Bab el-Wad, known in Hebrew as Sha'ar Hagai, is the setting of Haim Guri's legendary poem.
By PEGGY CIDOR
During the War of Independence, the road to besieged Jerusalem and the heroic efforts of the young Palmah warriors became a source of inspiration for many songs. Poet and former Palmahnik Haim Guri wrote the legendary poem "Bab el-Wad" about the beginning of the road to Jerusalem where so many lives were lost. That poem quickly became a song, the most famous connected to the war.
The legendary song has always been associated with Zionism, heroism, independence and the image of the new Jew, the Israeli who fights for his country.
Thus the profound emotion Guri felt at the discovery of another, lesser-known face of his song. "Bab el-Wad," it seems, inspired one of the greatest paytanim (Mizrahi religious poets) of the previous century, Rabbi David Buzaglo of Morocco. Buzaglo, who came here in the early 1960s and almost fell into obscurity in the small town of Kiryat Motzkin, wrote his own words to the well known music of Guri's poem.
In a fascinating evening devoted to this unusual link between Jewish religious poetry and secular Israeli poetry, Guri, together with Buzaglo's son, philosopher and researcher Dr. Meir Buzaglo, tried to convey to an attentive and captive audience the deepest meaning of such encounters.
The evening, which included a presentation of piyutim(Mizrahi religious songs) presented by Buzaglo's greatest student, Rabbi Haim Louk, was conceived and presented by musician Yair Harel.
Harel, editor and director of a Web site dedicated to Jewish liturgy, one of the most exciting and interesting aspects of what is now commonly called the "Jewish Renaissance," invited poetess Rivka Miriam to present some of her poems related to the same theme.
Miriam, who comes from a Ger hassidic family and is head of the Elul Beit Midrash (the first pluralistic beit midrash created here), talked about the lack of connection between the events of the Holocaust and the contents of standard prayerbooks.
Guri lamented the loss of the cultural resonance of the subject matter of his famous poem. As he discovered in his encounters with high school students, the connotations of the words "Bab el-Wad," either in a Zionist or a liturgical context, are no longer evident to the young generation.
The event was attended by a surprisingly large audience who came, on a freezing Jerusalem night, to the newly opened cultural center Beit Avi Hai, whose slogan "a place for everyone" seemed quite appropriate.
Despite Guri's admonition about the state of the country's youth, neither he nor the other presenters could ignore that the conference hall was full, in large part with audience members under 30.
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