By Doron Krakow
The Diameter of the Bomb
Yehuda Amichai | יהודה עמיחי was one of Israel and the Jewish world’s foremost poets. Born Ludwig Pfeuffer in Würzburg, Germany, in 1924, he and his family immigrated to Mandatory Palestine in 1935, during Hitler’s rise to power, eventually settling in Jerusalem. He chose the surname Amichai | My People’s Lives to express his patriotic commitment to Zionism. He spent much of his young adulthood as a soldier, first with the British Army during World War II, then as a member of the Palmach (part of the pre-State Jewish militia that became the IDF) around Israel’s War of Independence. He returned to his IDF service as a reservist during the Suez Crisis of 1956 and for the final time during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, at the age of 49.
He discovered a love of writing while stationed in Egypt as part of the British Army and published his debut collection of poems, “Now and in Other Days,” in 1955. His works were largely informed by his experiences, and he frequently sought to explore issues such as the meaning of life and death. Amichai’s poems were published globally in more than 40 languages, making him one of the most translated Hebrew writers of the last century. He died in Israel in September 2000.
I have been thinking about a particular poem he wrote in 1975. Drawing upon his wartime experience, it reflects upon the broader implications of a single explosion. It seems particularly suited to the times in which we find ourselves today—the aftermath of the savage attacks of October 7, the ensuing war to eliminate the terror infrastructure of Hamas, and the wave of antisemitism that has erupted around the world. The initial impact was horrific enough, but the reverberations extend to the very horizons of our consciousnesses. Amichai’s words speak for themselves.
The Diameter of the Bomb
The diameter of the bomb was thirty centimeters
and the diameter of its effective range about seven meters,
with four dead and eleven wounded.
And around these, in a larger circle
of pain and time, two hospitals are scattered
and one graveyard. But the young woman
who was buried in the city she came from,
at a distance of more than a hundred kilometers,
enlarges the circle considerably,
and the solitary man mourning her death
at the distant shores of a country far across the sea
includes the entire world in the circle.
And I won’t even mention the crying of orphans
that reaches up to the throne of God and
beyond, making a circle with no end and no God.
קוטר הפצצה היה שלושים סנטימטרים
וקוטר תחום פגיעתה כשבעה מטרים
ובו ארבעה הרוגים ואחד עשר פצועים
ומסביב לאלה, במעגל גדול יותר
של כאב וזמן, פזורים שני בתי חולים
ובית קברות אחד. אבל האשה
הצעירה, שנקברה במקום שממנו באה
במרחק של למעלה ממאה קילומטרים
מגדילה את המעגל מאוד מאוד
והאיש הבודד הבוכה על מותה
בירכתי אחת ממדינות הים הרחוקות
מכליל במעגל את כל העולם
ולא אדבר כלל על זעקת יתומים
המגיעה עד לכיסא האלוהים
ומשם והלאה ועושה את המעגל לאין סוף ואין אלוהים
May the year 2024 usher in better days: a swift and decisive victory for Israel and the return home of her citizen soldiers and those held captive by terrorists. A resurgence in our commitment across the West to the freedoms we have long held so dear: freedom of speech, religion, and assembly. To our dedication to the open expression of ideas and the enforcement of laws against incitement and intimidation. To a restoration of our conviction as Canadians, as Americans, and as Jews, to the fundamental recognition that the things that bind us together as citizens of a nation and a people are more important than those that set us apart.
Am Yisrael Chai | עם ישראל חי
Shabbat shalom | שבת שלום
President and CEO
JCC Association of North America