Haim Gouri, 'Nation's Contemporary Poet,' Laid to Rest in Jerusalem

Gouri, whose poetry reflected early Israel’s national ethos, and some of whose songs became heritage assets of Israeli culture, died on Wednesday at 94

Renowned Israeli poet Haim gouri is laid to rest in Jerusalem on February 2, 2018.
אוליבייה פיטוסי

Haim Gouri, poet, novelist, journalist and Israel Prize laureate, was buried on Thursday in Jerusalem’s Har Hamenuhot cemetery, in a plot reserved for the city’s honorary citizens.

Earlier in the day his body lay in state in the Jerusalem Theater, where hundreds of people came to pay their respects. President Reuven Rivlin eulogized Gouri at a ceremony in the theater plaza at midday, saying Gouri was “the nation’s contemporary national poet.”

“Here lie our bodies, our faces have changed, we’re not breathing,” lamented Rivlin, quoting from one of Gouri’s best known poems, “Here Lie Our Bodies.” Gouri had dedicated it to the “Lamed Hei,” the convoy of 35 Haganah soldiers ambushed and killed during an attempt to supply the kibbutzim of the Etzion Bloc in 1948, and helped immortalize the story in the annals of Israeli history.

Gouri, whose poetry reflected early Israel’s national ethos, and some of whose songs became heritage assets of Israeli culture, died on Wednesday at 94.

Poet Haim Gouri, recipient of the Israel Prize for Poetry for 1988, the Bialik Prize, the Sokolov Prize and the Newman Prize.
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Rivlin said he and his wife mourned a “man who became a symbol. The poet of [Israel’s] independence, the combatant and the intellectual. You were our national poet. The awe with which you regarded our nation, our people and our country you carried Israel with your words.

“Dear Haim, more than a day has passed since the news of your death, and your absence is so deeply felt. Here, in your honor, we’re trying to muster the words, polish them, enlist them – but they refuse. A hole has opened in our hearts ”

After Rivlin, poet Agi Mishol eulogized Gouri. “Neither time, enemies, wind or water can erase your poetry,” she said, quoting from one of his poems, “which for so many years has been the soundtrack of our lives. You were made of letters. Your soul remained young and vigorous, caring to the verge of tears. Here was a poet who doesn’t settle for being the tribal elder, but is interested in contemporary poetry. How much pain this country has caused you in recent years. I’ll never forget how you stood in Sha’ar Hagai, fighting your last war, singing in a tearful voice your ‘Bab el-Wad.’ With your death, something died in the good, beautiful Israel.”

Maj. Gen. (res.) Elad Peled followed Mishol, saying, “The situation in Israel in recent years caused Gouri extreme pain. The years passed, the war goes on and on. We didn’t find the balance and we’re filling the missing parts with hatred among ourselves and toward others. That gave him no rest. Thank you for giving words to a whole generation and know that the blood and the enemies, the wind and the water won’t erase you.”

Probably Gouri’s best known song, “Ha’reut” (“Fellowship”) was played and the large audience joined the singing.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said, “In the War of Independence, Jerusalem met Gouri. He fought in the Negev but carried Jerusalem in his heart. He gave it the poem and song ‘Bab el-Wad,’ which commemorates the combatants, but not only them. Between the lines he raised the entire nation. Nineteen years later, in the Six Day War, the city met Gouri the warrior – the company he commanded took part in liberating the city.

“What will remain of Gouri beyond the songs is his heritage. He fought for the future, the physical and spiritual future, and won,” Barkat concluded.

Gouri’s daughters Yael, Noa and Hamoutal said Kaddish for their father. Then the poet’s friends carried the coffin away.