist. He calls out those who would say that “the Situation” means that Israelis don’t have the luxury of being concerned for the environment. And, he uses the Hebrew selektzia, evoking the Shoah. It’s raw, and powerful.
Belatedly, in honor of Earth Day…
Across from the petrochemical plants
which provide jobs for thousands,
it is hard to fight for the life of
one poisoned creek, suffering and dying.
In this Land, striving and advancing,
it is hard to explain just why it is important
to return the plants to the banks of the creek,
and the turtles, and the fish.
But in the Book of Beginnings it is told
how the species were created.
It is not ours to judge who is expendable,
and who should be written in the Book of Life.
If we begin with this selektion,
who will vouch for us,
insuring that our day won’t come,
that our turn won’t come as well?
And in a rhymed, singable translation, too…
In the presence of the plant that makes the chemicals
from whose sale thousands earn their daily bread,
it is hard to stand in defense of one creek —
poisoned, empty and left for dead.
In this Land, always searching for the next breath,
how could it be even worth the time
to restore the banks, return the reeds,
the fish who have fled, the turtles who have died?
On the first page of the Bible the story is told,
how the world came into being, kind after kind.
Ours is not to judge who gets to live.
We don’t decide who has to die.
If we start with this selektion
who’ll be left to defend us
so that we won’t share the same fate,
so extinction will not end us?
With gratitude for sixty-one years of Israel’s existence, and with hope that her next decades will be a time of healing.