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  • Haim Gouri was born in Palestine in 1923. He fought in Israel's War of Independence

  • and then worked with survivors in Displaced Persons' Camps in Europe. He lives in Jerusalem.

  • The ram came last of all. And Abraham did not know that it came to answer the

  • boy's question -- first of his strength, when his day was on the wane.

  • The old man raised his head. Seeing that it was no dream and that the angel

  • stood there -- the knife slipped from his hand.

  • The boy, released from his bonds, saw his father's back.

  • Isaac, as the story goes, was not sacrificed. He lived for many years, saw what pleasure

  • had to offer, until his eyesight dimmed.

  • But he bequeathed that hour to his offspring. They are born with a knife in their hearts.

  • One of the most relentless Bible stories that we have is from chapter 22 of the book of

  • Genesis, and I'm talking about the sacrifice of Isaac. Artists have painted it, poets have

  • aimed their pens at it, and it continues to engage us as we move into the 21st century.

  • Haim Gouri was not living in Europe at the time of the Holocaust, he was living in Palestine,

  • and in this poem "Heritage" he registers his shock at the murder of European Jews. The

  • interesting thing about the poem, like in another famous poem by Dan Pagis, "Written

  • in Pencil in a Freight-car", there is no mention - no direct mention - of the Holocaust.

  • The main motif of this poem is connected to the name of the poem "Heritage". So the question

  • is what heritage do we carry from the biblical story of the sacrifice of Isaac, or from the

  • murder of six million Jews during the Holocaust?

  • Now, Haim Gouri gives us his answer in the last two lines of the poem, when he uses the

  • word "bequeathed", and he says that the subsequent generations have been bequeathed - and "they

  • are born with a knife in their hearts." So this is a very difficult reading of the Holocaust,

  • because basically what Haim Gouri is suggesting is that people were born with some kind of

  • original wound. And of course everybody gives his own answer to this question, to what extent

  • does Jewish history create an original wound in your composite personality.

Haim Gouri was born in Palestine in 1923. He fought in Israel's War of Independence

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