POET S. SHALOM SPEAKING DURING THE 4TH HEBREW WRITERS' CONFERENCE AT KIBBUTZ MA'ALE HAHAMISHA The National Photo Collection (Israel)
Shin Shalom (Shalom Joseph Shapira), grandson of Chaim Meir Jehiel Shapira, Hasidic Rabbi of Drohobycz, is considered to be one of the greatest Israeli poets of the twentieth century. Chaim Nachman Bialik and Nelly Sachs called Shin Shalom “king of peace” and “pioneer of cross-culture dialogue.” Literary historians of Hebrew literature regard him as the main exponent of modernism. The descendant of the Drohobyczian dynasty came to be known as the master of paradox in the spirit of ancient prophets of Israel.
The poetic work of Shin Shalom reveals tension between human existence and historicity. The poems “Hidden Light”, “Small Window” and “Pure Beauty” are masterpieces of symbolism and Hasidic spirituality.
Shin Shalom’s grandfather, even in periods of persecution of toward Jews, was a true lover of Jerusalem, the charismatic city of justice. Chaim Shapira was awarded the title Admor, generally reserved for the heads of Hasidic communities. The Drohobyczian Rabbi believed that the Jerusalem Temple would become a place of dialogue and prayer for different cultures. Shapira was the advocate of unity over religious divisions. The Admor awaited reconciliation between Jews and Catholics in the Holy Land.
Shin Shalom was born in 1904 in Parczew, near Lublin, the city of tzaddikim. He received a traditional Hasidic and secular education. In Vienna, where his family moved in the wake of World War I, he started to write poetry, at first in German and then in Hebrew. In 1922, he immigrated to Palestine. In 1926, he joined members of his family to found Kfar Hasidim. From 1930 to 1931, he studied philosophy at the University of Erlangen. This Hebrew poet taught literature in Jerusalem, Hadera and Rosh Pina. In 1990 Shalom was given Honorary Citizen of Haifa.
Shin Shalom received several international literary awards and presided over the Hebrew Writers Association. Ada Aharoni, Israeli poet and translator of Shin Shalom from Hebrew into English, is the initiator of the International Shin Shalom Poetry Competition which attracts poets and philosophers from all over the world. In 1992, Professor Aharoni, who was also a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, organized the XIII World Congress of Poets in Haifa dedicated to the memory of Shin Shalom. After the Congress, Nathan Aluf expressed his gratitude to the Drohobyczian demiurge who was the architect of bridges between cultures.
In his Hebrew writings, Shin Shalom returns to Drohobycz, the Promised Land and the city of his grandfathers. For this peace visionary, Drohobycz is the center of the Hasidic movement in Eastern Europe and the harp of David with recording arias of divided nations. Shin Shalom’s poetry is full of apocalyptic prophecy and visions of Messiah who will expand the covenant and bring the Kingdom of Love and Peace.
Ishmael, my brother,
How long shall we fight each other?
My brother from times bygone,
My brother - Hagar's son,
My brother the wandering one.
One angel was sent to us both,
One angel watched over our growth -
There in the wilderness, death threatened through thirst, I a sacrifice on
the altar, Sarah's first.
Ishmael, my brother, hear my plea:
It was the angel who tied you to me…
Time is running out, put hatred to sleep.
Shoulder to Shoulder, let’s water our sheep.
First published in the Times of Israel http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/shin-shaloms-republic-of-dream/
Anna Banasiak is a poet and literary critic. Her poems have been published in New York, London, Surrey, Canada, Australia, India, Africa, and Japan.