From Warsaw With Lust, When Labor Zionism Was Sexy

Low on bread but high on passion: Malkiel Lusternik imagines pioneering life in pre-state Israel.

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Poster for the pre-state Second Maccabiah Games in 1935, held in Tel Aviv
Poster for the pre-state Second Maccabiah Games in 1935, held in Tel AvivCredit: Daniel Bar-on


Malkiel Lusternik

There are no windows in the house,

Neither beds nor chairs there be.We sup on olive-sized bits of bread

And for dessert sip cups of tea.The kettle brims with water-dew

O fellow, wet your maw!

Drink up two cups and another two

Then lie down on the straw.

The brunette reclining on the straw

For you with endless patience waits

And if this makes you queasy - 

Fear not, it’s no disgrace.

Make love till a pillar of fire glows

Make love till the rising sun

But you must never ask “Why so?”

In reply - they’ll answer: Dunce!

We are princes of the spirit.

We are paupers of the coin.

All we savor

Is our labor

We’ll make love and we’ll rejoice.

We are tomorrow’s scions,

Ascended early on to Zion.

It is good to live for our country’s sake

And to labor as our voice we raise

To sing the Song of Ascents.

Translated from Hebrew by Vivian Eden.
From “Sufat Aviv,” Warsaw, 1934-35, reprinted in David Weinfeld, ed. “Hashira Ha’ivrit ben Shtei Milhamot Ha’olam (“Hebrew Poetr
y Between the Two World Wars”), Bialik Institute, Jerusalem, 1997.

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