Two postcards from the lake

“Kineret” is the Hebrew name of the Sea of Galilee. Just next to its  south-west bank there are two adjacent communities, both bearing the name of the lake – Kineret. And here in this beautiful landscape of the lake and the far Golan mountains had lived two women; one was a poet, the other a composer and lyricist; creations by both have established a home in Greek music.

The 21 year-old Rachel, whose life and fate are surprisingly parallel in many ways to those of her Greek peer, the poet Maria Polidouri*, came here in 1911, to study and work in a women’s agricultural ranch. Early one morning the poet, writer and activist Zalman Rubashov came to a visit . As he was getting near the gate he saw a beautiful and charismatic young woman who was leading geese outside the yard. “I couldn’t breathe,” he wrote. Later, he joined Rachel and her friends on a trip around the lake. Rachel started singing wonderfully, and Rubashov couldn’t understand that she was singing only for him and not for the others, and that that day was fatefully meaningful for her.

Soon their ways separated as both went abroad. A short time after Rachel returned in 1919, she was found to be suffering from Tuberculosis, and was ejected cruelly out of her (new) community there. During this period she published her first poem. The paths of Rachel and Rubashov crossed again in the mid 1920s as Rubashov, now married, was in the position of literary editor in a newspaper, and she sent poems to him.

The unavoidable decline in her health, and the forthcoming death, gave Rachel the freedom to express poems of sorrow for the lost love to Rubashov. At first he ignored her poems and again failed to understand that they were addressed to him. Then he understood, and the unfulfilled love story found an echo in his own poems too. She would express her inflaming erotic desires: “I will kneel on my knees on a stormy lake bank, from it to drink me fill”; and sometimes her anger at him: “locked garden, no way, no path to it”. And he would write a poem on the “internal alliance” between lovers, and after that, on the missing “spark of hope” for a close relationship between them. It was a hidden dialogue of love and pain between the lovers-poets, carried in the language of poetry.

Shai” – Gift, a painful poem on what remains of love:

Like I harvest just the last grapes

I will gather the remains of the whispers

And I send you a present

from the crop of my heart

all that the hand of sorrow

had not uprooted

all that the hot wind of anger

has not dried inside me yet


I will pad the wicker basket

memories of  Lake Kineret

rose of morning sky

among the garden’s trees

gold of noon

in a serene expanse

and the lilac of evening

on the Golan mountains


Memory of moon night

on the water’s smooth surface

is the cheer of happiness

as I age

as with the scarlet of silkworm

I will wrap the basket

and I will send to you

will you be happy for the gift?

Giorgos Dalaras sings in Hebrew:(English subtitles)

Rachel was defeated by the disease in 1931. A young couple attended her funeral in the small cemetery on the lakeside, along with their one-year-old daughter. The baby Naomi grew up to be one of Israel’s most important song composers and lyricists. In the 1960s Naomi Schemer wrote a song about the Eucalyptus Grove, a nearby site, just next to the point where the Jordan River joins the lake; the same grove which saw the young children had not changed throughout the generations – the same quiet, the bridge, the boat on the water….

The melody of the song captured the Greek singer Eleni Dimou, and with new lyrics it became one of Eleni’s own favorites, and one of the most beloved of her songs.

I need you in difficult times
to open your hug
There count words and loves

I need you in difficult times
to say affectionate words
I do not want steel illusions

“Sta diskola se thelw” –I need you in difficult times:

And the Hebrew version, “The Eucalyptus Groove” by Ishtar:

– Eventually Zalman Rubashov changed his name to Shazar and was between 1963-1973 the president of the State of Israel
– The story about the dialogue between the poets is based on an article by Sara Ben Reuven
-The music of “To dwro”-Gift was composed by Levi Shaar  and the Greek lyrics are by Christos Tivaios
-The Greek lyrics of “Sta diskola se thelo”-I need you in hard times are by Thodoros Poalas

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