This article compares the work of two authors – the Jewish-Israeli Yehudah Amichai and the Palestinian Mahmoud Darwish – and the way that these authors related to the city Jerusalem in the poetry. The literary works discussed in this article are Yerūšalayim 1967 [Jerusalem 1967], Taḥta aš-šabābīk al-῾atīqa [Beneath the Old Windows] and Mazāmīr [Psalms], all written in response to the same events, but seen from different perspectives.
To a large extent this poetry share a common tradition of imagery and vocabulary in relating to Jerusalem, based on a common religious heritage. However, while using similar themes, these are developed along different lines. For Amichai, 1967 marked a fundamental historical turning point, allowing access to a previously unattainable dream. Making the nostalgic images relevant in the face of modern society becomes his main labour. For Darwish, identifying Jerusalem as part of a geographical area, Amichai’s perceived return was yet another loss. For him, the use of religious imagery and traditions is a source of hope – history repeats itself, and the return of the prisoners from exile in Babylon can thus also happen again.
For Darwish, myth is necessary to gain access to the present. For Amichai, these myths are part of the solid layers of history that are constantly threatening to crush the individual in the present. In his poetry, there is a struggle to preserve a present, physical city among the myths, and to find the connections between the present and past. The layers of the past and of tradition can only be reached through the present realities. Amichai has to break up a solid tradition in order for man to live, breath and exist. For the Palestinian Darwish, lacking access to the physical city, the situation is different. Searching for a geography of home that doesn’t depend on the physical city becomes more important than a physical city that is in fact already lost.
Uppsala: Nathan Söderblom-sällskapet , 2013. Vol. LXVI-LXVII, 103-128 p.