To My Country

I have not sung you, my country,
not brought glory to your name
with the great deeds of a hero
or the spoils a battle yields.
But on the shores of Jordan
my hands have planted a tree,
and my feet have made a pathway
through your fields.

Modest are the gifts I bring you,
I know this, mother.
Modest, I know, the offerings
of your daughter:
Only an outburst of song
on a day when the light flares up,
only a silent tear
for your poverty.

These poems comes from the forthcoming book, The Defiant Muse: Hebrew Feminist Poems from Antiquity to the Present, a bilingual anthology edited by Shirley Kaufman, Galit Hasan-Rokem and Tamar Hess (The Feminist Press). Reprinted with permission.

Rahel (Bluwstein, 1890-1931), an Israeli cult figure and romantic icon, grew up in Ukraine. In 1909, she emigrated to Palestine, and attended the women’s farming school on the Sea of Galilee. Most of her poems were written in the last six years of her life, when she lived in Tel Aviv. Many, including “To My Country,” were set to music and are still among the most popular Israeli songs.