A New Song שירה חדשה
“By the rivers of Babylon,” as told in Psalm 137, the Jewish exiles from the Holy Land, led into captivity after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, hung their harps upon the willows, lamenting “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” Yet sing they did: the annals of subsequent Jewish history are studded with songs and poems regarded as classics of Hebrew literature. From the courtyards of medieval Spain to the tenements of the Lower East Side in New York City, Hebrew poets continued the ancient traditions even as they adopted new genres and poetic forms. In medieval Spain, under Muslim rule, Jewish poets poured the Hebrew language into Arabic patterns and verse forms; in Renaissance Italy they wrote Hebrew sonnets and canzone in the best traditions of Dante and Petrarch. And so on down the ages, in Jewish communities across the globe, they continue while also extending their output in vernacular Jewish languages such as Yiddish and Ladino. Today, both in the State of Israel and abroad, Hebrew poetry continues to thrive as poets use the treasures of the ancient language to distill new idioms and create poems with a very modern sensibility. From politics to the deepest emotions of the human spirit, Hebrew poetry responds to the challenges of contemporary life and provides a voice and an inspiration for every new generation of artists and readers.
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