"Israel" (Jorge Luis Borges, 1969)

Dear friends,

I was working on a message that would express my feelings in relation to Yom Haatzmaut, Israel Independence Day. Something that would say that, despite everything, because of everything, Israel is one of the major triumphs of Jewish spirit and human will. And then I came across a poem that my landsman, Jorge Luis Borges—who was not Jewish—had written about Israel in 1969.

Obviously, my writing élan was irredeemably lost, because I couldn’t think of anything more eloquent than what he wrote. So I limited myself to translating his poem “Israel” from Spanish in order to share it with you. Translating poetry is always tricky, especially from another generation (for example, the use of “hombre” in Spanish, doesn’t sound as gender biased as “man” does in English), but I hope you can see the beauty in these amazing words that express so clearly the miracle of Israel. 

Andrés Spokoiny
President & CEO, JFN
May 2016


By Jorge Luis Borges, 1969
Translated from Spanish by Andrés Spokoiny
Posted by Jewish Funders Network in celebration of Yom HaAtzmaut 5776 

A man jailed and bewitched
A man condemned to be a snake
Keeper of the gold of infamy
A man condemned to be Shylock
A man that kneels on the ground
But knows he’d been to paradise
A old and blind man who will break
The columns of the temple
A face condemned to be a mask
A man that, despite other men,
was Spinoza, The Ba’al Shem and the kabbalists.
A man who’s a book
A mouth that praises, from the abyss,
The feats of heavenly justice
A lawyer or a dentist
That chatted with God on a mountain
A man condemned to be the scorn,
The abomination, “the Jew,”
A man lapidated and burned,
And choked in lethal chambers
A man that is obstinate in being immortal
And that now went back to his battle
To the violent light of victory
Beautiful, like a lion under the midday sun.