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November 6, 2020 12:54 pm

Renowned Israeli Poet Natan Zach Dies at Age 89

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

The late Israeli poet Natan Zach. Photo: YouTube screenshot.

Influential Israeli poet and literary critic Natan Zach died on Friday at the age of 89, Israel’s culture minister said in a statement.

Zach is considered a prominent figure in helping to shape the development of modern Hebrew poetry. He published more than two dozen books, including several that were translated into other languages, and won the Bialik Prize for Literature in 1982 and the Israel Prize for Hebrew Poetry in 1995.

Israeli Culture Minister Hili Tropper called him “one of the most important Israeli poets, and his huge influence on Israeli culture and song will last for generations.”

“A poet, critic, editor and translator, Zach has exerted great influence on the development of modern Hebrew poetry,” the Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature said in its online biography. “He was the leader of a group of post-Independence poets who changed the face of Hebrew poetry in the 1950s and 1960s.”

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Zach was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1930, and emigrated to Israel in 1936. He served as an officer in the 1948 Israeli War of Independence and published his first collection of poetry in 1953. A graduate of The Hebrew University with a degree in philosophy and political science, Zachs lived in England between 1968 and 1978, during which he completed a PhD at the University of Essex. When he returned to Israel, he taught at Tel Aviv University and the University of Haifa.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Friday eulogized Zach, saying, “Who will now encapsulate for us the essence of pain? Who will knead the Hebrew language with such an original, precise hand? Who will describe for us the life we could yet have between us?

He added, “Rest in peace dear Natan, poet of day-to-day life, poet of the now.”

Zach sparked controversy in a 2010 interview with Army Radio when he made derogatory remarks about Middle Eastern Jews being inferior to Jews of European descent, saying, “The one lot comes from the highest culture there is — Western European culture — and the other lot comes from the caves.”

He also expressed support that year for an activist flotilla that sought to defy Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip and in 2014 he defended Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ use of the term “genocide” to describe Operation Protective Edge. Then in 2015, he wished Abbas “blessings on the way to the Hague” as the Palestinian leader traveled to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, for a preliminary investigation into alleged Israeli crimes during Operation Protective Edge.

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