Aryeh Sivan, Iconic Israeli Poet, Dies at 86

The father of Haaretz Editor Aluf Benn, Sivan, who won the Israel Prize for poetry in 2010, served in the Palmach during the War of Independence and became known as the voice of his generation.

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Aryeh Sivan.
Aryeh Sivan.Credit: Dan Keinan

Israel Prize-winning poet and educator Aryeh Sivan, father of Haaretz Editor-in-Chief Aluf Benn, died on Friday aged 86.

The author of 15 books of poetry, Sivan was born Aryeh Bomstein in Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv. One of his school teachers was the poet Leah Goldberg.

His first poem, "Night Journey," was published in Davar newspaper in 1948, while he was serving with the Palmach during the War of Independence. That was the start of a long career, during which he became known as the voice of his generation, of Tel Aviv and of the new Jewish state.

In the Fifties, Sivan was one of the founders of Likrat (Towards), a group of poets that also include the poets Nathan Zak and Moshe Dor. The group's journal brought a new voice to Israeli poetry, stressing the primacy of the individual in an environment that had traditionally celebrated the collective.

After graduating from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1953, Sivan began teaching high school literature. His first book of Individual poetry, "Shirei Shirion" (Poems of Armor,) was published in 1963. His last collection of poems "Al hol ve'al yam" (On Sand and Sea) was published in 2009.

Sivan also published a novel, "Adonis," in 1992 and several translations, including "Oliver Twist" and "The Pickwick Papers" by Charles Dickens. In addition to the Israel Prize, he was the recipient of the Brenner and Bialik prizes for poetry.

The Israel Prize awards committee described him as "one of the founding fathers of Israeli poetry." His poetry, the committee said, "blesses the value of life it is poetry of doubt that expresses the suffering and tragedy of a life without peace."

In an interview with his son, Aluf Benn, in 2010, Sivan expressed the disappointment and concern he felt at the path Israel was taking. The expectation of Israel had been that it would be an exemplary state, he said, but in the light of the current reality, "my heart fills with dark thoughts."

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